Management duo hit the ground running at Norman Wanderers
Norman Wanderers joint boss Dave Freeman has revealed the secret behind his side's success in Division 1A this season.
Wanderers have started the season like a train under new managers Freeman and Luke Durrant who arrived at the club from Marlborough over the summer along with several other key players.
The transformation in fortunes has been instant but rather than the managers taking credit, Freeman believes the family responsibilities of the rest of his side is the reason why Wanderers have catapulted themselves into the 1A title race.
'Myself and Luke are both 28 and we're the oldest players so we're quite a young side,' he said. 'But a lot of the other lads have got children which means a lot of them aren't able to go out and have a good drink on the Saturday night – I think that's really helped us!'
Fresh-faced Wanderers have certainly reaped the benefits having remained unbeaten after 10 games, winning nine of them, and conceding just one goal.
They are also in the quarter-finals of the Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup having beaten Premier Division side Norwich Busmen along the way, prompting Freeman to dream of a Carrow Road final.
The detective sergeant admitted he and Durrant could not have dreamed of a better start to managerial life.
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'To go 10 games unbeaten was beyond what we could have hoped for – and to knock Busmen out of the cup was a decent scalp as well,' he said.
'We've got some lads who are more than capable of playing in the level above and that's obviously really helped us.'
But having both been part of a successful side are Marlborough what prompted the pair to strike out on their own?
'I was in the Marlborough side a couple of years ago that won the league and got to the Senior Cup final last year,' he said. 'But myself and Luke decided that we wanted to give it a go ourselves.
'We managed to take a few key players with us and a fair few players who are Eastern Counties standard have decided to just devote themselves to Sundays which is great for us.'
Freeman puts their stubborn defensive record down to the heroics of goalkeeper Stuart Palmer, who was one of the players that came to Wanderers from Marlborough.
However, the management pair have not been averse to putting a few square pegs in round holes but it has not stopped them blazing a trail to second place in the table behind Sprowston Sunday, with a game in hand.
'We've actually got six or seven central defenders in the team playing in different positions – that perhaps also explains why we've been so good defensively,' added Freeman, who was on target in the 2-0 win against Aslacton & Gt Moulton last weekend with joint boss Durrant getting the other.
'But a lot of the credit has to go to Stuart Palmer, who has been tremendous for us this season. There has been two or three occasions this season where he has saved almost certain goals.'
Freeman has been part of the local football scene since he was eligible to play junior football and has also turned out for Prince of Denmark and Poringland in the past.
But he revealed the spine of his current Wanderers side was harnessed in the Old Catton youth ranks and may explain why they have been able to hit the ground running.
'I've always played local football and myself and Luke were keen to give the management side of it a go as well,' he said. 'There's actually a few of us that have all played together since we were 10 for Old Catton Juniors.
'The pitch we played on, on Saturday, has got a really big slope and I remember playing on it in the Under-11 Cup final. I just thought 'blimey 20-odd years on and we're still all playing together'.'
Freeman believes Wanderers will have to maintain their form if they are to realise their pre-season target of promotion in what looks to be a three-horse race between themselves, Sprowston Sunday and Windmill Wanderers. But Freeman also has one eye on cup success. 'We've got a home draw in the (Senior Cup) quarter-finals (against Bayer FC) which is all you can ask for,' he said. 'To get to play at Carrow Road would top it all off for our first season as what is effectively a new team in all but name.'