Arriving at Woking’s training ground last September, the cones, poles, bibs and balls were already in place at 8am.
The Cards’ new manager Anthony Limbrick was meticulous in his preparation for the session that would start 90 minutes later. The National League’s youngest boss was full of enthusiasm ahead of their fixture with Hartlepool.
Fast forward seven months and Limbrick, after taking his first steps into management last summer, is now looking for a new job and wants to get back in as soon as possible.
The 34-year-old’s infectious enthusiasm had an instant effect on his squad, the youngest in the division, who found themselves as high as third in the opening months.
An impressive FA Cup run followed with Limbrick’s side winning 3-0 at League One Bury in the first round before succumbing 5-2 in a replay at Peterborough.
But that was to be the end of Woking’s success and after a run of three wins in 26 games, Limbrick was sacked with just five fixtures remaining and the club’s National League status hanging by a thread.
In his first interview since, Limbrick told The NLP: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Woking, it was a great opportunity for me to step into my first management job.
“It started really well after a tough run of fixtures and we found ourselves amongst the play-off positions. We had a great Cup run too. In the second half of the season expectations had risen and it was disappointing to end the way it did with the run of form we were on.
“Nothing surprised me about the job; it was more the differentiation in the league.
“The change in opposition each week was difficult in trying to make sure you get your team to play and win games. It is a tough league; it was certainly a hard season.”
January proved to be a major turning point in Woking’s season when after impressing against Peterborough, the Posh snapped up winger Joe Ward for an undisclosed fee while Ross County also forked out for striker Inih Effiong. Their replacements were unable to fill the void.
“January was a key time for us in terms of adding to the squad,” added Limbrick, who joined Woking from West Ham’s academy having also coached at Southampton and with England U17s. It was unfortunate we weren’t able to replace Joe and Inih with better players than what we already had there.
“I always had great support from the board and everyone at Woking. However, we weren’t able to spend as much as we wanted to during January. We couldn’t get the players we wanted in; we wanted to add more experience.
“Every Non-League club needs to use money to survive in the league, selling players is a good opportunity to get money into the club and use it for other things. We didn’t have enough where we could upgrade the squad.
“We had some long-term injuries, which I’m sure all managers and clubs would complain about. Chez Isaac was out for a long time, Nathan Ralph missed a busy Christmas period.
“Damon Lathrope, who we added to the squad, only played a couple of games before his horrific injury that ended his career, Jordan Wynter, Louis Ramsey and Regan Charles-Cook too. They were six players you would have in your starting eleven.”
Limbrick was handed a three-year contract on his arrival last summer to run alongside a three-year plan to reach the Football League.
A takeover was said to be imminent at the time but is still yet to have materialised, something Limbrick feels affected his team.
He said: “I concentrated on the football when I was there; I wasn’t concerned about those issues. However, looking back on it, it was an off-field issue which probably made, I would say, the fans and everyone a little impatient which had a hindrance on the pitch.
“I always felt we would have enough to stay in the league. I was disappointed with the timing, but when the results aren’t there and the pressure comes then some clubs react in that way.
“I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity and I wish them all the best. I’ve been watching a lot of National League and Football League games, and visiting coaches and clubs that I know.
“I’m going to have to go back in and earn the right with a club that fits what I want to do.
“But I’m really looking forward to getting back in as soon as possible.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
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