Article by Matt Plumber following an exclusive interview with midfielder Craig Hughes as published in The Gazette
STANWAY Rovers joint-assistant boss Craig Hughes hopes the club’s early-season success can help place it at the heart of the community and lure more supporters to The Hawthorns.
Danny Slatter’s men have made a stunning start to the new campaign, winning four of their opening six Thurlow Nunn League matches.
They are through to the first-round proper of the FA Vase, following Saturday’s 7-1 victory against Wodson Park.
And for good measure, they are also still in the Essex Senior Cup and looking forward to a first-round tie at home to neighbours FC Clacton tonight (kick-off 7.45pm). Hughes admits it’s been a dream start but insists no-one is resting on their laurels.
“We’ve given an excellent account of ourselves so far,” said the former Colchester United youngster.
“We couldn’t have asked for more but now it’s about kicking on and going again, given the high standards and expectations we’ve got.
“We’ll never rest on our laurels and know we’re capable of more.
“The new players have gelled really well.
“We’ve brought lads in who can help us be successful at this level and they know the way we want to play.
“They also know what we’re about as a club, in terms of the club’s importance in the area.”
Hughes is a firm believer that his club have a big role to play in the Stanway community.
In addition to their success on the pitch, Rovers are launching their own football academy in 2020.
“We want to get the community involved again, as they were when we were here before,” said Hughes.
“It’s a big community club and if you look at the facilities here, they’re great.
“We’re trying to do things as professionally as we can.
“We want to do things the right way and give these boys the very best opportunity to be successful on the pitch.”
Hughes is focusing heavily on his managerial responsibilities at the moment.
He is still a key player at the club but on the sidelines due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. He is due to have an exploratory operation on October 24.
If the ACL doesn’t need replacing, he could be back by Christmas.
If not, he will spend the rest of this season rehabilitating before making his comeback in 2020.
“At the moment, I’m doing what I need to do to give myself the best chance of a full recovery,” said Hughes.
“Josh Congdon, from Reflex-18 Physiotherapy Clinic, has been a great help during my time in rehab and also around the club.
“I also spoke to (Brightlingsea Regent assistant manager and former Stanway team-mate) Pip (Boyland) shortly after I’d done it in July.
“It was really helpful to speak to someone who’s been through it but is now back playing.
“It’s a hard thing to deal with and any footballer knows this injury is the last one you want to pick up.
“But Pip’s a great guy and his reassurance has really helped.
“He knows my character.
“We both know I’ve got to me patient and I’ll take his advice.
“If I do end up needing it replacing, Pip’s shown that you can still come back and play again.”
The winners of tonight’s Essex Senior Cup match will host West Essex in the second round, on or before September 28.