Joe White says he is joining a club with a lot of potential having been appointed as player-manager of Western League Division One side Longwell Green Sports, writes Tom Howe.
White, who recently completed a UEFA B licence in coaching football, pipped a host of other candidates for the role vacated by Mitch Hodge, who has since moved on to Premier Division side Cadbury Heath.
A striker by trade, White signed professional forms with Bristol Rovers at the age of 18, training with the likes of Rickie Lambert and Chris Lines, before dropping into the non-league picture to play for various clubs including Yate, Chippenham and Shortwood United.
He combined his goalscoring attributes with managing Chipping Sodbury throughout the 2018-19 Premier Division campaign before spending last season playing for Cribbs. However, having caught the managerial bug, White is ‘excited’ about his new position at Longwell Green, where he will once again be assisted by father, Steve, whose playing career spanned more than 500 appearances for nine league clubs, as well as Alex Cummings.
“First and foremost, I am really excited about the opportunity,” White, a former Longwell player himself, told The Independent. “I think there is lots of potential there. Quite a lot of the club’s youth teams are the best in their age groups and they have had a very firm foundation with that for many years. They have a good base to draw on.
“I have played non-league football for a long time now and have a good grounding. I managed Chipping Sodbury the year before last which I really enjoyed.
“I came away from that and I missed it. I missed the buzz you get from leading and coaching a team and trying to get the best out of them.
“Steve played professionally and has always been a great shoulder to lean on in terms of advice. He has helped me a lot through my playing career and with coaching. Alex helped me out at Chipping Sodbury and played a good standard of non-league football too.
“His knowledge is really good and he is enthusiastic about the challenge. I still keep myself very fit and I feel I can offer something (on the pitch). Ultimately, whether I play or not the main focus will be trying to get the best out of the team. We managed it well at Sodbury because we had Steve and Alex there.
“Player-manager roles are not easy, you have got to be able to manage it right but at certain points I think it can be really beneficial, especially at this sort of level.”
Club chairman John Gibbs explained how lockdown had been a busy time for Longwell Green, who want to be well-prepared for when the sport is safe to resume.
“It has been really, really busy, we have been making the best use of our time,” he said. “What is interesting was that we were able to interview all our prospective candidates via Zoom.
“We met for an hour with most applicants and about six committee members. You wouldn’t have thought about doing it like that [before the lockdown] but it is probably even better.
“We are very pleased. Joe is taking his coaching badges and Steve played about 500 Football League games and in the old First Division with Luton and Charlton. We are a hub club at Longwell Green, one of only 25 in the country, and we have got a fantastic youth set-up with 50 odd teams behind us.
“We have got some particularly strong youth teams coming through in the next few years and I think it is important to have that quality of coaching around.
“At Longwell Green we have always produced our own players and this is a key appointment. Being a PE teacher, Joe is used to dealing with young people and Alex Cummings, who is coming in with him, is also a PE teacher so they are both from the same ilk. Andy Harper [new reserves manager] was our under-16s manager last year. He has been with these boys right the way through since they were five and will bring them in together with our reserves.
“Nick Peters, who has been with the club a long time, is taking up a new role as general manager of the reserves, thirds and fourth teams. He is going to oversee their needs and make sure everything is in place for them.”
Gibbs teased an announcement regarding a potential ‘massive project going on at the club’ would arrive in due course, before concluding: “It would have been a really interesting finish this year (in the Western League).
There were four promotion places up for grabs and we were in the top four all season. We are all in the same boat and will go again. All we can do, as a club, is prepare ourselves for when we return.”