John Coughlin has revealed that his ‘part-time’ role as manager simply couldn’t continue if he is to devote the time needed to successfully ‘turn the club around’.
The 53-year-old penned a two-year full-time contract with the ‘Gers on Friday following an excellent run of late season form which saw his side record six clean sheets in seven games, a feat which was extended to seven in eight after Saturday’s 3-0 win over promotion-chasing Clyde.
And with speculation about his future now over, Coughlin responded to those who may have questioned the full-time appointment, explaining the tough nature of balancing a full-time job with being ‘Gers boss and said it had got to the stage where something had to give.
“The part-time role just couldn’t continue, I’ll be perfectly honest,” said Coughlin. “I’ve got a full-time job and there were a lot of demands which meant I couldn’t devote the time that this club needs. It was never going to happen.
“This club needs to be turned around I feel. We’ve been in a situation where we haven’t threatened the top four very often for the past seven or eight years and to do that, it needs to have 100% of your focus and not 50% which is what was happening with myself.
“I know people are asking questions about why there’s a full-time appointment at a part-time club but what I’ve said to the board is that we have to break the mould. The club has been in a situation, which a lot of part-time clubs are in, that at the end of the season the manager goes out and takes somebody else’s players, we swap them around and you just don’t know if you’re getting the best players because very often, you haven’t seen them because you can’t physically get to matches.
“So it’s trying to find that flexibility that enables me to go out and make judgements for myself and I’ve felt that if I’m going to do well in my career and make decisions, they’ve got to be my decisions, not ones that have been hoisted on me. The club have backed me on that and I think Brian, although he’s leaving, has realised the situation and that something had to change. So this is the first step in doing that and hopefully we can put a structure in place that makes us that bit more successful.”
The top priority for Coughlin in his quest to transform a ‘Gers side which has only reached the play-offs once in the past eight seasons is player recruitment and now, with more time on his hands as alluded to above, he is determined to bring some quality to the club.
“It’s all down to recruitment,” he said. “The biggest single factor in whether Berwick will fail or succeed in the future is down to who they recruit. Coaching staffs come and go, to be honest, but if you get good players here you’ve always got a chance of winning football matches.
“We certainly need three or four signings to come in. I think we have a team that’s capable of hitting the middle of the league but, and I might be being controversial here, I don’t think we have a team that can get into the top four and up there winning the league at the minute. My job is to change that.”
However, the manager has admitted that his task has become a whole lot tougher in deciding which players he offers renewed contracts to due to the excellent recent form of his side, proving to him that there is a lot of quality at the club.
“When I first came in, I looked at the squad of players and thought we could possibly change every one of them. But as the weeks go by, there’s the realisation that we have some good players at this club – I’m hoping the fans recognise that – and it’s about ensuring their potential is maximised.
“Blair Henderson is a good example. You look at his performances. When I first came in the door, he could’ve went and signed for any Junior club that he wanted because he couldn’t get in my team. And the transformation in Blair in his goals to game ratio has been fantastic. There are a lot of players who know that their contracts are at stake and they’re playing to try and make sure that they earn them.
“There’s a good feeling about the place and I feel a lot of players will want to stay here which is pleasing for me and it gives us a good base to work from next season.”
So while the next few months will see Coughlin focus heavily on acquiring players he feels will benefit the football club, further down the line, the minimum requirement for the 2016/17 season is that the ‘Gers finish in the top four – but he stressed that it won’t be easy.
“I’ve told the board that’s the aim, to get into the top four – I’ve been in that situation with Stenhousemuir and know that anything can happen – it’s just about making sure we get a team on the park that’s capable of getting there.
“It’s not easy – there are no easy games. You look at some of the budgets in the league – I know some of them because it’s my job to know what’s happening elsewhere – money’s tight but I know that we have to make every penny count.
“That’s why I’m keen to try and get the best players that we have here signed up and ensure that they’re comfortable here and augment that with some quality. If that means we don’t have as many players, that’s fine because that’s why we have a Development team as well.”
And on that subject, Coughlin hopes his full-time position will see him take even more of an interest in the U20s, which he sees as pivotal in supporting the first team.
“The Development team will be a massive part of my job, absolutely,” he said. “You’ve got to underpin your first team with something. We’re not a club with a lot of means so we’ve got to try and get as many players through from the Development team as we can.
“I’ll be taking as much interest as I can and getting to as many games as possible, but sometimes their matches are scheduled on the same night as training, so I’ve got to try and use my time to the best of my ability to make sure I’m covering all bases.”
By Martin Inglis