Lee Thrilled Former Rotherham Team-Mate Hurst is Town's New Boss
Friday, 1st Jun 2018 12:29
Academy coach Alan Lee is thrilled that his former Rotherham team-mate Paul Hurst is the Blues’ new boss, believing that the 43-year-old has earned the chance to manage at Championship level having been a success at his four previous clubs, Ilkeston Town, Boston United, Grimsby Town and Shrewsbury Town.
“I’m thrilled,” Lee told TWTD. “I had two and a half seasons playing with him at Rotherham.
“He’s a really solid character, an intelligent guy, thoughtful, and I think what I particularly like is that he’s not been given anything in his managerial career.
“He started in non-league, did a good job. Went to Grimsby, did a good job. At Shrewsbury he did a fantastic job to get them from nowhere into the League One play-off final.
“He’s had to work at everything. He’s not just been given that. He’s had to be good at something and prove to himself, so he deserves a shot at the Championship and I’m glad a nice guy is going to be in charge.”
Reflecting on their time together with the Millers, he added: “He was a very steady character so he would have been someone I would have thought would certainly go on to be a coach or a manager. He had leadership qualities. I’d say he's a really steady guy.”
Lee, 39, says he has received positive feedback from supporters regarding the appointment, but warns that like all bosses Hurst will need time to implement his ideas.
“I’ve been at the Suffolk Show this week and everyone’s been really positive about the appointment, but that first game of the season won’t mean everything’s going to go exactly how he wants, you have to build things. Management takes time.
“The first team will be back in two or three weeks, so he’s got a lot to get through but I think the fans are generally very supportive of new managers and [owner] Marcus [Evans] has given his managers time and it’ll be no different with Paul and I’m sure he’ll get it right.
“I’ve so much respect for Mick McCarthy, he’s a fine man and a really good person and Paul Hurst will be too.”
He says he has great memories of his spell at Millmoor alongside Hurst, who was a left-back at Rotherham for 15 years, in the early 2000s where they played for Ronnie Moore, someone who famously was led to believe he was going to be Town boss.
“We had some absolutely super years,” Lee recalled. “The year I joined they’d got promoted from what’s now League Two to League One and at the start of the season they were the favourites or second favourites to get relegated but we ended up coming second.
“We were part of a team which was full of character and determination and all those things that are really important, so Paul knows from his playing days the importance of being a team and getting that side of things right.
“I’ve not stayed in touch apart from when we catch up at testimonials and things like that but everyone who was part of that squad, once you’ve had a bond like that, when you get back together it’s like you’ve never been apart. It’s always been nice to see him.”
He added: “I went to watch Shrewsbury in the play-off final last Sunday and, to be fair, I thought Rotherham had the better of it.
“I thought Rotherham probably had the better of the first half and Shrewsbury were just getting into it with their striker [on-loan Norwich frontman Carlton Morris] when he went off injured, but they had outbreaks of good football.
“But for any manager, it takes time to get a team, it’s a journey. Hursty will take a bit of time to get everything the way he wants it.
“Like any manager, he’ll need everyone getting behind him, supporting him and giving him a chance to get the team playing how he wants to.
“In football no one has all the right answers but I think with Hursty the fact that he has built his success on hard work, he’s had to work lower down the leagues and he’s been a success everywhere he’s gone, why can’t it be like that for us?
“But again, he’ll need patience and time and everyone’s support and I’m sure given that he’ll get it right.”
Regarding the squad Hurst will inherit at Town, Lee added: “I think he’ll realise Mick and Terry [Connor] didn’t suffer fools and bad characters didn’t last very long at Ipswich, so he’ll be grateful for that when he comes in.
“I still think he’ll want to put his twist on it but, as you could see at the end of the season, they’re good lads, they keep going and they’re all good characters. There are no troublemakers there.”
The former Republic of Ireland international believes that despite the Blues having one of the lower budgets in the Championship, the squad is capable of competing, although he feels Hurst will need to make a handful of new signings.
“I’m sure we’re not the highest spending team, I’m sure we’re not the lowest,” he said. “We’ve got to be competitive, we’ve got to be efficient, certainly. And I think we’ll have a chance.
“I think there’s the core of a really good squad there. I think everyone will admit we need a couple of additions, but we need those boys to stay fit, the creative midfielders particularly.
“I think everyone will agree we want to see a bit more attacking play, that’s fair enough. We need to get everyone fit and healthy and maybe make a couple of additions and I think we’ll have a competitive squad.”
Hurst will also inherit a number of impressive youngsters with the likes of Tristan Nydam, 18, and 19-year-old Flynn Downes among a number of academy players to break through into the senior side during 2017/18.
“I think Tristan has played plenty of football and those boys are starting to cross over that barrier,” he continued.
“Those boys need to be targeting and really believing that they can be starters and showing Paul Hurst that they can start games regularly. That’s the next step.
“They’re still young lads. Tristan could have played in the youth team all last season, Flynn has an extra year, he’s probably a bit more physical. He had some really good experience last year, he’s got to be looking to step up and claim that place now.
“Some of the other young lads, Jack Lankester’s coming like a train behind them, Ben Folami had a really good end to the season. There’s plenty of talent there but they’ve still got to prove themselves, those boys.
“I always say the next step in football’s the hardest. You think that getting a scholarship is the most amazing thing that could have happened to you but then you realise that actually being a pro is so much harder again.
“When you’re a pro getting in the first team is really hard and when you get into the first team you’re not done, you have to fight really hard to become a regular.
“The next step tests you and people can fall, but I hope those boys have the mental resolve to keep going and that’s certainly something I try to focus on, the mental side of the game, in my coaching and my approach with them. The talent’s there, they’re really good kids and now they’ve got to pass the next test.”
Lee himself is taking a step in a different direction this summer, taking up a role running the new Football Academy at Culford School, which is close to his West Suffolk home, while continuing to work at Playford Road.
“I’m going to be combining the two,” he said. “I’m really excited, it’s something I’ve been working on and thinking about for a quite some time.
“We’re combining football and education, not compromising on either. There are wonderful facilities. It’s something I really want to build but I still want to keep my link with Ipswich Town, of course.
“I’m not going to be leading on the U18s next season, but I’ll still be involved in the academy.
“I’ve a really strong bond with the lads, the likes of Brett McGavin and Jack Lankester and Flynn. Those boys I’ve spent a lot of time and effort with, I still have that bond and I’ll always be there to support any of my boys.”
Lee says longer term he has ambitions to follow his team-mate Hurst into senior management.
“I’ve got a two-year-old and a five-year-old. Being a manager is definitely something I know I’ll be good at some day but it's not right for me now and I know that I’m not ready to step into that high pressure situation again,” he added.
“It just feels like yesterday I stopped playing, to be honest. It’s something I’ve got my eye on for the future but right now I think a little change of tempo and the chance to build and lead something and get involved in the other side of the game is just right for me.
“I’ve been learning a lot from that, the process of setting up the academy [at Culford], leading that and I’m learning a lot already, so I see it as a real positive.”
Photos: TWTD/Action Images
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