Noakes, who had been Portchester U23s manager, has replaced Fraser Quirke as Glenn Turnbull’s assistant at Moneys.
He contacted both Moneys and US Portsmouth when he heard there were roles available, and talked to both clubs. But the big changes at Moneys - the new John Jenkins Stadium development is well underway - helped him make up his mind.
The ‘stop-start’ nature of the Hampshire Development U23 League was a large part of Noakes’ decision to seek a new challenge at a different club.
He made over 150 appearances for Portchester, but suffered a cruel run of serious injuries including three ACL ruptures and a broken leg - the latter sustained in a friendly against Turnbull’s US Portsmouth side in 2019. Though he did play in a friendly for the Royals under Dave Carter last May, reluctantly he was later forced to call time on his career.
Regarding the Development League, Noakes told The News: ‘‘It’s not run too well, it’s a bit stop-start, you could go a month without a game. From that point of view, it was a bit of a ball ache.
‘Games were also played on a Thursday, which is when the first team trained. You didn’t want to stop anyone training with the first team, but it could leave us a bit short.
‘It didn’t work out as well as it should have.
‘I felt I wasn’t at my full potential, I felt I had a lot more to give.
‘I wanted to be back in men’s football, I know Barto (Moneys coach Paul Barton) from when I was in the Havant & Waterlooville Academy, so that was a selling point.
‘I know some of the (Moneyfields) lads from playing with them at Portchy - we used to call Tom Cain and Harry Birmingham our apprentices.
‘With the development they’ve got going on, it’s one of the most exciting clubs in the area.
‘I did speak to Tom Grice at US, but when I sat down with Glenn and Barto my mind was pretty much made up - it was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.’
There were only 11 clubs in Portchester U23s’ division in 2021/22. They played just twice in October, once in December and not at all between February 1 and March 10. That produced frustration, but Noakes was pleased with his work in bringing players on.
‘As it’s a development league, the end goal is to get players into men’s football. Harvey Aston played over 30 times for the first team,’ he stated.
Achie Greenough and Finn Bello were handed a number of first team chances, while other U23s had a one-off outing in a Russell Cotes Cup tie against Infinity played on the same night as a Royals’ Wessex League fixture.
To gain experience, Noakes also sent some of his youngsters - Bello, Ollie Complin, Billy Paice - to Hampshire Premier League club Paulsgrove in the latter months of the season. Some of his former U23s squad can now expect to follow Noakes to Moneyfields.
‘As it’s an under-23s league, some of the players aren’t quite ready for the first team yet, but they’re not far off,’ Noakes said. ‘That’s why I wanted them to get men’s football experience, to toughen them up. To learn the horrible side of the game.
‘They weren’t ready for the first team, so that was the next best option.
‘I’ll be bringing over a handful of players who were almost there.’
Though he helped out with first team coaching at Portchester on matchdays, Noakes is looking forward to returning to a regular routine.
‘Tuesday, Saturday, Thursday has been my whole life - football has been my life,’ he said.
‘Even when I was playing for Portchy, the end goal was to get into some kind of management. Whether that was at Portchy, or a Saturday or Sunday somewhere.
‘As soon as I got injured, Paul Kelly (Royals chairman) asked me if I’d like to do some coaching. And when the U23s job came up, Paul asked if I would be interested. I jumped at it, and it’s snowballed from there.
‘Nothing beats playing and I would love to still be playing, but managing is a more rewarding feeling. Management is the last thing I’ve got to hold onto in football.
‘Being younger than Glenn and Barto, I definitely know a different group of players, also being in and around the Wessex for seven years.
‘I know I will learn stuff off them (Turnbull and Barton) as they will learn off me. It’s exciting, but it’s going to be tough.’
The Wessex League Premier is a highly competitive league, and Noakes has seen an improvement in the quality of football.
‘Last season I thought the actual standard was better. I’d say 80 per cent of the teams want to try and play,’ he remarked. ‘In previous years, there was more long ball and it was more of a dogfight.
‘Hamworthy were one of the best teams I’ve seen. You had Bashley, Shaftesbury - it was really competitive.
‘It’s going to be even more competitive next season with Bemerton and Laverstock having come up.’