‘We need to create an identity’ – Joe Lea’s aim after accepting role as Gosport Borough joint head coach

Joe Lea is eager to give Gosport Borough an 'identity'. Picture: Tom PhillipsJoe Lea is eager to give Gosport Borough an 'identity'. Picture: Tom Phillips
Joe Lea is eager to give Gosport Borough an 'identity'. Picture: Tom Phillips
Joe Lea aims to give the Gosport Borough FC first team something he feels has been missing - an identity.

Along with Pat Suraci, he has been appointed joint head coach of the Southern League club following the departure of director of football Mark Molesley.

The pair’s return to Privett Park came around on the back of a superb first season managing and coaching in men’s football.

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Inheriting a Petersfield Town side that had finished mid-table in 2021/22, Lea and Suraci masterminded Wessex League Division 1 promotion via the play-offs.

No small achievement, bearing in mind they didn’t have a playing budget to dangle in front of potential new signings.

The Rams also reached the final of the Wessex League Cup, losing 4-2 to higher tier Baffins Milton Rovers in last weekend’s final.

But while Petersfield were upwardly mobile, three tiers up Gosport finished sixth from bottom of the Premier South table – two places and 10 points above the drop zone.

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‘We need a change of direction,’ Lea told The News. ‘We need to bring an identity to the Gosport team.

‘I played here for six years and I don’t know how Gosport play.

‘People need to know how a Gosport team will play.

‘We need to improve the league position, that’s a given, and we need to create an identity.

‘For us at Petersfield, it wasn’t just about improving the results, it was about the principles of a playing style.

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‘We wanted to play attacking and attractive football, but we also had the best defensive record in the league.

‘We want to press teams high up the pitch and we like to play through the thirds. A lot of teams in non-league football go from back to front quickly, but that’s not us.

‘We had a style of play we kept to regardless of formation and regardless of the results, and we worked on it relentlessly in training.

‘To have two people at the same club who genuinely want to coach players and develop them is quite rare in non-league football.

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‘We didn’t have any money - there was zero budget - but we found the players responded to proper training and having proper standards.

‘I don’t know how many of the players could have gone elsewhere for money - there were multiple offers for some of them - but they stayed.

‘I stopped playing aged 23 or 24 because I wasn’t enjoying it. Players want to enjoy playing football and that’s what we built (at Petersfield).

‘Our principles will stay the same at Gosport, they won’t change. If some players don’t want to buy into that then perhaps they’re not for us. We believe in how we play and that’s why we won’t be changing it.

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Read More
Pat Suraci on a ‘no brainer’ return to Privett Park

‘I know we’ll be playing at a different level, with different players, but the basic principles are the same.’

Lea, who first played for Boro on loan during the club’s 2016/17 National League South relegation campaign, added: ‘We want players from the Portsmouth and Gosport area, we want to give the fans players they can identify with.

‘We won’t just be bringing younger players in, because experience is absolutely essential.

‘We want to give the fans a product they can enjoy. Even on the days when we lose and don’t play well - and we’ll have those days - they need to see that everyone is working hard for the badge.

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‘That’s the priority, to give them a team they can identify with.

‘I have been in relegation battles at Gosport and we have to try and move away from that. I’m not saying we’ll win the league, that would be silly talk, but we need to move the club in a different direction in terms of results and a style of play.

‘I have played in this league and you don’t get any gimmes, it’s absolutely relentless.

‘In the Southern League every game is a battle - physically, tactically and emotionally.

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‘There’s players who could play professionally, there are players on loan from top clubs. You need a good, experienced, fit squad.

‘Look at who’s come up - Totton and Sholing. Totton have a massive budget and some excellent players, they could go up again. And Hungerford have come down, they’re a big club.

‘It’s going to be a really tough season but we’re up for the challenge.’

Regarding his and Suraci’s return to Privett Park, Lea added: ‘I suppose it was something that was always in the pipeline, but it’s probably come sooner than we thought it would. In football circumstances change in ways you can’t always predict.’