It’s been quite a couple of weeks for Eastbourne Borough’s acting manager Hugo Langton.
Discussing his prospects, Langton, who took over following the departure of manager Tommy Widdrington to Coventry City recently, said: “Here I am. First team coach, acting first team manager, academy manager. And in a fortnight, I could be out of a job!”
The genial Borough coach, brought to Priory Lane in January 2016 by Widdrington, found himself suddenly in the driving seat and it must feel a bit like one of those video games where you have to steer nervelessly along a motorway full of onrushing obstacles.
“It was all happening within 24 hours,” reflected a rueful Langton. “We were at Dartford on the Saturday, a really tough opponent, and we had to focus the team – who were a bit shaken by the news they but responded terrifically. Good performance full of heart. Then on the Monday I was supposed to have the day off, so to take training, I was frantically re-arranging the child care with the missus!”
Since then, life has been only slightly less hectic, and the fixtures scarcely less demanding. “Yes, I did say a huge thank you to Tom for landing me with Dartford and Ebbsfleet United – second and third in the table and both away from home!” But the Hugo Langton chuckle is still there, in the voice of a coach and character who always seems to make friends more easily than enemies. There had always been a hint of good cop/bad cop about Langton and Widdrington, but the truth is more complex and Langton is no pushover.
After last Saturday’s defeat at Ebbsfleet, he was in no mood simply to shrug the shoulders: “At 88 minutes it was 2-1 and we were in the game – against a massive club who really shouldn’t be in this division.
“If we’d been 4-1 down with an hour gone, you might think we’d been smashed, but we weren’t. They had a bit more muscle to bring on off the bench, and we had to do a lot of running without the ball. But at 2-1 down, you have the choice – you can sit back and think ok, we’ll just take that. But that’s not me – I think we owe it to the supporters to go forward. So, we used positive subs and we could well have equalised.”
But Langton was in no mood for charity in the minutes after that defeat: “We’ve had a few strong words in the changing room, mainly about responsibilities and doing your job and doing the basic things. I gave them some home truths about all of us – they have to wear the shirt and give blood for it, but also they are playing now for their futures and for next season. If they want to be here, they have to show in the final three matches what it means to them.
“I think by Monday they responded to that message. For East Thurrock, we just had to remind the players that we’re at home, we dominate the ball and play how we want to, and not how the opposition want us to. Certainly, in the second half the football we played was fantastic.”
Langton – widely regarded as the brains behind Bromley’s 2015 title win, when he was the Kent club’s chief coach – must now turn his thoughts to Eastbourne’s future and his own. And it is no secret that he would love the Borough top job permanently.
It is looking a strong field, with one or two well-known names being mentioned as well as locally-based Steve King. The former Lewes, Macclesfield Town and Whitehawk manager has let his interest be known and has a very successful National League South track record.
“Assuming I’m invited to present my plans, I know how I would take Borough forward. It depends what the club wants,” reflects Langton. “If they want continuity then I’m their man. If not, they may well want to bring somebody else in. But yes, it would mean a hell of a lot to me”.