“Joining United was a no brainer”

Dee Okojie on the ball for Hastings United during the 4-0 defeat at Concord Rangers on Saturday. Picture by Terry S. Blackman
Dee Okojie on the ball for Hastings United during the 4-0 defeat at Concord Rangers on Saturday. Picture by Terry S. Blackman

New first team coach Hugo Langton said the chance to join Hastings United was a no brainer.

Langton has replaced Gary Abbott and was in the dugout for the first time during the 1-1 draw at home to East Thurrock United on Tuesday night.

He said: “Hastings United is a proper club; it’s a great club. When Sean (Ray, player-manager) phoned me it was a no brainer really.

“The support down there is fantastic and players respond well to good support. I know the club’s potentially got huge support, and we’re going to need the supporters to get behind us and keep singing.”

The former Horsham manager has been working at Herne Bay recently and is the academy manager at Thamesmead Town, where he runs the under-19 side.

An A licence coach, Langton also runs his own scouting network which provided reports on United’s opponents during their FA Cup run and says the club has become a big part of him since November.

“Every single player I’ve ever worked with has always called me busy,” he continued. “I’m a football obsessive. I’m big on analysis, I’m big on psychology, I’m fascinated by sports science, and strength and conditioning.

“I’ve had people sitting in the stands with iPads in clubs I’ve been at in the past collating data for me so I can see where we can improve.

“Injury prevention is a huge thing for me. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of. Over the last three or four years there’s been a minimal amount of injuries.”

Langton’s role at The Pilot Field will involve leading training sessions, pre-match warm-ups and post-match ‘cool downs’. He said he really enjoyed his first game on Tuesday.

“I was really impressed with a lot of what I saw,” Langton went on. “With the exception of Matt Armstrong-Ford, I don’t actually know any of the players personally, but I’ve done some research and I know enough about them.

“I believe that I will bring a bit of first class training to the boys, good, structured, relevant sessions. I think they must train how they play; training’s got to be relevant.

“We’ve got to make sure that tactically we’re spot on and we’re properly prepared for games. Between the three of us (himself, player-manager Sean Ray and assistant manager Mark Stapley), we will get that organised properly.”

Despite their remarkable run to the third round of the FA Cup, United find themselves in all-too-familiar relegation battle having won just three Ryman Football League Premier Division games all season.

“The cups run’s been fantastic and I think maybe that’s been a little bit of a distraction for some of the players,” Langton added. “The only important thing is to keep the club in the division.

“We will do I’m sure; I’m very confident of that and hopefully we’ll be towards the other end of the table next season. From what I saw of the players on Tuesday night, they’re more than good enough. There’s some great players in that changing room.

“If we can get a win on Saturday (in a third-bottom versus second-bottom clash at home to Thurrock) that will get everyone’s tails up. But whatever happens on Saturday, we’ve still got another 18 games to go. Wherever I’ve worked in football, it’s always been about getting on runs.”

Tonbridge-based Langton was assistant manager during Ray’s time as an Ashford Town player. “We’ve kept in touch,” Langton continued. “He’s been the best captain I’ve ever worked with.

“He’s a true leader of men and players respect him; they like to play with him. He doesn’t talk rubbish and he’s incredibly passionate about Hastings United.

“We all knew at Ashford one day he would be the manager of Hastings. He’s Mr Hastings, always has been, always will be. Sean’s a winner. He has to win games of football and so do I.”

Ray said: “Training was going very stale; players were getting frustrated and bored. Hugo’s got a lot of enthusiasm, he’s a good coach and he will bring good training sessions to us. It gives us an option to work on stuff because I need to be taking part in training.”