‘TOO good to turn down’ is how new Buckland Athletic Reserves manager John Fleet described the chance to join the Homers Heath outfit.
Fleet makes the switch from fellow Devon Football League South & West side Liverton United to succeed Craig Hutcheson, who has taken up a new role with Buckland’s first team.
And with the news having been officially announced by the club this evening, the new boss is encouraged by what he has seen so far.
‘Although it’ll be the same league I see it as a step up,’ said Fleet. ‘Ultimately it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
‘The potential with the first team looking to progress means there’s the prospect that the reserves can too.
‘Even if we can’t be promoted, Buckland is a nice place and a nice atmosphere to play football in. In terms of players it’s a great attraction.
‘I think there are 23 people on the committee all doing little things, meaning that I can focus on the football side of things rather than everything else that goes into running a club.
‘The fact Dan [Hart, first team manager] came to my first meeting showed a lot from him. He’s very keen for the first and second teams to work closely together.
‘I like that he showed a real interest and took the time to come and have a chat with me. Hopefully we’ll have a really good relationship – and with Craig [Hutcheson] making the step up to the first team there’s still that link there.
‘I would say that this is the only reserve team job I would have taken, because of the facilities and everything else the opportunity has to offer.
‘I understand it all from a first team point of view, and I know that there are times where they might want to take some players or give some to me to get minutes.’
Fleet led Liverton to a 10th-placed finish in the DFL North & East last season, with four wins and two draws from their 22 games. The club has since successfully requested a transfer to the South & West division.
‘They were still in the Peninsula League when I took over and I think I only inherited two or three players from the previous squad,’ Fleet recalled.
‘It was definitely an eye-opener and there were a few times when it would have been easy to jack it all in.
‘But we got through it and ended that season okay – and since then I think we’ve made progress every season. This year we probably had our best squad but we just couldn’t transfer that into results.
‘It was a struggle at times, especially with the pandemic in the middle of it, and the fact that the club survived and is still going is an achievement in itself.’
After a slow start, Hutcheson led his Buckland Reserves side to seventh spot in the DFL South & West last season, winning eight and drawing three of their 20 matches.
‘In terms of next season, I don’t think there are any real expectations as of yet,’ Fleet added. ‘The club just wants a stable campaign and probably to finish somewhere mid-table or above.
‘I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be tough – especially with all of the Plymouth sides in there, plus Stoke Gabriel & Torbay Police dropping down.’
As a teenager, Fleet played under Buckland co-chairman and then-first team manager Nigel Holmes at Homers Heath before going away to university.
‘We were really pleased that John showed an interest,’ Holmes explained. ‘He played under me and actually scored in a cup final, so it’s great to welcome him back to the club.
‘He’s a name we know and a name that lots of people involved in South Devon football know. He told us he wanted to come to a club with real ambition.
‘He did a fantastic job at Liverton to stabilise them and keep them going. That’s what we want – a stable pair of hands to build and go forward with.’
Shane Reavey, who has also represented the club as a player, joins alongside Fleet as head coach.