By Jon Couch
BARRY Hayles is the new King of Windsor’s castle – and he wants his reign to be long remembered.
The 45-year-old has agreed to join the Royalists for their new Hellenic League campaign this season after ending a two-year spell at Chesham United.
And although the former Fulham, Millwall and Bristol Rovers striker accepts it will probably be his final year before hanging up his boots, he is determined to go out with a bang.
Hayles, a Jamaican international, played over 200 games for Fulham, winning two promotions, and spent a spell in the Premier League. He has also spent time at Stevenage, Plymouth Argyle, Cheltenham and Leicester City before enjoying an equally glittering Non-League career at the likes of St Albans City, Arlesey Town and particularly Truro City, where he enjoyed three separate spells.
Now he is ready for his final bow, assisting manager Mick Woodham in steering a Windsor side who are eyeing title glory in their maiden season in the Hellenic League having switched over from the Combined Counties League.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Hayles told The NLP: “I’m feeling good and although I haven’t been able to do the whole of pre-season, I feel I am fit enough and ready to help the team and my team-mates.
“If I’m honest, I’ve accepted that the end is nearing for a while now and this will probably be my last season as a player, but I’ve still got that same passion and zest for the game that I had in my first season and aim to take that in a player/coach role. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.
“I like to think that I have the benefit of a lot of experience to offer a younger player looking to make it in the game and I feel that the time is right in my career to focus more in a coaching capacity.”
Hayles’ arrival will signal a statement of intent for the Stag Meadow club, founded in 2011 following the demise of the famous Windsor & Eton FC.
Regularly watched by crowds in excess of 250-300, Windsor are seen as a big fish at Step 5 level but despite finishing runners-up in their debut season in the Combined Counties Premier Division, the Royalists soon suffered after a decision was made by chairman Kevin Stott to remove its playing budget as “the club had already lost its way”.
Now, a new era dawns in the backdrop of the Queen’s back garden – and Hayles believes the club has the infrastructure and playing squad in place to make an immediate impression in their new division.
“I saw the potential in the club straight away,” Hayles said. “I’ve met the players, it’s a very young squad but they’ve taken on board what we want them to do and there’s a real energy and a belief about the place.
“Promotion is certainly the aim and we’re all working hard to achieve that.”
So, with Hayles around, can his younger striker team-mates expect an easy ride when it comes to competition for places?
“Not at all,” the wily campaigner added. “If it is my last season, I want to go out with a bang. I still believe I can perform at a high level and I’ll be keeping them on their toes!”