JASON Rutherford has made a dramatic return to Shoreham Football Club this week.
A shock move has seen him walk away from local rivals Lancing, where he had spent two seasons, guiding them to a second-placed finish in County League Division 1 last campaign, to take up a joint-manager role at the Middle Road club with Mark Burt.
It spells a return to Mussels after he quit the club 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 last season, Rutherford’s appointment signals more confidence that Mussels have been handed their second successive reprieve from the drop.
Although nothing has been confirmed by the Sussex County Football League, it is highly likely that only Chichester will be relegated to Division 2 for next season.
With Rutherford back at the helm, and his power to attract players, the club are now confident of a turn in fortunes on the field, after finishing in the bottom three for the past two seasons.
Rutherford said: “It’s easy for me, I live two minutes from the ground and I wanted to go there. All we have to do to improve next year is not finish in the bottom three and all we need is to get a few guys in to do that. Five or six will be enough just to freshen things up. Shoreham have a good youth set-up, who won all the cups and league last year, so we’ll get a few of them involved.
“The fact I have moved just five minutes away 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.”
Shoreham chairman Mathew Major admitted he was delighted with Rutherford’s return and is hoping he can use his player contacts to help bring the glory days back to the Musselmen.
He said: “Jason brings with him a wealth of experience and he will work well with Mark for the forthcoming season.
“Jason is known for his player contacts and this fits in perfectly with our needs at Shoreham. It’s clear that we need to make some changes in the team and Jason and Mark have been tasked to put together a new squad in order to move the club forward.
“I am sure there will be existing players that we will want to keep and new players that we want to bring in and we also want to find room for a few of our successful under-18s,
“What Jason has achieved, along with Martin Gander at Lancing, has been magnificent and we are very much hoping to see a similar success story here at Shoreham.
“Now that our Division 1 status seems secure, we can look forward to progressing the team, rather than trying to battle for promotion.”
Major also paid tribute and thanked former joint manager Kevin Keehan, who has confirmed he will stay on as a player.
“He worked so hard last season and he was not rewarded for his efforts. I will always be eternally grateful for his contribution and I hope that we can bring him success this coming season,” Major added.
The chairman’s buzz was echoed by Burt, who has been on the Mussels management team since 2009. He is relishing the chance to work with Rutherford and said: “It’s fantastic, we couldn’t have asked for more. After the last two seasons we’ve had, we won’t be in the same position again at the end of next season, I can promise that.
“Hopefully, Jason will bring a few players in and we’ll get into pre-season training in June and look to get off to a good start.
“I have worked with Jason before at Worthing when we won pretty much everything going. I even played with him back in the day on Sundays and some Saturdays as well. It’s old friends reunited and he has a great knowledge of the game.”