Uncertain Start For New ‘U’s Boss Agutter
Hastings United’s uncertain start to the new football season lurched into apparent crisis last week with the exit of further key players, resignation of manager Adam Hinshelwood after a tenure of barely four months, and two more league defeats.
Billy Medlock, former free-scoring forward who re-joined the ‘U’s over the summer but had not signed any permanent contract, has been poached by close rivals Lewes. His departure follows similar moves out of Pilot Field earlier this month by goalkeeper Josh Pelling to Dorking and striker Jack Harris to Tunbridge Wells.
Constant player turnover between clubs is the norm at this level of semi-pro football, where contracts are rarely offered for more than a season or two. But back in May Hinshelwood had been awarded a three-year contract at the helm both at Pilot Field and at the Sussex Coast Academy He nevertheless asked to be released from it, citing personal and family issues, in order to take over a vacant managerial post at Worthing.
It is an irony that won’t be lost on close followers of United that the previous Worthing manager left after a humiliating 5-0 defeat earlier this month by Margate for whom ex-‘U’s striker Franny Collin scored a hat-trick: it’s an incestuous world out there in the Bostik League.
The United board could in theory have blocked Hinshelwood’s move but clearly felt there was little point in trying to retain him in a less than wholly committed frame of mind. They say they have received due financial compensation from Worthing. His assistant Chris Agutter, who has considerable pedigree as past academy coach at Eastbourne Borough and Brighton but little experience in the rough-and-tumble of frontline club management, was swiftly appointed to take his place.
Results on the field have meanwhile mirrored the difficulties off it. After three victories and a draw in their first four games the team has been winless in the next six, including four league defeats and elimination from the FA Cup. Latest setbacks were a 4-2 home loss to Herne Bay on 19 September, despite an early 2-0 lead, followed by a 4-3 reverse at Molesey last Saturday, the first game in which Agutter took charge.
Next opponents are Walton Casuals, in another away game to be played tomorrow (30 September) – the fifth fixture away from home out of six this month. In October, by contrast, the ‘U’s are due to play five home league matches. The priority for Agutter must be to try to establish a settled team during this period, whatever mix of youth and experience may be available to him (see below).
No season’s campaign in English football is either won or lost in September. But it should be apparent by the time the clocks change in a month’s time what kind of prospects United and its supporters will be facing through the winter ahead.