After the recent friendly at win at Evostik Premier Division side Whitby Town, Viva Northern League’s Andy Hudson spoke to Whitley Bay manager Ian Chandler about his thoughts on the new season and the future of the club.
Despite three FA Vase wins in a row, Ian Chandler is a man with unfinished business. His club last won the Northern League title in 2007, something which he is determined to rectify. With the addition of Robbie Dale from Conference North side Blyth Spartans to what was already considered the strongest Whitley Bay side in many years, Chandler has his sights set firmly on promotion.
Ian, good win today?
Yeah, excellent. It’s a great set-up down here [at Whitby Town] and when Tommy [Cassidy] got in touch with us just before the end of the season, we jumped at the chance to come down. There was a good crowd and a good result for us so I’m very happy at the moment.
Was this more a case for you that the lads are looking sharp or that Whitley Bay are a really good team?
Honestly, I was expecting it. I know Whitby have had their troubles in the past and I was talking to Tommy Cassidy before the game and he’s got a lot of young kids, a few old heads but a lot of kids, but the expectation for me is that we’re as good as the Evostik Premier so I was quite happy.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Whitley Bay over the past few seasons. FA Vase winners three times on the trot and for you personally, scoring the goal at Villa Park in the Vase final for the club. How much does it mean to you to be manager of Whitley Bay at the moment?
Aye, it’s pretty much everything. I had the chance to go to Blyth and I considered it, I’m not going to say I didn’t. Blyth are in the Conference North so it would have been a good opportunity. But I chose otherwise, for my own reasons, and Whitley Bay have been good for a long time, such as when I came out of the professional game I went straight to Whitley Bay and I’ve been here on and off for about twenty years so it was an easy decision in the summer. I still want to win things, I want to be back at Wembley next year, I want to be winning the league, so the job’s not finished.
What’s your main hope for this season?
I say this every year: to do better than last year. I think I’ve got a better squad than last year, got a better team, and I think if we can match or do better last year than I’m sure everyone will be happy come the end of the season.
So the only way you could do better this year is to win the FA Vase again but also win the Northern League?
Yes. With the league, we really should have got promoted last year and there were a lot of things said on the web and in the papers that we didn’t really want to get promoted but we did. We went on a nineteen game winning streak to try and get us back to the top of the league , to win the league, and that would have gotten us promotion, but we just missed out on goal difference. I think this year we will go for first or second, hopefully finish first, and that will get us promoted.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve improved the squad this year; who do you think will be important of the players you’ve brought in?
All of them will be. We’ve built a squad, built a team, but I think Lee Scroggins will be massive for us this year. He’s a great centre midfielder, he scores a lot of goals, does a lot of hard work and gets stuck in. I think we’ve missed that in the last few years, though you wouldn’t think it winning the Vase, but in some games you need the steel and I think he’ll be exciting for us this year. Callum Anderson will be fantastic for us at the back and everybody else who has been here for the last three of four years will know what the expectations are so hopefully they’ll deliver the same goods.
You’ve lost a couple of players this season to Blyth, along with some of your backroom staff; how are you going to replace them?
Losing the backroom staff was a big wrench. They were brilliant the two of them, Gav and Cuggs, were fantastic for four of five years. Brian Rowe is going to come in and Brian Smith is coming in to help us out and they’ve got the respect of the lads as they’ve been here for a few years. We’ve lost David Coulson who missed seven months of last year, so we never really had Davey as much as we hoped for last year, and the other two, Lee Mason and Tom [Kindley] were kind of fringe players. They will be missed but they’ve chosen to go up, which is fine, and as I’ve said, we’ve got a better squad and a better team than last year so we’ll hopefully do better.
When you played Spennymoor at the end of last season I was standing next to you when Leon Ryan received the trophy and you applauded but you could see that you really wanted that trophy…
We’re in the competitions to win and we hate finishing second or third. That was the be-all-and-end-all. To me the league season had finished two weeks before when we knew we couldn’t get first but to see the trophy present [elsewhere] is never nice. But Leon’s a canny lad and we’re close friends but we wanted to win that. I told the lads “they’re rubbing our noses in it by picking up this trophy today’ let it be us next year”.
You turned down Conference North to try and get Whitley Bay up to that level; how good would that be?
Well it will be difficult as we have to get into the Evostik but I feel that we are as good as the Evostik Premier. We have to keep our squad together, get keen lads who could progress into the Conference North, and it’ll not be done overnight, but that’s what we’re working on. If we keep going then we’ll get there eventually. I’d love to take Whitley Bay there and that’s the big aim. If we do that then that would be great.
You mentioned there that you have the squad there but do you think Whitley Bay as a club, with the infrastructure in place, can progress through the divisions?
I think so. Obviously Spennymoor have come back to life after floundering for a few years, lots happened to them and they went down to the second division [Northern League after merger with Evenwood Town] but they came up and won the first division for the last couple of years. If they work and get their infrastructure right, and I think we have got our infrastructure right, we just need to get the performances on the pitch to get us out of the league. Not that I want to leave the league because this league is fantastic, Ann and Alan Barkas have been brilliant, but we need to progress. If your feet stand still then you’re just going to go backwards; we need to progress.