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One year in the job for Hill
IT was a year ago yesterday that Richard Hill was appointed manager of Eastleigh.
And what better way to celebrate 12 months in charge than leading his side to Maidenhead United tomorrow in pole position in the Skrill Conference South.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the former Northampton Town and Oxford United player, who cut his managerial teeth as right-hand man to the likes of John Gregory, Brian Little and Andy Hessenthaler in the professional game.
Still hung over from a poor start to last season, the Spitfires looked more like relegation fodder than promotion material when they plunged second-to-bottom on January 5 this year.
But Hill’s decision to draft in quality defensive reinforcements transformed their season and, having unluckily lost on penalties in May’s play-off semi-final at Dover, Eastleigh are well placed to go all the way this time.
“Have I enjoyed my year at Eastleigh? I’ve loved it,” said Hill.
“I try not to get too high when we win or too low when we lose but, if I do, it’s only because I care. That’s what football does.
“All us managers say it doesn’t matter about being top now and that it only counts if you’re top after the last game. But it would be nice if we were still up there tomorrow night and even nicer if we stayed there until the end of the season, but that’s a big ask for any team in any league.
“It’s not impossible. We did it at Northampton in the old Fourth Division, but it was bloody hard.
“You’ve got to have the right character and the right mental strength to play under that pressure every week.
“I shan’t be getting lairy, however long we’re up there. If I take my feet off the ground, then so will the players.”
Chance would be a fine thing in any case. With chairman Stewart Donald and Bridle Insurance committed to one day leading Eastleigh into the Football League, Hill never has the luxury of sitting back and congratulating himself on a win.
“Irrespective of where we are in the table, the position we’re always in at Eastleigh is having to win the next match,” he said.
“Other managers keep talking about ‘big spending Eastleigh’ but that’s a myth. We signed Damian Batt (pictured right) this week on the same money as two other clubs in this league had offered him.
“I find it a bit rude when managers call us big spenders because each club has at least six, seven or eight players on comparable money to ours.
“It’s just self preservation for them with their chairmen and owners to say they can’t compete with us.”
Although Hill jokes that it’s a major feat for any manager to last 12 months in football, he thinks the bigger milestone at Eastleigh will come in December when the club reaches two years of Bridle backing.
“This is as good a club as I’ve worked for because they’re trying to do the right thing and not just assuming they’re doing it,” he said. “I’ve been allowed to put my point across on how to make the football side of things better. Stewart (Donald) doesn’t interfere with the football and I don’t interfere with the finance.
“You’ve got to appreciate how Eastleigh was before Bridle got here to see just how far the club has come.”
With Dan Spence (hamstring) highly doubtful to face unbeaten Maidenhead tomorrow, former Oxford United man Batt stands by for his debut.
The fifth-placed Magpies are enjoying their best start in five years – fitting reward for manager Johnson Hippolyte who recently took his 350th game in charge.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Johnson,” said Hill. “He’s one of few managers I can speak to openly and he doesn’t keep on about budgets.”
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