Barnstaple Town looking for new manager after failing to get promoted

-Credit:Nathan Bennett
-Credit:Nathan Bennett

Barnstaple Town chairman Bill Wilson says he is looking for a manager that can match the club’s ambition - following the exit of Ben Watson after the team’s failure to win promotion from the Western League to the Southern League.

Barnstaple finished fifth in the Premier Division of the Western League this season and lost to Falmouth Town in the semi-finals of the play-offs, which Wilson says isn’t good enough after the team finished third under Craig Laird the previous season.

So after failing to win promotion back to the Southern League over the last two seasons, Wilson wants to find someone who can get the Mill Road club back to Step 4 next season - and hopefully Step 3 the season after.

“I think we should be competing with Tiverton Town and teams like that in the Premier South,” said Wilson, ahead of the team’s Les Phillips Cup final against Shepton Mallet on Sunday. “Two promotions is what we set out to do but so far we haven’t achieved the first one. One step at a time but certainly we would like to get into the Premier South.”

Barnstaple have one of the highest budgets in the Western League and Wilson is frustrated by the club’s failure over the last two seasons to go back up to the league that they left shortly after he took over at the club in 2021.

He said: “We want someone who behaves correctly - and the last two managers have certainly done that. They have conducted themselves well. Both were good coaches but we need a leader.

“We need someone who can motivate players and get the best out of them because promotion is the aim. We support our managers fully, with players they want, and rumours that we have the highest wage bill in the league - I am not sure if that is true or not.

“So our expectations are promotion and it isn’t good enough to finish fifth when we finished third last year. That’s a backward step when we need to be promoted - we need to be in the Southern League.”

Experienced manager Craig Laird couldn’t stop Barnstaple dropping out of the Southern League because they were already fighting a relegation battle when he was appointed in 2021. Laird left for Oldland Abbotonians last season and was replaced by young Crediton United managers Ben Watson and Jack Furzer. Furzer left within a month but Watson stayed on until the end of the season, when he was released after the play-off defeat at Falmouth, who went on to beat Clevedon Town in the final.

Wilson said: “Craig Laird was vastly experienced with a good CV and all his coaching badges, but we didn’t get up. It didn’t work out. So we gave someone from the lower league a chance, who worked on a low budget before, and who was developing young players, but that didn’t work out either.

“So I think what we have to do is advertise the fact that the position is available and see what quality of people we have got that apply - and take it from there.

“It is a fantastic opportunity - a tremendous opportunity at a club with ambition. You often hear that managers complain that clubs don’t match their ambition. Well we have got the ambition and we want the manager that can fulfill success, and get promotion. We have got ambitious plans which we have had for two years now yet we have gone backwards and that isn’t acceptable.”

Wilson says anyone interested in applying for the position should send a 500-word email to Former Carlisle United manager Mick Wadsworth will be in charge when Barnstaple take on Shepton Mallet in the Les Phillips Cup on Sunday. The game is being played at Tiverton’s Ladysmead ground with a 3pm kick off.