Ross Standen has been appointed the club’s new assistant manager.
Ross, who replaces Adam Westwood following his departure exactly a month ago, was part of the successful managerial team that helped Whitehawk achieve three promotions in four seasons, from 2010-2013, which saw them move from Sussex County League Division One up to the Conference South.
Most recently, he spent four months as caretaker manager, alongside Tony Coade, at long-time rivals Lewes last season, however the new appointment is keen to leave those past rivalries behind.
He said: “For me and Dom, it’s a relationship that has been built over the years, helping each other out and trusting each other’s judgement.
“When Wezzo decided to step down, Dom asked me whether I’d be interested, and I told him I’d think about it because there’s a big rivalry between Lewes and Horsham, and I used to play for Lewes, but I knew it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“It’s a great club, with a great set-up, and I know quite a few of the players personally. So it was a no-brainer and I wanted to get back into it after we resigned at Lewes.”
After Darren Freeman left the Rooks in October 2019, Ross temporarily took the helm with Tony Coade until February this year, when the Dripping Pan outfit appointed ex-Horsham manager Hugo Langton on a more permanent basis.
Both him and Coade remained as first team coaches but resigned soon after. Explaining why he decided to leave Lewes, Ross said: “It just didn’t work out for us in the end, for many reasons.
“We went through a bad run so we decided to step down and give a new manager the chance to come in and take things forward. After a short while, it was clear to see that there was a difference in the way us and the new manager worked so we decided to move on in the club’s best interests.”
During his playing career, Ross did actually spend a relatively short amount of time at the Hornets, when he played two pre-season games for us back in 1997/98, as a goalkeeper. However, he never started a competitive game.
Ross continued: “I’m a people person and that’s one of my biggest strengths. I’ve got an eye for a good player, and I like doing the analytical side of things, but the main thing is, I’m here to support Dom.
“I’ve got no aspirations to be a manager, because I enjoy the assistant role and whatever that brings to it. I’ve got a lot of contacts so if we need info on people, those phone calls can be made, to get the extra 1% out of us or to find one little weakness in the opposition which we can exploit.
“I think I can bring something to the team, otherwise I wouldn’t have backed myself to come to the club.”
Manager Dom Di Paola admits he is looking forward to working with him.
He said: “I’ve known him a long time, he’s got good experience winning the Isthmian South, and Isthmian Premier under Darren Freeman and he’s just a good guy.
“It’s important to have someone you get on well with and bounce ideas off. Wezzo’s irreplaceable because he’s been with me a long time but I’m hoping Ross will be able to help in different ways and it’s useful to get someone good on board who you trust.
“I think he’ll get on well with the rest of the management team and I think a lot of our players know him anyway, because he’s respected around Sussex as a football man.”
Ross joins the club’s existing coaching team, alongside Jimmy Punter and Stuart Owens, who are both returning for next season. Dom said: “It’s worked well for the last couple of seasons so there’s been no need for any changes.
“Ross will come in as assistant manager but everyone else will stay doing the same roles, which is what we want. Hopefully he’ll help us keep improving.”
Despite the start of next season looking far off, for the time being, Ross admitted that he has already started planning ahead. He finished: “This is a club massively on the up, and the management team, the squad and the facilities were a massive draw for me.
“This is easily one of the best grounds in the Isthmian League, and I can’t wait to get started now and hopefully help bring further success to the club alongside the rest of the management team, players, directors and supporters.”
Photo credit: Barry Collins