The Non-League Football Paper
RAMS PAIR GO CHARGING IN!
AT 24 and 25 years old, Petersfield Town joint-bosses Pat Suraci and Joe Lea are two of English football’s youngest bosses – and they’re happy proving age is just a number.
The pair, who work in Bournemouth’s academy, and built up a centre of excellence at Gosport Borough – have left their playing careers behind to make their mark in coaching and management.
And they’ve got the Wessex League Division One Rams dreaming of the Step 6 play-offs and in a cup final in just their first season in charge.
With just five games to go, they’ve already won the most games at the club since 2015, scored the most goals and even led a 21-game unbeaten run.
And former Gosport midfielder Suraci says they’re proud of how their first season in charge is panning out.
“We were a little bit nervous coming into men’s football at our age,” Suraci told The NLP. “But we felt if you work hard enough and have got a bit of knowledge, connect with players and know how to have relationships with players, then you’re halfway there.
“It’s about recruiting players. We don’t pay any players but we’ve managed to recruit the right group, the right type of players, who have been excellent.
“We had a meeting last year and said to Petersfield we feel we can take the club onto a new level, bring younger players with a different philosophy and style.
“Like anyone in Non-League, they were a little bit sceptical we were going to be two young managers who just want to play out from the back, just want to look good – a lot of people were telling us it’s different in men’s football. But I believe if you stick to your principles and train consistently, you can get results.
“Obviously there are tweaks you need to make and we’ve learnt along the way there are things you can and can’t do. That’s part of our journey.” As well as thanking the club for handing them the keys, Suraci says the players have taken everything on board.
“Before we were giving team-talks and trying to convince players that were 16 or 17 years old – now we’re speaking to lads a lot older than us – players that have played at a decent level, as we have,” he said. “You have to be yourself, you have to be honest, you have to convince players to play the way you want to play because, when they are older than you, they might think they know better.
“But the group we’ve got have been so receptive to what we’ve done. I think they feel like it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air to have us as young managers who want to do things professionally and slightly differently to managers they’ve had before.
“We didn’t know a whole load about the level when we started because we’ve played either professionally, National League South or Southern Prem. We were a little in the dark but we slowly got a feel for it and those nerves have gone now – it’s more nerves of trying to push for playoffs and cup finals.”
Suraci says there is no better feeling than the sense of responsibility for a whole team and building relationships with the volunteers and fans at the club.
“Our aim at the start of the season was to get in the top half, given where the club have been in previous years,” Suraci said. “We’ve probably exceeded expectations this year so we will give our best now to be in and around it at the end of the season.”