Wilkins: Stow Feels Like The Right Fit
New Stowmarket Town assistant manager Richard Wilkins on his appointment at Greens Meadow, first impressions of the club and his hopes for next season.
Richard, welcome to Stowmarket Town. Firstly, how did the move come about?
I’ve known Muzzy for a very long time and he contacted me a few weeks ago. To start off with I wasn’t that keen. I think the worst thing for me, having left Needham the way I did, and then Covid started, there’s not been a lot of football for anybody anyway. I didn’t miss it.
Muzzy said that Brooksy had work commitments and other bits and pieces, and he wanted me on board. After the third conversation I mulled it all over and I was happy to take the position. It’s a good club. A local club to me. I’m not travelling an hour to get here, and it’s a really good setup.
We had a good session with the players on Saturday and they’re good players. They’re ambitious and it just feels like the right fit. Knowing Muzzy and knowing Potts and knowing most of the other players, through Bury, Needham and Leiston, it’s quite an easy process. It feels like I’ve been here some time, and it’s nice to feel that way and feel comfortable straight away.
You’ve been the main man in charge at Bury, Leiston and Needham. This time you’re coming in as the assistant to Muzzy. Is a number two role what you were after at your next club?
It was the only position I wanted. I’ll be the assistant manager and first team coach, which suits me down to the ground. I enjoyed it under Steve Ball for three or four months at Leiston, and again under Mark Morsley at Needham for a year.
To be a manager is a lot more stressful. There’s a lot more day-to-day situations that arise, and you just feel like you’re on your phone a lot. It’s a full-time position in lots of ways, so it’ll be nice having meetings with Muzzy to find out where we’re at with certain things.
I think it’s the right fit for my age. Muzzy wants to learn from me as well. I’ll be a helping hand as he’s new to management. He’s a young manager and I’m an old fart who has been there and done it and got the t-shirt!
We haven’t agreed any length of time, but I’m not bothered about that. It’s good to be back in football and feel a buzz about it. Quite a few people phoned me up offering various positions, but I turned them all down as it didn’t feel right at the time. This feels right and I’m ready and keen to help Stowmarket.
In your previous clubs you’ve spent most of the time managing higher up at Step 3 and Step 4. Have you followed Stowmarket much over the last few years as they’ve been building this momentum?
They’ve dominated the last two years, haven’t they? Something like nearly 40 odd games unbeaten in the league takes some doing. If we’re lucky enough to be offered promotion with the restructure the FA are doing with the leagues, then you’ve got to take it.
It’s my first day here and I’ve been very impressed with the club. The way they do things is right up there with all the other clubs I’ve been at. It’s as professional as it can be in a non-league setup.
That’s pleasing because it’s always nice to come into a setup that’s well organised. Muzzy has been here a few years. Potts I know from when he was a professional and I was still playing.
Hopefully when the season starts, whenever that may be, we can get on a good run and get some results under our belt and settle down.
The last game Stow played was in December last year and the next one won’t be until the summer when pre-season comes round. Does that excite you to have these next three months to work with the players?
It’s the best time to come into a club. You’ve got the pre-season to work on things. It’s a good opportunity to bring in two or three new faces as well.
It needs to be a positive pre-season, but you’ve always got that 10 per cent in the back of your head thinking what’s it going to be like in July with the Covid stuff?
You’ve got to plan and adapt with whatever adaptations you have to put in place, but the main thing for me is that I’m very keen to be on board and hopefully I can serve the club well.
Lastly, away from Stow a couple of good wins for Colchester, one of your former clubs as a player. Have they done enough to stay up in the Football League now?
One of my best mates Steve Ball got the job and got removed from it, but I think he’s still at Colchester in some capacity. Then Wayne Brown had six games, before he left as well. You feel for them a little bit because it’s not easy.
I know what restraints there are and the Southend win was the big one. I think they’re OK now, which is a massive relief. I was unfortunate to be involved in the team that went down to the Conference before, and then I got a move to Cambridge, so I never played in the Conference.
Luckily, Colchester bounced straight back up and had a really good season. Mathematically they can still go down, but I think they’re fine now, which is massive.
Then you’ve got Cambridge at the other end of the table doing well. It’s funny how football changes. You look at Ipswich down the road and that’s going to be all change. There’s going to be a lot of investment.
I think it’s all positive. Suffolk football has always been very good and always been very strong. I go back to my first season at Bury, Stowmarket were always top six in the league. They were very strong and had people like Stuart Jopling, and Mark Barnard at the back.
I know there’s a lot of history here and I’ve had many a battle here. The pitch looks a little bit better than when I managed here!