One man with a big job ahead of him in 2024 is Ross Weatherstone. The Reading-born former professional footballer who started out at Oxford United took on the job of reviving the fortunes of Binfield FC as the Moles strive to tunnel their way out of trouble.
Since taking charge at Hill Farm Lane just before Christmas, the former Hartley Wintney boss has been less engaged than he might have hoped in the business of winning football matches due to postponements and his side are due to make a belated footballing start to 2024 on Tuesday night, 9th December when they welcome midtable Uxbridge to RG42. Binfield have secured a mere four points this season and Tuesday night’s game marks the halfway point in the season. Results are needed…..and pronto.
Weatherstone has been busy during the enforced lay-off. He signed Ethan Lindo – who scored on debut against Guernsey in Weatherstone’s first match in charge – and winger Isaiah Blankendal before pouncing for three local players who have operated at Step 5 and 6 locally; Tyler D’Cruz (Reading City) returns to his former club with Killian Barrett (Woodley United) and Abraham Henao Enamorado (Langley) also joining.
Weatherstone will no doubt be glad to get back on the touchline for the visit of Uxbridge, having experienced both sides of the coin in football management in his early days at the Iconic Stadium. The first game in this new era saw the Moles lose the lead given to them by Lindo to slump to defeat to fellow strugglers Guernsey. A week later the short trip to Pitching In Isthmian League South Central leaders resulted in a crushing 9-0 reverse.
Weatherstone – speaking exclusively to FiB – however remains calm about the task ahead: “I’ve been in post for a matter of days, over a hectic Christmas period. I knew in taking this Management position that the opportunity was never going to be an easy one, but it is an opportunity where I believe I can have an impact, with the processes that I believe in. Coming into a Team that hasn’t won all season it was always going to be difficult to turn things around in 2 games, but it’s been a great chance to observe and assess where the team is. I’d say that is what I’ve learned the most. I’ve also realised that getting players in isn’t as easy as a click of a button or a phone call, as other teams want to keep them and those players maybe settled where they are and don’t want this challenge. I won’t stop picking up the phone though.”
‘I’d been at the Club before and been successful with the Development team, so I already had an idea what I’d be walking into’
Why Binfield? The 42-year-old explains: “When I got the phone call from (chairman) Andy Cotton, the decision was easy. I’d been at the Club before and been successful with the Development team, so I already had an idea what I’d be walking into. I’ve made good relationships at the club over the years and I know there are some good people that are involved in the club, so all of that, contributed to me making my decision. I know it’s a tough ask but the challenge of the opportunity to keep this club up was the other reason, as I know most people have written Binfield off already.”
A motivated manager with fresh ideas may be just the ticket that Binfield – eight points adrift of second-bottom Corinthian Casuals but with games in hand – need, as Ross explains: “My plan is to develop the personality and character to the current group, set expectations of the targets we need to achieve and add to the playing squad. The main factor will be to get the team working hard. I’d like to bring faces back that know the club and I’ll work hard to bring a positive vibe back to the club. I appreciate that won’t be easy, but I believe all these small factors are key in creating the right environment to perform. I’m going to need support from everyone to make it happen. I believe if we can keep the club in the division, it will be a real statement from us. There is definitely going to be a process in working to achieve the club’s targets, all I ask is in the interim is please patient with me, my management team and the players whilst we go through this process. We are going to need everyone’s support around the club.”
The former Hartley Wintney boss at least knows the league from his short spell in charge at the North Hampshire club and Weatherstone reflects on his time there: “I’m not sure there would be much I’d do differently. We had one of the smallest budgets at Step 3 at the time, so the aim was staying up. I believe had I stayed we would have got the 2 to 3 wins that the club needed to stay in the division, as I had a very good relationship with the players. Hartley is a great club and it was good to work with the people at the club. I look forward to going back there in February with Binfield.”
Weatherstone’s credentials shine through from his successful playing career, as he recalls: “Playing as a professional with my brother (Simon, currently on the coaching staff at Newcastle United) is something I’ll always be very proud of and being the first brothers to play at Oxford United together since Ron and Graeme Atkinson was a nice achievement for the family. However, the biggest highlight was without doubt, winning the National League with Boston United in 2002.”
With his brother’s links to Eddie Howe – tipped to be the next England manager – and Ross’s own relationship with former Boston boss Steve Evans who is currently flying high in League One there are plenty of people Ross can pick the phone up to, but Weatherstone is clearly his own man as he reveals: “I obviously speak to my brother all the time, so I’m always learning but there is a huge difference between Newcastle United and Binfield FC. That being said, the principles of the game and respecting the game don’t change whatever the level you operate in. I feel I’ve built good relationships across all levels of football during my time as a player and coach and I will of course be calling on them in the coming weeks and months.”
With new blood and new enthusiasm around the place, Binfield are looking to make a molehill out of a mountain and keep climbing in 2024. With Weatherstone’s desire, his contacts and his planning the village club stand a puncher’s chance of retaining their cherished place at Step 4.