After a season in charge of Bracknell Town’s Development Team in the Suburban League, managers Rob Creech and Andy Findlay have taken the step up in to a first team role.
The pair were officially announced as manager of Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division side Highmoor Ibis over the last Bank Holiday weekend in May and have already started work at the Scours Lane club.
We sat down with Findlay to discuss the challenges for the season ahead, including the clubs image and improvements to the ground in West Reading.
Update: Shortly after this article was published, the club announced they were changing their name to Reading City FC.
Hi Andy, you’ve been in place with Rob at Highmoor now a few weeks, how are things going?
We have hit the ground running to be honest, we already had an idea of what we wanted to do at Highmoor prior to our official appointment.
How much of a relief was it to earn a Hellenic Premier Division reprieve? Would it have changed anything?
We were concerned about that to be honest as we were keen to Manage at Step 5 but had already given a commitment to what we saw as a three year plan anyway. But yes a massive relief.
It would be fair to say, I think, that Highmoor have a bit of an image problem in local football? What can you do about that?
We were very aware of that when we took the job on. For far too long Reading has not had a non league club to reflect the size of the Town [the last was Reading Town who sadly folded in 2016]. We are changing the whole environment of the senior section of the club, we are putting a structure in place that will encourage players to come and play for us.
We are very professional in our approach and will expect the same standards from our Senior squad, discipline and respect will be key to our success, we want to connect with the community and offer them a club and team to be proud of.
Not many people know that Highmoor have a brilliant youth setup of 30 teams, we aim to ensure the youth are connected with the senior teams.
How are the club themselves backing you? Scours Lane has had a few well documented technical issues in the last few years. Is that something you can influence?
The club and especially the chairman Martin Laws have been brilliant in their approach to our requests, they really want to see this club progress. We are already making changes to the ground some at our request, we will be announcing shortly changes that will bring improvements to our offering in facilities to our Senior squad and also changes to the club house and a new boardroom.
There were obvious problems last season with lighting, we have been assured this will be fixed, we are working closely with C&D Facilities & Grounds Maintenance, who took over looking after the pitch and have done a brilliant job, the top goalmouth is having a new soak away. We hope to also see renovation work on the car park.
That’s good news, are you aware of the brewery opening next door?
I would have to answer no to that one, next door we have the Ibis Club and the other side of us we have land that we are developing into 7 a side pitches for our youth teams.
[Editors note] The brewery is Double Barrelled Brewery and opens in August.
They were always good pitches around the Ibis club so that’s a positive. The brewery is going in on Stadium Way (so not quite next door), but brings me nicely on to supporters. What would you say to encourage anyone thinking of coming to watch Ibis next season?
It’s key for us to increase our gate for us to achieve our long term plans. Rob and I are very keen to have a team that play attractive football, not always possible at this level, but we want to entertain and be very compact and organised out of possession, encourage players to be comfortable in tight areas with the ball.
We are keen to see local players given an opportunity to play for their local club. The facilities are being improved and new catering has been introduced offering a comfortable bar area with a good food offering, we are also looking at promotions to encourage our youth players and families to attend matches.
Obviously success on the pitch helps to build a following so we will endeavour to build a squad that will compete at the top end of the table. This is a brand new era for the club, forget what has gone and join us in trying to build an excellent non league club for Reading.
Rob and I would not have taken this project on without reassurances about the future, we asked lots of questions and said what our vision was, we were pleased to see the club had the same drive and ambition.
You spent last season with Bracknell Town Dev and previously a short stint with Henley in the Prem, what lessons can you take from both of those experiences?
Well the first lesson we learnt from Henley we took notice of, Rob took the Henley job on mid season, I went in initially to do the Allied’s due to family commitments. Eventually worked with Rob and first team but could not change an already sinking ship.
Highmoor are in a totally different place to where Henley were, but we did not come in mid season as we wanted to put our marker down preseason and change the structure to how we want to operate and build our squad of players.
Bracknell was the only reserve job we would have taken, we spent a lot of time with chairman Kayne Steinborn-Busse and had many discussions, we take a lot away from him about structure and organisation.
We worked with and managed some top players at Bracknell, some very experienced first team players and some great young players, this has helped us build a reputation that we feel will help us attract players to Highmoor. We also have some experienced managers like Mark Tallentire that we can talk to going forward to help us in our development, it was Tally that took us to Bracknell Town.
How do you and Rob work together, is it ‘good cop/bad cop’?
To be honest we work really well together. We are both extremely organised and insist on organisation. We both work very closely with players ensuring that we recognise their triggers, some need an arm around them and told how good they are, others need to be fired up.
I don’t think either of us is a particularly bad cop but I suppose I am the one that tends to go in a bit heavier to get a message across. We spend more time making sure that everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are and building a team spirit, this way everyone works better together.
Finally, you mentioned a three year plan, where do you expect Highmoor to be in 12 months time?
Last year it was clear to see that the three teams with the biggest budgets got promoted so this year the Division looks very competitive for a lot of teams.
We are expecting Binfield, Wantage and Brimscombe to be right up there, Ardley we expect to be strong as well, for us we are looking to finish top eight this season, but things could change with a bit more investment, we are working hard on recruiting players and retaining players that can make us competitive with all teams in this division, can’t wait to get started, we aim to hopefully surprise a few.
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