Former footballer Billy Cove turned to management at the end of his playing career. Having featured for many clubs in the Non-League pyramid – Leyton Pennant, Oxford City, East Thurrock United, Enfield Town, Maidenhead United and Ford United – Cove took up the role of both Epping Town and Ilford before his move to the Swifts. At Epping, he achieved promotion from Division 4 of the Essex Olympian League whilst also guiding Ilford to a mid-table finish after building a team from scratch, alongside Allan Fenn.
Ahead of the new season, Billy is looking to achieve promotion once again. “I’m really excited about it [the new season],” he said, “There’s some very good managers and players in the league this year, so I’m looking forward to pitting my wits against them.”
Bishops Stortford Swifts play their football in the Essex Olympian League Premier Division and he will be looking for promotion to the Eastern Counties Football League, the passage which has been made by the likes of Billericay Town, Hullbridge Sports and Great Wakering Rovers in the past. “Our target has to be promotion and a good cup run. A lot of people work very hard off the pitch, so we need to match that on it.”
Whilst promotion is the target, it’s never easy. The Premier Division contains the likes of Buckhurst Hill, Basildon Town and Catholic United, making it a tough league. Adding to that is the fact competitive football hasn’t been played for 5 months by all teams. “It’s going to be very tough. It seems like every club in the league made improvements somewhere, whether that was players or staff. I honestly think it’ll be one of the most competitive seasons the division has seen for a while.”
Although the season was cut short, teams were gifted with a full pre-season programme, allowing them to get ready for the season ahead. The Swifts played a total of 6 pre-season games which saw Cove’s side pick up 3 wins and 3 losses. Manford Way, Felsted Rovers and Wormley Rovers were all beaten by the Swifts whilst they were beaten against New Salamis, Bush Hill Rangers and Aveley Reserves. “We had a good pre-season, and I’m sure the players will start feeling the benefits of that soon. We want them to be fitter than they have ever been as we know technical ability only gets you so far in this league.”
“A full schedule was very important. We’ve got stronger each week physically, and we’re still adding the odd bit of quality personnel here and there when we have to.”
Billy Cove has had a illustrious career in the football world, playing for several teams at different levels before experiencing life of a touchline instead. “They are totally different,” he explained. “As a manager, you have to be a leader, a motivator, a friend, a councillor, a confidante all in one, but once the players believe in you and they perform the way you’ve asked them to, there’s no better feeling. I think I preferred being a player, because you can influence the game more by being on the pitch.”
He was also aware of how his playing career helped with his managerial one. “It’s helped massively, because I know what a player expects from a manager. I played for some fantastic managers and coaches, so I try to bring a little bit from all of them to my dressing room.”