City spell helping duo form new path at Dereham

Dereham Town joint managers Adam Gusterson, left, and Olly Willis Picture: Alan Palmer Photography

Dereham Town joint managers Adam Gusterson, left, and Olly Willis Picture: Alan Palmer Photography - Credit: Archant

Frustration has been the overriding emotion at Aldiss Park so far this season, with Dereham Town's performances not being rewarded with points.

Magpies striker Toby Hilliard Picture: Alan Palmer Photography

Magpies striker Toby Hilliard Picture: Alan Palmer Photography - Credit: Archant

That's the opinion of management duo Adam Gusterson and Olly Willis, who believe the Magpies performances have been worthy of more than the nine points they've returned from their opening eight games in the Isthmian North Division One.

Gusterson and Willis masterminded the form which saw Town pull themselves out of a relegation battle last season, with both hoping they can construct the foundations needed to discover stability.

An increased drive in recruitment has seen an abundance of fresh faces arrive at Aldiss Park, as they intend to push the club up the league.

When Gusterson arrived from Harleston Town, his ex-club were in desperate need of a revival.

Handshakes before the friendly against Norwich Under 18s in midweek Picture: Tony Thrussell

Handshakes before the friendly against Norwich Under 18s in midweek Picture: Tony Thrussell - Credit: Tony Thrussell


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On the pitch, they were struggling, desperately attempting to find the tools to rebuild. For a football club without any degree of financial resource, that process has had to attract players based on its project rather than its bank balance.

Using a youth programme with a track record of success and a group pulling in one direction, the Magpies are hoping to forge their own path rather than follow conventions.

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Attempts to harness any degree of upward mobility have proved testing to date, with inconsistency being Town's most pertinent weakness so far in this campaign.

The pre-season expectation was contagious, with a place in the play-offs being a regular topic of discussion from players, staff and supporters.

With the club out of the FA Cup and FA Trophy, Gusterson and Willis are keen to stress the importance of sticking to their playing principles and trusting the process.

Speaking after his side's 4-3 victory over Norwich City U18s in midweek, Gusterson was reflective about how his team were operating in the league.

"We've more than matched or bettered teams that we've played against, but we haven't had that return with points. That can happen, but it has happened all too many times for us.

"Performances, styles and ways of playing are really important. We feel like we've got that, but it's now about combining that to get results.

"We can head into the rest of the season with optimism because we now can push on with the quality we have."

Gusterson's assistant, Willis, has been a part of his backroom staff since he began in management, with the pair coaching Norfolk U18s side and Harleston prior to joining Dereham in January.

"We've brought players in over the summer who we felt would be good for us going forward," said Willis.

"We still strongly believe that.

"We've got a good bunch and people need a bit of time to settle, but moving forward we're confident that we've got enough in our camp to move up the league and do some great things."

Their footballing education was constructed at City, with both being full-time scholars at Carrow Road before being released.

Gusterson's and Willis' individual experiences in City's academy set-up has played a substantial role in forming the knowledge they now use to manage Dereham's first-team.

"I think that going through the academy set-up or playing professionally, whichever one that is, you work with professional coaches in that environment, and that does help," said Gusterson. "Obviously, you pick up things and then try to go down the coaching or the management routes then you get to implement some of those ideas."

Willis is the Town boss' right-hand man, with their relationship at City being taken into coaching.

"As players, you absorb a lot, but you never really learn anything until you put yourselves in a coaching position where it's about other people," he said.

"We were coached by a range of very successful coaches and managers when we were at Norwich. We've taken ideas, principles, strategies and tactics with us which we try to implement here."

Gusterson and Willis are seeking to implement an attractive, possession-based style but an increased physicality and the quality of pitches is making it difficult, said Willis.

"Sometimes it's unachievable in the league we find ourselves in, especially when we're playing away from home.

"Some of the stuff we do and the way we have coached our players to play is really good."

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