‘Gers boss John Coughlin has outlined his plans to help build the club’s relations with the local community. In an extended interview with the club’s official website, the ‘Gers manager discusses the town’s infrastructure in addition to Berwick’s youth system, signing policy and other structural issues.
“Since I’ve arrived here, I’ve not made any secret of how disappointed I’ve been with the set-up and how little things have changed from my last spell.
“I know a lot of people will look at the full-time contract I was given and think – ‘that’s a bit odd, a full-time manager at a part-time club’, but there’s much more to it than standing on the touchline and barking orders.
“I was at the club in 2007 when we won the league, and it is in exactly the same position as when we won it. Part of my role since going full-time has been to change things off the park.
“For me, it’s about putting the right structure in place. It’s my role to leave this club in a much better position than I found it in. When I arrived again, I was still hauling training gear around, and we were still looking for training facilities week-by-week.
“But we’re now starting to answer the questions that I’ve been posing since my return. I’ve made the decision to train at Haddington permanently. I’ve also altered our transfer strategy to ensure that players get to training. We’ll sign guys from the east of the country and I’ll look further down, but I certainly won’t be looking west for players too often.
Coughlin is the first full time boss employed by the club since the 1970’s and he explained why he thinks the club must be brought close to the local community if it is to thrive.
“I’m currently travelling down to Berwick regularly to meet with different clubs and attend the meetings of supporters’ organisations. I think there’s a disconnect between the town and the football club, and I’ve got to take steps to do something about that.
“What I am sick and tired of hearing is that we can’t do things. I’m here to try and kick us into shape and see what we can do. We need to get the right bums on seats and get the right people at meetings.”
Coughlin recently played a major role in the formation of the Berwick Rangers Colts side which will operate out of the Border Amateur League. The team will mainly be comprised of last season’s Berwick Rangers Juniors Under 16’s squad, and will form part of a support system for the ‘Gers Development Squad.
“I personally think we need to underpin the first-team. We need a development side there, we’re strengthening our ties with Tweedmouth (Rangers) and hopefully we’re now beginning to do that with the younger age groups too.
“The people of Berwick deserve to be able to see that if things don’t happen, then it hasn’t been for the want of trying. If we want to bring through some of our own, then we have to have a vehicle for local kids to be able to do that.
“For me, that means we have to have age groups below the first-team. We have to give our kids something to aim at. People keep telling me that this has been tried this in the past, but I’m here to try again; and I’m going to try my level best to make sure that it happens.
“Equally, I’m not a politician. I need the people of Berwick to come to me and say ‘you should be talking to this person’, or ‘you need to be pulling in this direction’. We need assistance with it. So I’ve got to try and put the right people in the right positions, and ask them the right questions.
“Because there are things we can do and there are things we can improve on. But for that to happen, the whole structure of the club has to change. I’ll be spending as much time on improving processes and finding the right people to work with as I am on working with the first-team.
“Whether or not we earn promotion, I have to make sure that the club is a different one for the next person who comes in and takes over; and I must ensure that the bond between the people of Berwick and Berwick Rangers Football Club is a hell of a lot stronger than it is now.”
One project that the ‘Gers boss believes the club should be spearheading is the bid to bring a 3G pitch to Berwick-upon-Tweed – but he also acknowledges that without the support of the community, any such plan is very unlikely to get off the ground.
“There’s not a full sized 3G pitch within 30 miles of the town, and that’s wrong, it’s completely wrong. I can go on in length about this. A lot of people may look at it as ‘pie in the sky’, but if you don’t try you’re never going to succeed.
“I think it has to be some sort of coalition between local clubs in Berwick, not just Berwick Rangers Football Club. Going single-handedly to people and saying ‘we want money to build a pitch’ is never going to get us anywhere.
“But actually having some sort of movement, whereby the people of Berwick and the surrounding areas look at it as a focal point that can be used for all sports, that has real benefit. If you build it, they will come, and that’s not my cliché, it’s somebody else’s!
“Of course, in amongst all that, I’ve also got to make sure we win football matches! It will be a balancing act, but Berwick as an area deserves better.
“The facilities in the town just aren’t good enough. It’s simple as that. I speak about developing younger players, but the first thing you look for is a reliable facility that they can train at, and right now it doesn’t exist.
“For me, it’s definitely something that is worth pursuing. I know Lenny (Eyre), John (Bell) and the rest of the board have probably heard all of this before, but they’re probably not hearing it as vehemently as I’m putting it to them.
“I’m telling them, ‘I need assistance and I need you guys behind me’, and I’m sure they’ll back me 100%. But as I’ve said, I’m going to need the help of a lot of people in the area to try and make sure that it happens.
“If we get a real range of the right people involved, we’ll not only have a strong case but those guys will know the effort that has gone into it – and if things don’t work out they’ll be able to relay to the community that it wasn’t through a lack of effort.”
By Dale McCrea.