Eastleigh manager Ben Strevens wants to build on the club’s mid-table finish last term and put together a team capable of pushing for the play-off places.
I sat down and spoke to the Eastleigh manager on Thursday afternoon as we discussed the transition into management, plans for next season and former Spitfires hot-shot Mikael Mandron.
Strevens first ventured into management as the assistant manager of the side in the 16/17 season but said it was Andy Hessenthaler who really helped him adapt from the world of playing into management when he took over in December of 2017.
When asked about the transition into management, Strevens said: “It was certainly a big change for me but Andy Hessenthaler made it easy for me, him and the players were fantastic with me which made it so much easier to get into the swing of things.”
“If the players are on side then it makes it much easier moving forward which meant moving from assistant manager to manager was an easy decision for me”.
Eastleigh finished in 16th place this season as COVID-19 prevented the end of the season from taking place within the National League but in the previous season, the Spitfires finished 7th place and in a play-off position, only to be knocked out on penalties by money-bags Salford City in Strevens first full season in charge of the team.
On that first season, Strevens said: “We made the play-offs in my first season here but were knocked out by Salford on penalties which was tough to take, so I would definitely like to get the team back into the play-off places but we need to improve as a team to get there, I would love to make the play-offs again”.
“We want to strive to make the play-offs but getting together a team to push is difficult, our keeper left for Livingston so that’s an area we need to sort something out in that regards but I want to improve the squad further so we can push on and do better than last season” Strevens said on strengthening the team this summer.
As we came towards the end of our conversation, I was intrigued about one former player in particular in which Strevens coached, Mikael Mandron.
The forward dropped down from Premier League Sunderland to National League Eastleigh, despite clearly having the potential to play at a higher level.
“Mikael joined Eastleigh because of connections we had and he did well, he came as a young lad on a decent contract and scored some goals for us. I think Sunderland were in the Premier League at the time so with all due respect he made a big jump down the leagues so I thought he could definitely go back up them in the same manner” Strevens said.
The former Eastleigh forward moved onto Wigan Athletic on deadline day of January 2017 for an undisclosed fee but struggled to find his feet in the north-west.
“It’s about playing time and playing games, I think Wigan signed a few strikers at the time and he didn’t really get his chance but he’s moved to Gillingham, Steve Evans has put together a good team and like any player, he needs back to back games as he definitely has the attributes to become an established League One striker for sure”.
“Whether he is a Gillingham player next season or not is unknown with rumours of him moving but he definitely has the ability to cut it in League One, whether that be with them or elsewhere.”
What are your thoughts on Eastleigh’s chances next season? Can they make the play-offs or are Strevens’ men a few players short still? Comment below!