HE WILL long be remembered as the man who preserved Woking’s National League status, but it was not enough for Cards’ boss Garry Hill to be given a third crack of the whip, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
In a statement released by the board of directors on wokingfc.co.uk on Thursday evening (4 May), it alluded to wide-scale change at the Kingfield based club, which included the parting of company with Hill and assistant manager Steve Thompson.
After six-and-a-half-years at the helm, Hill was one of the longest serving managers within the top five tiers of English football. Only the likes of Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) and Paul Tisdale (Exeter City) have held office for longer.
And whilst the club’s precarious financial standing has been a real Achilles’ heel for Hill and his management team, there’s no denying that he delivered the club to safety and won the Surrey Senior Cup in his final two games in charge.
It’s been a turbulent season for the former Dagenham & Redbridge boss, whose principle task was to retain the club’s National League status on, reportedly, one of the lowest playing budgets in the division.
Despite the upheaval, Hill was rightfully named Vanarama Manager of the Month for last month (April ’17), after taking an impressive 17 points from The Cards’ last eight league games. It’s perhaps a fitting tribute for what he achieved throughout March and April to keep the club’s hopes alive and kicking.
In an interview with the club’s press officer, John Moore, the outbound Woking boss likened his side’s end-of-season achievements as play-off form, as opposed to a team fighting relegation.
The 57-year-old Essex-based manager has been one of Woking’s most successful mangers since Geoff Chapple’s reign back in the 1990s, which then included a number of Football League scalps in the FA Cup.
Hill has undisputedly galvanised the players and steered the club to safety during a time of austerity, which was more akin to a game of Russian roulette than a game of non-league football. It’s something that Woking fans will remain indebted to Hill and Thompson for many years to come.
But with fresh investment imminent – and a number of expected changes to the management board to help pioneer a new era – the club’s prospective new shareholders have clearly laid things on the line before they have started.
In a bid to receive a much-need capital injection, the club partnered with Blackbridge Sports, a company that acts for UK and international investors, principally in the far east.
An investor has now reportedly agreed to buy out the major shareholders’ share capital in Woking Football Club Ltd.,which is expected to be ratified at the club’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) later this month (May).
The scene is now set for Woking to re-evaluate their short-, medium, and long-term ambitions to not only cement their position as Surrey’s biggest football club, but to realistically challenge for promotion to League 2 within the next three to five years.
The current board is expecting to make an announcement about Hill’s replacement within the next 48 hours.