NEW assistant manager Andy Hessenthaler reckons Eastleigh possess the potential to ‘do a Fleetwood Town.’
The former Gillingham, Dover and Orient boss, appointed No2 to Richard Hill at the Silverlake for next season, has watched in admiration Fleetwood’s rise from Conference champions to the League One play-offs in six whirlwind years.
And the 51-year-old, who had Hill as his right-hand man during his player-manager days at Gillingham, sees no reason why the Spitfires cannot follow suit.
Asked his first impressions of Eastleigh, Hessenthaler said: “I liken it to Fleetwood.
“You look at what they’ve achieved and where the club’s gone over the last few years and I see Eastleigh going that way.
“The ambition's here from the chairman and everyone connected to the club. They all want to take Eastleigh into the Football League.”
Hessenthaler and Hill, both former Watford players, dovetailed nicely at Gillingham.
“We know each other pretty well and we’ve got the same thoughts on the game,” said Hessenthaler.
“We’ve got massive respect for each other.
“We had a successful time at Gillingham. The (managerial) onus was more on Richard than myself as I was playing and that was really important to me. You rely on your coaching staff.”
The Hill-Hessenthaler partnership was confirmed at half-time on Saturday as the Spitfires finished a turbulent National League campaign by drawing 1-1 at home to Wrexham.
Jolted by Jordan White's early second-half strike, they hit back through Matt Tubbs's predatory 74th-minute finish set up by sub James Constable.
It wasn’t the best of spectacles but after a bonkers campaign that has seen three managers – Chris Todd, Ronnie Moore and Martin Allen – exit and a staggering 54 players involved, Hill, who rode to the rescue as director of football/caretaker boss in February, is seen as the man to restore some sanity.
“We had lots of applicants but Stew (chairman Stewart Donald) thought did the club really need another manager at this stage.
“It would have been easy to bring in someone new with me as director of football, but that could have put too much pressure on a new manager,” said Hill, referring to the baggage left behind by previous regimes.
“As I said to Hess (Hessenthaler), the best time to be Eastleigh manager will be after me.
“To have thrown Hess into that role would have been unfair, but we’ve worked together before and we’ve got continuity going forward now and a lot of knowledge between us.
“At Gillingham I assumed a role somewhere between assistant and manager and Hess will do the same here.
“We’ve got (senior players) Ben Strevens and Craig McAllister on the coaching side but there’s been a big gap between me and them. Now, with Hess here, that gap's not so big.”
Defender Paul Reid will also be on the management staff in a recruitment/scouting role.