It’s been a voyage of discovery for boss Shaun Wilkinson in first full season in charge of Baffins Milton Rovers

Shaun Wilkinson admits his first full season as Baffins Milton Rovers boss has been a voyage of discovery - about himself as well as his players.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 10th April 2022, 1:44 pm

Rovers stormed into Wessex League Premier Division title contention by winning 17 of their opening 23 games, losing just three times.

But they will probably finish eighth or ninth after a dire run was extended at lowly Hythe & Dibden.

A second-half goal from Filippos Terzidis condemned Baffins to a 10th loss in 15 games - and Wilkinson’s men have claimed just nine points out of a possible 45 during that run.

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Baffins manager Shaun Wilkinson, left. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Remarkably, it was second-from-bottom Hythe’s fifth straight league win, a run which has also included beating top six pair Horndean and AFC Stoneham. Prior to that, they had only managed three wins in 34 Premier fixtures.

The Hythe loss was Wilkinson’s final game of the campaign - he misses Tuesday’s trip to champions Hamworthy United and Good Friday’s home game with Hamble Club due to work commitments.

‘I’ve been learning things about myself as well as the players,’ he told The News.

‘I’ve learned who you can trust when the pressure is on, who was good early season when there was no real pressure.

‘I always wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m a winner - I was in changing rooms (at Brighton & Hove Albion) which won League One and League Two titles.

‘When I was playing, if a manager told me I wasn’t doing something I’d want to prove him wrong.

‘I’ve learnt you can’t talk to players like that, not at this level anyway.

‘I tried a bit of reverse psychology publicly, but that didn’t pay off - the lads went into their shell.

‘I tried poking the bear to get a reaction.

‘As I’ve said, it was never personal. As a manager you can only give the players the tools to do the job. You’re only as good as your players.

‘I’ve tried to do things as professionally as you can at this level. I don’t like them playing on Sundays, they get fined if they don’t turn up for training, I want them to turn up in their Baffins tracksuits so they look the part.

‘The majority of players at this level are playing for fun. They’re not playing for finance, certainly not at Baffins.

‘When I was assistant manager at Eastleigh we had a budget of £7-10,000 a week. You try to use the methods you’ve used before, but it’s hard …

‘We’re a good footballing team. The (Hythe) manager said we were the best he’d seen, but obviously that doesn’t get you to where you want to be.’

If Wessex League finishing positions were based on budgets, Wilkinson believes Baffins would be mid-table. With that in mind, challenging for the Southern League - the club’s stated ambition - could be a tough ask.

‘I don’t want to just bob along. I don’t just want to turn up, there’s got to be a purpose, an end goal,’ he stated. ‘There has to be ambition.

‘It’s ok people saying they want to go up, but you have to back that up.

‘Invariably in football you finish along the lines of your budget.’

He added: ‘You always need to be progressing and I believe this club is in a better place than when I arrived (in May 2020).

‘We were able to attract the likes of Dorking and Worthing for pre-season friendlies last year, the under-18s could win their league and cup double.

‘I don’t think any other club (in the Wessex Premier) has given their under-18s as much of a chance as we have.

‘We have young players wanting to come here because they can see what we’re doing.

‘We’ve made some great signings this season. Lee Molyneaux has been magnificent, he’s got his zest for playing back, and Harry Sargeant has been the pick of the ex-US Portsmouth bunch.

‘Oscar Johnston and Stan Bridgman, this is their first year out of Pompey so they’ll be better next season.

‘Jason Parish and Tommy Scutt haven't had the best of seasons by their standards, so they will also be better next season.

‘As I said, we’re a good footballing team. When the pitches were good we were challenging at the top.

‘Perhaps next year we need to bring in a few players for all the seasons.’