Mustoe commits to Rovers project


With their playing season concluded and their position in the Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division secured, Tuflfey Rovers have moved quickly to make their first signing for the 2022/23 season, with the appointment of Neil Mustoe as their manager for the 2022/23 season.

Mustoe had initially stepped into the role vacated by the resignation of Rich Cox on an interim basis from the start of January 2022 and having guided the Rovers squad to safety after a season-long battle with relegation he has now accepted the opportunity to continue in the role next season.

A defeat in Mustoe’s opening game against Brimscombe & Thrupp, on 3 January, was followed by a first win in thirteen for Rovers, as Mustoe secured his first win against Shrivenham on 8 January. Two heavy defeats followed before Mustoe’s influence began to show and although Rovers’ form continued to be patchy in the latter part of the season – with just two further wins – the squad was far more competitive, despite few changes to the squad itself.

Now, the Gloucester City legend will look to ensure that Rovers build on a positive start when the 2022/23 season commences; an opportunity he is very much looking forward to.

“I am very happy to be officially appointed as Tuffley Rovers’ manager”, he confirmed. “This is a club with real potential, with a fantastic infrastructure, from the youth set-up, through to the first team squad and I’ve been impressed with the willingness for us to all be looking at shared goals and singing from the same hymn sheet, with the focus on creating a pathway for players to progress.”

The new manager arrived in January with the club facing a battle to avoid relegation and Mustoe’s first objective was to ensure an eighth season in the Premier Division, and although it was a case of ‘mission accomplished’, he was quick to reflect on the achievement with a focus on ensuring Rovers don’t face a similar situation next season.

“It has been an very interesting and testing three months, or so, for everyone involved in the club”, he reflected. “I can only assess my short spell on the basis that we got the job done, but am I totally happy with the way it has gone? No. We all need to better going forward, starting with me.”

Rovers’ Head of Football Development, Ken Blackburn, was key to securing Mustoe’s commitment to the role on an interim basis and he expressed his delight at the move to a permanent appointment.

“I have been looking to bring Muzzy in, whether as manager or in some other capacity, since I joined Tuffley Rovers but it was all a matter of timing”, he confirmed. “Having been a pro and then semi-pro player for more or less the whole of his life, so since we’d ended our spell together at Gloucester City U18s, he’d taken some time out of football to spend more time with his family.”

“I was certain it would be a matter of time before he got ‘itchy feet’ and I am absolutely delighted that he’s now decided to commit to Tuffley Rovers”, Blackburn added. “Our association goes back a long way and I can honestly say that we have never had one cross word with each other, except maybe when he was navigating and I was driving the minibus to City games!!”.

“For Rovers to get someone of his stature, both in terms of his playing and coaching career, is a real coup for the club and it is now time to use the benefit of his knowledge and experience to move the club forward. We don’t want to stand still and I know he wants to be a winner, with the focus on playing football that should be enjoyed, with our spectators entertained by the way the side play.”

Blackburn was also quick to focus on a shared objective, with the focus on creating a squad with a blend of experienced players alongside young talent coming through the youth and development structure at the club.

“I, for one, will support Muzzy all I can and hopefully we can attract the right experienced players, whilst at the same time developing young talent, who will be given the opportunity to progress when they are ready”, he explained.

Mustoe is also focusing on player development, but also acknowledges the club’s record for helping players to progress to higher level football.

“Tuffley Rovers has provided an opportunity for players to get their foot in at Step 5 and then progress. Over the years and even over the past few months, when results haven’t been great, our players are attracting interest from higher level clubs and I hope that encourages others to see the potential that the club offers”, he added.

The new manager was also quick reflect on the challenge posed to the squad he inherited in January, which was largely unchanged to the end of the season, with new signings Ashley Davies and Sammie Hicks unavailable for long periods, and Bristol Rovers work experience signing Harvey Greenslade quickly moved on to a higher level of football after his successful spell at Tuffley.

“The players have had to adapt mid-season to a style and formation change, meaning I’ve been asking them to do things that are unfamiliar and unnatural, for them and for me, for the good of the team and to ensure that we gave ourselves the best opportunity to stay up”, he confirmed, before turning his attention to the next campaign.

“Everyone at the club is aware that our summer recruitment is now incredibly important”, he explained. “Hopefully we can get players in of the calibre we need, then mix it with the current squad and the youngster coming through, so that we improve our performances and our results, because I want to bring success to the club. I am already very much looking forward to next season already.”

After a season of struggles, on and off the field, Chairman Dan Boon felt that the appointment of Mustoe was just what the club needed and, like Blackburn, is delighted that the club have finally got their man.

“I am thrilled that we have managed to secure Muzzy in the role on a permanent basis. He came in at a very difficult time for the club, with his only brief for the remainder of the season to keep us in the league, which he achieved. I’m now looking forward to a period of rebuilding, so that he can get the squad he wants, playing the style of football he wants the club to adopt. It suddenly feels like a great time to be involved with the club”, he concluded.

Alongside Mustoe’s appointment, Rovers have confirmed that both their Assistant Manager, Ritchie Warden, and physiotherapist, Ashleigh Watson, will remain at the club for the 2022/23 season. Further appointments to the club’s coaching and management structure are likely to be confirmed shortly.