FOR Paul Collicutt, joining the club he supported as a young boy was an opportunity he simply could not turn down.
The 60-year-old former Evesham United and Bishop’s Cleeve boss was confirmed last Thursday as Stratford Town’s ‘head of football operations’ and just by the glint in his eyes there was a sense he was keen to get going in his new role where he will help manager Tommy Wright, assistant boss Paul Davis and head coach Steve Walker among other duties.
“It’s going to be something new for me and it’s one of those situations where it will take a little time to bed in,” Collicutt told the Herald.
“I know what my role is, to a point, but the main thing for me is to try and work as a team. I’m going to be learning a lot of new things and the one thing I definitely know is that you’re never too old to learn.
“It’s a big plus for me to be at Stratford Town as I’m a Stratford boy and if I am able to help this club in any way, then I will do my utmost to do that for them.
“I’m here to not just help the first team, but to help FC Stratford, Town Youth and the Academy as well as being involved with the club overall.”
Collicutt, whose mother came from Burmington, was born in Shipston and spent the majority of his younger years on West Green Drive in Stratford before moving to Cheltenham at the age of nine so that his father could be closer to the Whitbread Brewery headquarters in town where he worked.
But before the move to Gloucestershire, Collicutt discovered a love for Stratford Town, who back then were playing in yellow shirts and blue shorts on Masons Road.
“At about seven or eight years old I used to get on my pushbike with a few of my friends and get myself down to watch Stratford play,” reflected Collicutt.
“Stratford were the first team I ever supported as a child.
“I can always remember them playing in yellow and blue, but I was a little concerned if my memory had gone, so I asked some supporters and they told me I was correct.
“Football has been a part of my life for a long time now so it all started from there and I have always had a soft spot for Stratford Town.
“I have always kept an eye out on their results to see how they’ve done.”
Collicutt admitted one of the driving forces behind joining his boyhood club in a non-managerial role was the ‘infectious’ chat he had with director Jed McCrory, someone the former Cheltenham Town captain revealed he had ‘never heard of’ prior to their telephone conversation.
“The phone call came completely out of the blue,” he said.
“One thing I know about Jed is that he’s a one-off.
“He’s very enthusiastic about what he has got here at Stratford Town and he has got some great ideas for the club, but those will take time.
“He’s buzzing from the success last year and wants to push on.
“I didn’t know anything about Jed, but I knew a lot more about him by the end of our conversation.
“It’s nice to know that someone with ambition in their DNA is at the club and that pulled me to meet with him.”
With Town reaching the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central play-offs after a fifth-placed finish in the league, the first round of the FA Trophy as well as winning the CSS League Challenge Cup last term, Collicutt knows how difficult the task will be to replicate that.
“Fans at the Q&A meeting last Thursday were saying to do what the club did last season was beyond their wildest dreams,” he added.
“They might feel like the club is punching above its weight, but it’s important to make the most of that.
“We’ve proved we can do it and we want to try and replicate, or even better, what we achieved last season, but we know it is a difficult task with sides like Tamworth, Nuneaton, Bromsgrove Sporting, Peterborough Sports and Stourbridge in this division.
“However, there is a winning mentality at this club and we want to maintain that going forward.
“This year is going to be harder than it was last year, but we know what we’re capable of.”
As part of Collicutt making the move to Town, talented midfielder Joe Tumelty has also signed and he’s a player who is keen to get going.
“Joe had a double hernia operation and he came back too soon which left him with scar tissue so he had to have another operation which meant he didn’t play a lot last season,” added Collicutt.
“He’s a young lad, he’s got plenty to give and I’m sure he will strengthen the squad.”