Brett Donnelly returning to Hitchin feels like he is coming back home.
After a one year stint as assistant manager at Biggleswade Town, Brett has returned to Hitchin as player-coach and when I spoke to him it was easy to detect the boyish enthusiasm he felt for his new role. He was genuinely excited and is really looking forward to the new season.
Brett had left Hitchin to team up with friend Lee Allinson at Biggleswade Town. It was an opportunity he felt he could not turn down as he realised his playing career at the top level was coming to an end and wanted to get into the coaching and management side of football. Having played many games for Biggleswade it was the perfect move to become their assistant manager.
Brett really enjoyed his time at Biggleswade and was impressed by Allinson as they enjoyed an impressive season just missing out on the play-offs. Brett told me he learnt a great deal and the experience he picked up will be invaluable to his career. He said it was a real eye opener for him and he was surprised how much time he had to spend on football matters. Apart from the Biggleswade games and training, he watched a lot of other games looking at players and future opposition and his phone was constantly ringing. He thanked Allinson from whom he picked up so much and generally felt it was a huge learning curve.
Reviewing the season he felt Biggleswade massively over performed and missed out on the play-offs because of a lack of depth in the squad. He was very impressed at the standard of the Evo-Stik League South Premier Central Division, considering it much stronger than the South Division with no easy games and the new midlands teams proving physically strong opponents.
When Brett left Biggleswade he received a phone call from Mark Burke inviting him to join Hitchin’s coaching staff and he did not hesitate in agreeing to join. Brett has always considered Hitchin to be his first love and the family connection with the club runs very deep over different generations. He made no secret of the fact that one day he would like to become the Hitchin manager and he intends to learn from Mark and Adam Parker. Brett has already picked up information from previous managers he has played under and feels he is a good judge of character, particularly enjoying the psychological side of the game.
Brett also feels he is good at reading games tactically and despite the perceived perception of him as an old fashioned ”jack the lad” striker more suited to past times, he is in fact a deep thinker about the game and very much in tune with current football thinking. He saw a number of Hitchin games last season (and despite popular thinking was not looking to entice more players to Biggleswade) and saw the potential. He feels he can provide fresh ideas and is prepared to ruffle feathers if necessary. He knows how Mark and Adam work and feels he can add that something extra. Brett will work with the strikers using his vast experience to help them improve.
It was clear to me from the interview how much Brett loves the club. He said when he watched our games last season he was still a fan and he has a real rapport with our supporters. He says he will happily have a pint with them after a game and he wants that inclusive feeling with the team and supporters on the same wavelength. He told me that often at Biggleswade he would be thinking back to how it was at Hitchin and he was particularly proud of our play-off final season when he felt the team bonding and togetherness was pivotal to our success.
Mark told me he felt something was missing in the dressing room last season and is convinced Brett will be a great link between the management and players. He considers that he will be the glue that holds the team together socially and was delighted Brett agreed to return to Top Field. With Brett’s experience and love of the Club Mark said it was an easy decision to approach him to return.
Brett is unfortunately one of a dying breed as there are so few characters left in these sanitised football times. He is not liked by authority and has often felt victimised and as a larger than life character he has not been a friend of referees! But he knows that as his playing career draws to a close he will have to try and keep his frustrations under control. One thing that is certain is that life will never be dull with Brett around.
Finally, I am pleased to say that I have persuaded Brett to revive his blog. He may not be doing it every week but it will be just as irreverent and entertaining as before and I am sure all supporters will enjoy what he has to say.
BY ROY IZZARD