Hill thrilled to sign Eastleigh contract

Daily Echo: Richard Hill Richard Hill

RICHARD Hill was happy to sign an 18-month contract as manager of Eastleigh – not least because “everyone wants my job”.

In this day and age, when foreign bosses loom large in the professional ranks, there are only so many Premier/Football League posts to go round, meaning quality non-League jobs are more sought after than ever before.

And with Eastleigh riding high in the Conference South, supported by the ambitious backing of chairman Stewart Donald and Bridle Insurance, Hill is fully aware that if he were to leave the Silverlake Stadium tomorrow there would be a stampede of applicants hungry to replace him Having taken over a side who were struggling to live up to their tag as 2012/13 title favourites when he arrived at Stoneham Lane in September last year, Hill initially had problems turning things round.

But once he had sorted out the Spitfires’ defensive frailties, he led them from second-to-bottom into the play-offs, where they were desperately unlucky to lose on penalties at Dover Athletic in the semi-finals.

He stepped up his rebuilding work in the summer, bringing in quality names like Ben Strevens, Stuart Fleetwood, Jamie Collins and Yemi Odubade, and, in contrast to last year, Eastleigh have given themselves a strong early platform to build on to achieve either automatic promotion or another crack at the play-offs.

There have been disappointments along the way – notably the FA Cup exit against Oxford City – but, by way of amends, last Saturday’s dominant 2-0 win over Conference Premier outfit Gateshead has carried them through to the FA Trophy last 16 for only the second time in their history.

After quality strikes by Collins and Fleetwood had sealed what was surely one of the most satisfying victories of Hill’s 16-month reign, the boss said: “I’m pleased to be here and to have the opportunity to stay at this football club for 18 months. On the basis that everyone wants my job, why would I turn it down? It’s the job to have.

“I’ve not renegotiated new terms, but I’ve worked for more than 12 months without a contract which is tough because, without security, it’s always game to game.

“Even with a contract I’ve still got to win the next game so it doesn’t alter much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s nice to be offered the opportunity to continue what I’ve started here.

“Twelve months ago we were training two nights a week and now we’re training across the road three mornings a week so we don’t have to use our pitch.

“This time last year we’d probably used our pitch about 60 or 70 times for first-team, reserve and youth games plus training, but now it can only be about 20. Things are a lot more professional.

“There’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to be putting things in place off the pitch.”

Chairman Donald was taking a well-earned holiday last week, but announced Hill’s contract in his matchday programme notes for the Gateshead game.

He said: “We are delighted to have secured Richard Hill on a minimum 18-month contract following an extremely impressive opening to his Eastleigh managerial career. Richard initially joined us on a week-to-week basis to ensure he was happy with us, and the club likewise.

“During this period our results and performances have improved dramatically.

“He has brought in numerous players that previously we would have struggled to attract and has done so despite having tighter financial restraints than his predecessor.”

With his good friend John Gregory – to whom he was assistant at Wycombe, QPR and in Kazakhstan – recently appointed manager of Crawley Town, there was a chance Hill might be tempted to join him.

Alluding to that possibility, Donald added: “There has been a little speculation about Richard’s position and potential offers from other clubs.

“If we are successful this is inevitable, as is the interest in our players.

“However, we have no interest – or, more importantly, need – to sell on or move any of our staff or players. They are all in an environment where they are well looked after, respected and wanted.”

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