New Holwell Sports manager Neil Miller believes the club still has what it takes to be a top five club again, but only if given time.
Miller was unveiled as Andy Gray’s successor on the eve of Saturday’s 2-0 win over Bugbrooke, along with former Holwell players Pete Humphries and Richard Cragg as his assistants, and Steve Hendey as general manager.
The 38-year-old agreed to take the step up and leave his comfort zone after a six-year spell in charge of Senior League side Cottesmore Amateurs.
“It’s very strange to be doing something different after six years with Cottesmore, but it’s really exciting as well,” he said.
“I had a great relationship with the chairman and the committee, but I just felt for myself and the club that things needed to freshen up a little.
“I served my apprenticeship in the Senior League and worked really hard to stabilise the club and just felt it was time for a change.
“It’s a big challenge, but if I didn’t want to test myself I could have stayed at Cottesmore where everything was familiar.”
His new surroundings aren’t so unfamiliar, having played under current chairman Graham Lewin with Holwell’s under 18s side.
Miller left Welby Road to play senior football closer to Nottingham, before his career on the pitch was cut short, aged 27, by a badly-broken leg.
“I know Graham well and always have a lot of time for him,” he said.
“It’s a little bit of coming home to where I first started.”
Holwell have struggled in recent seasons, finding themselves in unfamiliar battles against relegation, and Miller realises that a transformation in fortunes won’t happen suddenly.
But he also believes that league standings paint an unrealistic picture of the club’s strength.
“There is a nucleus of a great squad here already without having to make too many additions,” he added.
“People may look at the table and assume we lack a bit of quality, or that the players aren’t willing to fight, but that’s so far from the truth it is unbelievable.
“On Saturday I saw great quality and 110 per commitment; we just need that consistency.
“The history of Holwell would suggest that we should be a top-five team and that’s still achievable, but we have to take stock of where we are at this moment in time.
“Nothing can change overnight, but already there is enough here to be a steady mid-table UCL side.
“I want the players to believe in themselves; we need to work on getting these lads united again to go into the trenches together and come out together, and then we can work on the finer details.”
Miller believes the key to such long-term stability and organic improvement lies outside the first team and in the development of a strong reserves side to boost competition for places.
“I don’t just look at the first team and isolate myself from the rest of the club,” he explained. “You have to build a club up from the bottom.
“At Cottesmore we developed two sustainable teams. At the moment we don’t have that here, but it’s a work in progress.
“We need to be competitive in both first team and reserve football and that’s the long-term objective.”