Pic: David Holmes
SOMEBODY had to say it. Many of the 30 or so press packed into Woking’s cramped boardroom last Wednesday afternoon would have been there, nearly nine years to the day, in that very room waiting to discover who on earth the club’s new manager was.
It was an easier time when clubs had more control, keeping the identity of their new man a secret until a press conference confirmed it. At least this time we had a few days to do our research. Thanks to social media, gone are the day when it doesn’t sneak out.
Back in late May 2008, even after an hour in the company of the Cards’ new boss, we were truthfully none the wiser as to who he was and why he was there. Kim Grant, perhaps the worst appointment in Conference history, is certainly Woking’s.
“Great football is about to return to Kingfield – mark my words!” beamed one over-excited director nearly ten years ago. We sat there bemused. He lasted only seven matches, lucky in fairness to get that.
So you’d have to appreciate supporters’ scepticism last week when another unheard of took their Kingfield throne.
But unlike the disaster of an appointment the best part of a decade ago, you only have to listen to Anthony Limbrick to understand why they think this off-piste appointment could turn out very differently.
Having charmed the media that afternoon, four hours later the Australian had his new public eating out of the palm of his hand at a lively fans’ forum.
A risk for Woking to employ an unheard of coach with no managerial experience after they failed so spectacularly last time, for sure. Even more after nearly seven years of Garry Hill, experienced, well qualified and with a proven track record. But they aren’t the only ones rolling the dice here.
“It is a risk for me too,” said Limbrick, the 34-year-old managerial first-timer. “I’ve loved my roles coaching at the academies at Southampton and West Ham. I was settled, but I knew I had to come out of my comfort zone. This is always something I have wanted.
“You really don’t have to tell me about the average lifespan of a debutant manager! I know it, you know it.
“But I can’t wait for the buzz of a matchday in this role. My livelihood is on the line at 3pm on Saturdays and I wouldn’t have it any other way – my wife isn’t sure moving from coaching to management may be the smartest move!
“I’ll have to adapt. We will want to play good football, there’s a myth that all academy pitches are great – trust me they’re not!
“Yes, my background may be with young pros and we can develop players here, but at the end of the day we have to win matches.”
He may be the youngest manager in the National League next season, but this appointment for Limbrick has been 15 years in the making.
“I was a teenager at Wingate & Finchley in the Ryman League and I broke my leg,” he said. “It was at that point I knew I wanted to stay in football, but come at it from a different angle. I began to study the game.
“I was 19 and I started learning more and more about football. The fact I didn’t play pro football made me become a student of the game, I didn’t have a career to look back on. I needed to know the game inside out.
“Even when I was a player I used to study tactics and nutrition, that side of football.
“There are a lot of young managers coming into the game, but you can’t ignore the old-school values and beliefs that clubs are built from. Hard work, application and heart.
“Young or old you have to perform. I’ll always be grateful for what Garry (Hill) and Tommo (Steve Thompson, assistant manager) did here. They have a great bond with the fans and as much as I can’t control what’s happened in the past, I can in the future and going forward.
“There will be a lot of people wondering what I’m about and how I work and I look forward to showing them. When you are a new manager coming in you have to prove yourself, I’m well aware of that.”
The future is heading towards full-time football, not totally just yet but with new investment on board – a link between money men and new manager denied point blank – a budget increase on what Hill had to work with will be in place.
“There is a three-year plan to try and get promoted into the League,” adds Limbrick. “Next year consolidate, perhaps look for the play-offs and then we can push forward.
“I’m settled on a small squad, a tight-knit squad. I’m naturally attracted to younger players yes, but you do need a spine of experience. Trust me, I know what this league is about.
“I’m prepared for what’s around the corner. It’s an honour to be given this chance at such a historic club.”