Stepping down as assistant manager is a wrench for new Leiston boss Richard Wilkins

Richard Wilkins

Richard Wilkins

New Leiston boss Richard Wilkins admitted he was in two minds this summer when he was offered a route back into football by Steve Ball.

The former Colchester United player was enjoying a well-deserved break from the game, having left Bury Town, following 14 years at the helm, in May.

He eventually accepted Ball’s invitation to become number two at Victory Road and now, just over three months later, is back at the sharp end of management.

Ball’s decision to take up a full-time post at Colchester United – he was already working there – opened the door for Wilkins who started his reign with a 3-0 win against Grays last night, Gareth Heath (two) and Craig Parker hitting the target.

“It did not take long to sort out a few bits and pieces and I am excited to be back, although they are strange circumstances,” said Wilkins.

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“Did I want to get back into management? Yes and no.

“I wanted a break after 14 years at Bury, but after 10 weeks I received a phone call from Steve (Ball) offering me the chance to join Leiston.

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“I said to him I needed a bit more time and I sat down and talked about it with my wife, who was probably pleased to get me back out of the house!

“Steve then called again.”

Under Ball and Wilkins, the Blues have made an impressive start in the Ryman Premier and following last night’s game, have now won exactly half of their league matches this season.

That early-season form certainly swayed Wilkins’ decision to succeed Ball, although his time spent as assistant manager gave the 49-year-old a dilemma.

“There are not that many jobs in the area that would appeal to me, but Leiston is a positive club with some good people on board,” said Wilkins.

“They are also in the same league as Bury so it is a standard of football and environment that I know quite well.

“But I was quite happy to be assistant manager.

“I enjoyed being number two, there was a lot less stress and hassle and I was coaching a bit more.

“Being manager and being an assistant are two totally different things and hopefully I can continue doing some coaching but we will have to see.”

The number two role vacated by Wilkins has been taken, in the short-term at least, by former Bury Town youngster Elliot Hunter.

Hunter left Ram Meadow last May following a lengthy injury lay-off that included cruciate operations on both knees.

“Elliot is a very good coach and a smashing lad,” explained Wilkins.,

“He was at West Suffolk Football College and Bury Town with me but had two horrific knee injuries.

“I have already made a phone call to one ex-player about (the assistant role) it but he didn’t think it was the right time.

“I have got a few contacts but Elliot will fill that void for me and give us a bit of time.

“He is only 22-23 (years-old) but I trust him and hopefully, I would like him on board long-term.

“He is currently working towards achieving his UEFA B badge and he will be a good person to have in the building.”

Meanwhile, Leiston chairman Andy Crisp has revealed his delight at Wilkins’ appointment having admitted that Ball was likely to be approached by the U’s sooner rather than later.

“We were aware of Steve Ball’s ambitions and his position at Colchester was always going to develop,” said Crisp.

“We got Wilks involved because we felt it was the right thing to safeguard the club if Steve moved on.

“Richard is very loyal and is, without doubt, one of the best coaches in the area and probably the best in Suffolk in terms of being able to combine the coach and manager role.

“I am sure he will put his own stamp on the team and may want to bring in a number of faces.”

n AFC Sudbury fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Brentwood Town in Ryman North last night.

The only goal of the game was scored by Martyn Stokes, 10 minutes after the break.

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