It hasn’t been the easiest start to life as Lewes manager for Darren Freeman, as he looks to turn around the fortunes of the East Sussex club.
The former Brighton and Hove Albion forward left Ryman League Division One club Peacehaven and Telscombe to take up a role at The Dripping Pan, with the Rooks sat rock bottom of the Ryman League’s top tier.
Slowly but surely Freeman has began to make changes to his squad, with several young players being handed their chance.
And despite the fact that the club remain bottom of the division, Freeman is confident that they can get out of the relegation zone and predicted a bright future for the East Sussex club.
“It is exciting times, we have some great young lads coming through and sometimes you do have to take a step back to move forward. We are bottom, I knew that when I took the job.
But I want to win things, I want to be positive and I want the players to feel that. I think they do now and I am one million per cent sure that we can do this. Not one part of me has ever thought we won’t, I believe in the players, in our coaches, in our club and off the pitch we are moving forward with a great chairman and our team of volunteers.
That can only be a positive for Lewes Football Club”
Freeman reflected on what he called a “tough” start to the tenure with the club, admitting that it was difficult to impose his own outlook on the game on to his new recruits.
Results are coming, with the club losing only two of their last seven games, including wins against Farnborough and Canvey Island.
“Obviously it has been tough but we have made changes and a lot of new lads have come in. When you join a club that is losing games, sitting bottom of the league, it is difficult to put your own stamp on things.
I have brought in boys who I know I can trust and it is a young side. It is taking time and they are learning their roles and responsibilities and the results are coming”
Freeman has brought a number of players into his squad, including Bermudian international Jonte Smith.
The twenty one year old striker (pictured right), who has spent time playing in Finland and Norway during his career, made an immediate impact with two goals on his debut in the Rooks 2-1 win over Canvey Island.
And his new manager believes that Smith’s presence gives his side belief that they will get the goals to win games throughout the rest of the season.
“Goals win you games and in some games we were just lacking. We have managed to bring in Jonte Smith, which is a massive signing for Lewes.
That has been the difference in a lot of games earlier in the season. We lost late on against Kingstonian, we lost to an eighty seventh minute goal to Tonbridge Angels, who were top of the league at the time.
We were competing but we weren’t taking our chances. I know as an ex-player that when you go into games with a player who will get you goals, it makes a massive difference and that is what Jonte brings”
Freeman(pictured in his time with Brighton and Hove Albion) and his coaches have been hard at work on the training ground too, taking advantage of two recent games that fell foul of heavy rainfall.
That time proved invaluable for the forty two year old and his coaching staff, as he instils organisation and belief, as his side looks to fight their way to safety over the remaining sixteen games, starting with Saturday crucial home fixture against fellow strugglers Needham Market.
“A few of the lads have had to grow up but my philosophy is that my players enjoy themselves. I want them to express themselves on a football pitch and do the other side of the game, with the fitness work and tactical work, in a professional manner.
They learn from each other and they learn from mistakes, it has been difficult in that sense.
We have worked hard on the training ground when we have had games called off. We have organisation and whether they are eighteen or thirty, they understand their roles now. We plan well, we have a great coaching staff and we are all moving in the same direction. We demand a certain outlook from our players and we are getting that right now”
If Freeman’s positive outlook can produce results, then his predicition of a bright future for Lewes could well become a reality.
Interview: Mark Carruthers
Images: James Boyes / www.actionimages.com