IT’S MAID ME SO MUCH STRONGER
Wheeler ready for Stones challenge after ‘Ricay unrest
HARRY Wheeler regrets not being able to stay at Billericay Town for the long term – but says it’s now onwards and upwards after being appointed as Maidstone United’s new manager.
His future at Billericay was in the balance after controversial owner Glenn Tamplin reportedly sacked Wheeler by text ahead of their game at Chippenham on August 25, which ended in a 2-0 defeat.
It was the 30-year-old’s first defeat in 29 games having led the club to new heights last season winning the Bostik South, League Cup and Essex Senior Cup, and looked set for promotion again after topping the early season National League South table.
But Tamplin shared different visions to that of his manager and although Wheeler was reluctant to go into detail about how it all ended, he was sad he couldn’t carry on the Billericay journey.
“I never wanted it to happen, I like to be in places for the longevity,” Wheeler, who joined the club in February last year, told The NLP. “We all wanted to push on and see if we could do it again, we fully believed we could.
“It didn’t happen, that’s football, we move on, you take it on the chin and I’ve been lucky enough to go to a very good club where we can try and emulate it.
“Billericay is actually a very well run club in terms of the staff, the media team, the players’ attitude is excellent. You have to give Glenn credit for the facilities. He said he wanted to improve the ground. There’s definitely a lot of positives.”
Tamplin has admitted sacking Wheeler was a mistake and even tried to get him back to the club – an offer which did tempt him. “From my heart it was a possibility at times for the lads and the supporters, who are fantastic and always supported me – even when I wasn’t there, they were singing my name,” Wheeler added. “In the end I wanted to push further on to a club like Maidstone.
“It was an invaluable experience. Probably an experience you don’t get unless you’re at the top level with the real pressures. It made me a lot tougher, a lot stronger, a lot more forward-thinking and more professional because when things aren’t great you have to keep your standards even higher and give the players everything you’ve got. “It’s a totally different kind of pressure, you’re expected to win, everyone wants to beat you, no one is a fan of yours, everyone comes there for their cup final, you’ve got big expectations on your hands. “That, and some of the inside pressures, and the inside disagreements at the club. We had to manage the players really well and try and get the best out of people. “I learnt massive amounts, more than you could probably learn at a different club in three or four years.” Now Wheeler is moving on to one of the most well-run clubs in Non-League and stepping up a division.
Owners Oliver Ash and Terry Casey and chief executive Bill Williams made the toughest decision they’ve had to make in years with the club in parting company with Stones legend Jay Saunders, who won three promotions in four years to take them into the National League.
They deserve credit for giving Wheeler – a young and upcoming manager, although one with 11 years of experience – the chance to build on the foundations Saunders, inset left, laid.
“We’re not here to replace Jay Saunders because he is irreplaceable,” said the former St Albans boss, who has been joined at the Gallagher Stadium by Tristian and Craig Lewis from Billericay. “He was brilliant in everything he did and we’re here to give it a new light now and push on. “He is forever going to be a legend here. He’s a good person. Every club has this, every club has their change, Billericay didn’t expect change that quick but it happens. All you can do is support the new regime and go with the next one. “I’m excited for the challenge and looking forward to working at such a big, professional club, trying to turn it around and get up the league.” Wheeler took charge of three training sessions before yesterday’s visit from leaders Harrogate Town and is prepared to give the current crop of players a chance after amassing seven points from their first ten games. “The attitude is good, they’re willing to work and they want to do well,” he added. “It’s a really well run club, good structure and good people. They get good crowds, we have to try and lift it even more.”
WHEEL DEAL: Harry Wheeler is ready to take hos Maidstone chance