LANCING Football Club boss Martin Gander is upbeat for the future despite the departure of joint manager Jason Rutherford this week.
Well-known for his player-pulling ability, Rutherford has decided to walk away from Culver Road, to take up another joint managerial role with Mark Burt at local rivals Shoreham.
This comes after two years at the helm of Lancers with Gander. The first saw them gain promotion from County League Division 2, the second was another title-chasing season as they finished second in the top division.
Rutherford has cited the draw of his local club as too much to turn down at Middle Road after he confirmed his departure on Monday.
It will no doubt be a blow for Lancing, with Rutherford well-known for his ability to attract high-calibre players from the County League circuit, but Gander believes that the departure of his former joint boss has “galvanised” him in his role for Lancing next season.
Gander, who admitted that although Rutherford had no doubt brought players with him, has a number of club stalwarts already at Lancers and is hoping with the club’s facilities and team spirit, the majority will look to continue where they have left off.
He said: “That’s my attitude and the players. I hope their ambition would be to stay here and chase the league next season, but football is football.
“Dare I say budget comes into it and Shoreham have a lot bigger budget than Lancing and that can affect things. The squad here has a lot of banter and togetherness and there’s a lot to be said for that – time will tell, though, over the next coming weeks.
“I’ll be talking to players but people move on – so I’ll be looking for someone to help take us forward, someone I can bounce off and help me, but I won’t be rushing into it. I’ll talk to people and see how we go.
“Some people will see this (Jason leaving) as a major problem for us. But I was quite flat last week with nothing to do, but now I’m galvanised, buzzing again and can’t wait – as one door closes, another one opens and we move on. Maybe it’s the impetus I need.
“To be quite honest, I half expected it after we came second and no one had expected that, it’s put more pressure on.
“It, of course, makes things harder with Jason leaving, but it’s the galvanising I needed and it’s all about Lancing Football Club at the end of the day.”
Rutherford’s shock return to local rivals Mussels sees him rejoin the club he quit halfway through the 2006-07 season – after a four-year tenure in which he got the club promoted back into Division 1 and won the John O’Hara Cup.
Despite finishing in the relegation places, Rutherford’s appointment signals more confidence that Shoreham have been handed their second successive reprieve from the drop, although nothing has been confirmed by the Sussex County Football League.
Rutherford said: “The fact I have moved just five minutes away from Shoreham is what swayed me, and the fact I had to rely on people to take me to Lancing and pick me up again. I felt I’d taken them as far as I could. I originally told Martin and the committee I had planned to be there for two years and I’d like to thank them all. As I said, Shoreham is my local club and I just wanted to manage them, but I wish Lancing all the best.”
Both parties admitted there was nothing untoward about the move, and Gander added: “We’ve had two fantastic seasons. Jason, when it was first suggested in joining us when he was at Worthing United, said what we wanted to do was get promoted and that is what we’ve done.
“Shoreham have been chasing him and maybe he feels he has done his job here. There is not any animosity between us or a fall-out and the Shoreham job is right on his door step and I think he feels he can do a good job there”.
A Lancing statement said it was with “regret” that Rutherford had resigned, and continued: “We would like to go on record to thank Jason for all he has done for Lancing FC.
“We have had two very successful seasons with Jason and Martin in charge. We wish Jason all the best for the future.”