New head coach Jon Clarke has no plans for a big revolution at Bury St Edmunds
New Bury St Edmunds head coach, Jon Clark, is not planning to make wholesale changes after Gavin Hogg’s reign ended on a winning note at Clifton last weekend.
Bury slightly under-achieved this season, their second at National League Two South level following promotion in 2015.
The Wolfpack were targeting a top-five berth, at the very least, but ended in 11th position, having avoided relegation with a trio of wins over Exmouth, Barnes and Barnstaple before going into the last month of the season.
Hogg masterminded two promotions in six successful years at the helm, as Bury’s Director of Rugby, before deciding to take up a new challenge at National League outfit Old Albanians from next season.
His successor, former Northampton Saints centre Clarke, is relatively inexperienced as a head coach.
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The 33-year-old spent the recent season as the backs coach at Championship club Rotherham Titans, while also operating as a head coach at a lower level with Sheffield Hallam.
Clarke wants to bring yet more success to Bury, but he is not going to preside over a big revolution at The Haberden.
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“I don’t think I need to make too many changes. Gavin Hogg has done an outstanding job, and he’s been here a long time,” explained Clarke.
“I’ve only met him a few times and already I like the guy, he’s a top bloke.
“It’s not about making massive changes. You just carry on with what Gavin has done, and you just put your own little stamp on things.
“You’re not saying anything that Gavin has done is wrong. It’s just sometimes you have to put in what you are comfortable with.
“You can have a bad run, not by being a bad team, but by not having much luck and by perhaps losing a couple of games that you don’t think you should have lost. Then it can come down to momentum.
“Certainly having a lot of injuries here (last season) – someone mentioned to me about 19 players injured – and that’s massive, because many of them would have been starters.
“In the end, it’s still been a decent season, not perhaps what the club would have wanted, but I’ll be keeping the positives and keep moving the club forward.
“The coaches here are also very good, so I feel no need to look elsewhere.
“If they want to stay on, then they will stay on, we will just gel together,” added Clarke.
Sheffield-born Clarke rattled up 165 first-team games for Northampton Saints, from 2003 to 2012, having earlier come up through the Academy at Bristol.
He also represented England Saxons in 2010 before later moving on to Worcester Warriors (in 2012), Championship side Yorkshire Carnegie and later Rotherham Titans (as a backs coach).
Recruitment, as always, will obviously be a big challenge for Clarke during the close-season.
He continued: “It’s a mix of players of Bury – you need the youth and the young lads coming through, as well as the old heads.
“Bury has been known for bringing in players in from around the world, and you want to bring in the best players you can, but you mustn’t forget what is here. If a good young lad from Bury gets into the second XV and plays well, then why not give him a chance?
“Personally, I think it’s a good time of the year (to be appointed). I have the whole of the summer to recruit, and people will have a nice month after the end of the season before they start coming back in.
“There’s no need to panic or rush, in terms of recruitment. CVs come in all the time, and I have time to bed in, talk to the other coaches to see what works, collect it all together and pick out what is right here for Bury St Edmunds. Some boys will go and want new beginnings, and others will want to stay. That happens in any team, and we will always be looking to bring in good players.”
Clarke has his sights set on the Championship, the second tier of rugby, although he is not going to under-estimate the job in hand.
“It’s a massive opportunity for me, the club has ambition and it wants to go to the Championship,” confirmed Clarke.
“Obviously I don’t live in a dream-world. I’m not just thinking that I’m going to come in and the club get promoted two years in a row.
“But I jumped at the chance to take this job, and I’d have been silly to say no. I’m massively excited and can’t wait to get stuck in. It’s going to be hard work, but part of that ambition is the reason why it’s right for me to come here,” concluded Clarke.