IAN LONG says the last four years at Alvechurch have been an ‘absolute dream’ but it is the right time to move on.
Long has ended a four-year success-laden spell as Lye Meadow boss to move to Southern Premier Central rivals Stourbridge as their new manager.
The size of the Glassboys as a club, their tradition and fact they have been pushing for step two for the past few years proved too tempting for the former Tividale and Tipton Town boss.
He told the Standard he will leave Church with thrilling memories and fantastic friendships, having guided the club from mid-table obscurity in the then Midland Alliance to two promotions and a place in the Southern Premier for the first time in three decades.
“I’ve got unbelievably fond memories of Alvechurch,” said Long. “When I first met Richard Thorndike four years ago after I left Tividale I had no intention of taking the Alvechurch job. I’m so glad he convinced me.
“It’s been an absolute dream and I’ve got an immense pride in what we achieved together. When myself and Rich (Colwell) came in, Alvechurch had finished the previous season 15th in the table and were being watched by 70 people a week. Now we’ve finished fourth in step three and have an average home crowd of 250.
“I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone at the club – the board, the volunteers, the supporters. We’ve made friendships that will last and last.
“I want to go on and win the league with Stourbridge – that’s my aim – but I want Alvechurch to continue to be successful. Knowing Richard, Simon Redhead, Steve Denny and Paul Weaver and everybody who works so hard behind the scenes, I know they will do everything to ensure they do.”
Long added: “I’m moving from one ambitious club to another. I think Stourbridge is probably the biggest step three job around in the Midlands.
“We were approached by another step three side during the season but it didn’t feel right. This does feel right. They have been there or thereabouts for the past few seasons and they are in talks with their council about getting some land to build a new ground because at the moment, sharing with the cricket club, they can only go up one more level.”
In Long’s first season, Alvechurch finished runners-up to Hereford after an almighty title scrap with the Bulls and enjoyed their best ever FA Vase run in getting to the last 16.
The following season, Church collected three trophies – winning the league six points clear of Coleshill Town and the League Cup and JW Hunt Cup after finals at Walsall and Molineux respectively.
Then they surprised expectations in their first ever campaign in Northern Premier Division One South by taking a second automatic promotion place behind champions Basford United.
Last season they again were the surprise package – occupying a top five position for much of the season and finishing in fourth place in Southern Premier Central – the club’s highest position since 1985/86.