Cole looking to make Hardwicke hard to beat and competitive in County League for 2022/23 season

Newly appointed Hardwicke Manager James Cole says he is looking to make Hardwicke more competitive in the Gloucestershire County League this season and says he is looking forward to getting back into management ahead of the new campaign.

Former Slimbridge boss Cole was announced as the new Hardwicke manager earlier in the month, with last season’s Manager Jack Twyman as his assistant and ahead of the their first pre-season friendly Cole has spoken to Severn Sport about taking the job and having the former Gloucester City Youth midfielder by his side.

“I’m delighted to have accepted the job at Hardwicke,” said Cole. “It was nice to have a few options and I thank those clubs for their interest in me, but it was Hardwicke I wanted to manage.

I know the lads there and with Mike now as Chairman and his energy and determination to take the club forward makes it the perfect match, for me.

Having Jack alongside me as an Assistant is fantastic. He has done a wonderful job in the last year, but he needs to be playing.

You’re a long time retired and Jack is still one of the best midfielders around and I’m overjoyed that he has said he wants to play more, as I see him as a big player in our squad this season.

Jack knows the players inside and out, he’s been honest with me and that’s all I can ask for. I’m looking forward to working with him and taking the team forward,” added Cole.

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The appointment of Cole has been greeted with excitement around the club as Cole has a history with helping clubs progress up the pyramid, after helping take Slimbridge back up into the Hellenic League before his departure in 2010.

Cole joins the County League side and will be looking to build on their 11th place finish last season and says he will be looking to make ‘Wicke harder to beat and not only be tight at the back but also clinical in front of goal after only scoring 32 goals last season, the joint second lowest goals scored in the division.

“I’m looking to stop the goals being conceded first and foremost,” said Cole. “Being an ex-defender I’ll look to work closely with the defence to help prevent giving opportunities to the opponents, but I would also like to have exciting play, so our flare players need to get on the ball and express themselves in the right areas.

They need to try things and not be afraid to shoot from range. After all, if you don’t shoot you don’t score. We will be a hardworking side defensively, but will have a real drive to attack and cause teams numerous problems,” Cole added.

Hardwicke will begin their Gloucestershire County League campaign on Saturday 13th August but will begin their pre-season schedule with a game against Shortwood United on Wednesday 6th July at Plock Court in Gloucester (7:15pm kick off) before an away trip to Dursley Town (Tuesday 12th July) and a home game against Tuffley Rovers (Friday 15th July) the following week.

Ahead of the return to matches we asked Cole about his targets for the season and he admits that whilst a cup run or silverware is always good, he is looking to be realistic in his first season.

“Well staying up would be a great start,” laughed Cole. “We will look to build a good competitive squad and if we can finish top 10 that would be fantastic.

I want a good cup run, reaching a final or going on the win it would be perfect, but I’m also realistic. We need players who bring energy to the side – plus we need time as we will be adding players into our existing squad.

This County League is tough, with some fantastic sides in there and the local derbies are going to be so competitive and we will want to be winning as many of those as possible.

Then there’s the task of battling the Bristol sides and it’s an exciting challenge and that along with the want to get back into management again is really getting my blood flowing,” said Cole.

After Hardwicke play Shortwood United, Dursley Town and Tuffley Rovers (as stated above) they head to Bristol Manor Farm on Wednesday 20th July, with two more friendlies yet to be confirmed.

Cover photo taken with full copyright by Brian Rossiter. Please visit his wonderful albums via Twitter @BrianRossiter1 or Flickr

LISTEN: Check out Episode Two of the latest ‘In The Spotlight w/Ryan Butler’ series featuring Dursley Town Ladies Captain, Michelle Watson. Listen here and on Spotify