Ex-Gosport boss Lee Molyneaux: I could have stayed in the Southern League – but this is why I chose to join AFC Portchester
Lee Molyneaux has revealed why he turned down offers from Southern League clubs to drop down into the Wessex League for the first time in his career.
The 37-year-old is back in football just over a week after resigning as Gosport Borough manager for work and personal reasons.
He has accepted an offer to become Mick Catlin’s assistant manager at ambitious Wessex League club AFC Portchester.
Molyneaux knows Catlin well, having played for several seasons at Gosport when Catlin was assistant manager to Alex Pike.
‘I was pleasantly surprised to get so many calls when news broke I had left Gosport,’ said Molyneaux.
‘I was really chuffed. There were coaching offers from clubs in Gosport’s league and I had two offers to play from clubs a league up from Portchester.
‘Cats wasn’t the first call I had, but he turned up at my house. We’re cut from the same cloth and little things like that make you feel wanted, they go a long way.
‘To be honest, at first I didn’t really to drop that low - there’s always been a bit of a stigma about the Wessex.
‘But I went down the club and it was evident that they wanted me, they really made me feel wanted.
‘They have got a fantastic structure there, they have all the foundations in place for not just going up one division but probably two.
‘They look after their investors and sponsors, which is why they keep on coming back.
‘Their function room is booked up as far as the eye can see.
‘The kit room set-up, it was all very professional.
‘I spoke to the chairman (Paul Kelly), he’s a very charismatic guy - totally different from what I’ve been used to.’
Molyneaux added: ‘It wasn’t a financial decision, it was a lifestyle decision. It will fit in really well with my lifestyle and hopefully I can use all my experience to help them get to where they want to go.
‘If they had asked me to be the manager, I would have said no. I don’t know the league, I don’t know what it takes to get out of it. That’s why it was right for me to come in as an assistant. This way, I can learn from Cats for a year or two.’
Molyneaux’s arrival at The Crest Finance Stadium follows hot on the heels of five new signings who all starred for Alresford last season.
Mike Gosney - who played alongside Molyneaux for Gosport in the 2014 FA Trophy final at Wembley - is the headline arrival followed by Craig Harding, Liam Hibberd, Luke Dempsey and Joe Chamberlain.
Those signings have already seen the Royals installed as hot favourites to win next season’s Wessex Premier Division title.
The club, who were third in the 2019/20 table when the season was halted, also boast the likes of Dan Wooden and Steve Ramsey - two more of Molyneaux’s former Privett Park colleagues - as well as striker Jason Parish.
‘I know people have talked about their budget,’ Molyneaux added. ‘It’s a good budget, but it’s nowhere near what the rumours say.
‘Players will want to come if the environment is right.’
Back in 2004, Portsmouth-born Molyneaux made his EFL debut for Oxford United in League Two. He made 17 first team appearances that season, and later played for Basingstoke, Cirencester, Forest Green Rovers, Clevedon and Gloucester before returning to Hampshire to sign for Gosport in the summer of 2011.
He subsequently helped them to back-to-back promotions from the two Southern League divisions and a Wembley final before moving to Hawks in 2015.
He stayed there for four years, featuring in two more promotion-winning squads, before accepting a coaching role for the 2018/19 season.
Molyneaux was appointed Gosport boss last May, and had led Boro to eighth in the Southern League Premier South table when the season was curtailed.
Long-term, he wants another shot at management. Short-term, he hasn’t yet called time on his playing career.
‘I still think I have something to offer as a player. The fact I could have gone to a Southern League club as a player has given me some belief,’ he said.
‘But I’m a year out of training, I only played one game last season for Gosport against Moneyfields (in the Portsmouth Senior Cup).
‘We’ll see how pre-season goes, there’s no pressure on me to play. We’ll see how it pans out.’
Regarding a return to management one day, he said: ‘I enjoyed so many elements of managing, and I want to do it again. But it has to be at the right club and fit in with my lifestyle.’