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The gaffer's season review

First team manager Andy Samuels reflects on the 2022/23 season, a year where he returned to the Town.

Firstly, it's been a new experience for me joining a team halfway through the season. In the past I've always been in charge at the start of pre-season ahead of a full league/cup campaign. As I've said before, I was delighted to be asked to re-join the club, where I spent five and a half years before taking a break and taking over Fawley AFC at the start of this season.

Some people say you should never go back, but when I was approached by Curt [first team coach Curt Osborne] to take over from Wattsy [former manager Luke Watts], it was a no-brainer for me, especially as this club means so much to me, but also i believe I have unfinished business here.

It would've been easy for me to accept the position, stay at Fawley AFC and join at the end of the season, but having spoken at length with Curt, we felt it would be ideal for me to join in February. This would give me enough time to assess the current group of players across all our teams and start to implement my own ideas on the team, so we can look to be ahead of the curve come the new season. Talking of Curt and the rest of the coaching team too, I'd like to say a big thank you for helping me settle in so quickly and for the outstanding help/advice they offer and I'm very fortunate to have such a superb team helping and supporting me.

We started off my second spell with five wins in seven games, beating Ash United, Verwood, Totton & Eling, East Cowes and Fleet Spurs, with two narrow losses against Newport (IoW) and Andover Town, which on another day could've been wins. After the Fleet Spurs win, it was very up and down and in all honesty, not the level of performances that I expect. However, the standout performance was the semi final win away to Tadley Calleva on penalties, which saw us go through to the North Hants Cup Final.

I was hoping after that performance and win, it would give us a lot of confidence to really kick on and end the season as high up the league as possible. Unfortunately it didn't happen as I'd like, largely down to the number of injuries we picked up, which led to a lot of inconsistency in the squads we were selecting.

Last week saw us finish our season with a 3-1 defeat to Basingstoke Town in the North Hants Cup. Despite the loss, I couldn't be prouder of the performance our injury hit squad put in, against a side three divisions above us. We matched them for large parts of the game and conceded at the death when we were pushing for an equaliser. It was a fantastic night for the club to be part of and I hope it won't be last time we experience that atmosphere.

My attentions now turn to my first full season since returning and with players leaving due to work, travel and other reasons, it's important that player recruitment is well thought out and players are brought into the club for the right reasons. My aim is to build a competitive squad, that can build on what we've started so far and finish much higher up the table. To reach those targets we'll need to be more consistent in our performances and have much better commitment for the duration allowing for more continuity with squad selection every week.

I'm confident, with the management and coaching team I have around me, that we can build on this season and improve on this season and create even more of a buzz around the town.

I look forward to seeing the regular supporters and hopefully many more new ones, supporting the lads next season, as we embark on my new chapter at RTFC.


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