Luke Tuffs: Ashford Town, managerial ambitions and inspiring other LGBT managers

You are currently taking your A license coaching course in Scotland. Why did you choose to do the SFA course?

It has a great reputation to be honest. The SFA have done a fantastic job considering the challenges due to Covid. We’d usually do the course in person but obviously with that not being possible they’ve moved it online.

It’s geared at how to be a manager at both full time and part time level and that’s hugely beneficial to me given my current job at Ashford Town. My tutor is the Hibs manager Jack Ross and he’s been a great support to me and the other coaches in my section of the course.

I’ve learned about the importance of periodisation which is so important at semi professional level when you’ve only got the players two or three times per week.

They also put you outside your comfort zone by asking you to plan ten session with different sets of rationale using different formations each time also. I’ve found this to be very thought provoking as it’s made me analyse and carefully consider the benefits of various structures and strategies which is something that all top managers have to be able to do.

You coached at Hartley Wintney FC as first team coach and under 18’s manager in a dual role. What did you learn from that experience?

I learned so much because the club has wonderful people at all levels within it. I had just completed my B license and was given a lot of responsibility to coach the side by the manager Anthony Millerick.

I learned a lot from him as a manager and from the group of players at the club. We had players who had played in the football league so you learn very quickly from them. The key is to be fair and consistent with every player regardless of their stature and that’s something I learned at Hartley Whitney.

The club was successful during your time there. Was the opportunity to become a manager in your own right at Knaphill FC ultimately too good to turn down?

That’s a tough question and it was a tough decision. I was very happy at Hartley because we won the Combined Counties Premier Division two years in a row and we gained promotion to Step 3 for the first time in the club’s history. Following that success the opportunity came up at Knaphill and Anthony encouraged me to go for it as it was a good opportunity and ultimately I did.

At Knaphill, it was a great learning experience in a tough season for everyone due to the Covid situation arising and budgets having to be cut as a result of that. Despite that, we finished second in our division on points per game which was a phenomenal achievement for the club. That then led to Ashford coming in for me.

You moved to Ashford Town in the Isthmian South central Division which has some big clubs within it including Bracknell town and Tooting & Mitcham United F.C. How have you adapted to this level of football?

It’s been brilliant for me as the quality of player is better too. The players attitude and commitment has been first class which has led to me loving my time on the training ground with them.

Equally, the challenge of the opposition is tougher but I enjoy the challenge of facing big clubs and clever managers. There is no easy game at this level as teams can adapt their game and have the players to punish mistakes.

I’ve loved playing in front of bigger crowds too. We were allowed 400 into the stadium due to Covid restrictions and we sold out every game that was the case for. The atmosphere was superb and the buzz about the club is great.

I’ve also improved as a manager here especially on the data analysis side of things. All of my players now have a log in to a specially created club platform. On the platform, their best bits and their areas of development are clipped for them after each match day.

We were having a positive season before the game was curtailed due to lockdown which has been tough mentally for all of us but hopefully things can improve soon and we can continue our progress as a club.

You are an openly gay football manager within English football which has made a lot of headlines and inspired many within football to believe that footballers who are openly gay can feel comfortable within themselves in a football environment. Do you believe that your sexuality has ever been something that’s affected your progress in the game as a manager or how you have treated by others in football?

I can honestly say that it’s never caused me any issues within football. I came out by the time I was sixteen years old and that was in a football environment.

Football has raised me to a level as I’ve always been involved in it from a young age. I’ve always been aware from a young age that when people feel comfortable to have a giggle with you, it’s because they like you so in that regard I don’t take myself too seriously.

I’ve never found the issue of my sexuality to be a problem for me in the dressing room environment as I’m comfortable for my players to have a joke and a laugh with me about things just as I like to do with them too.

By laughing and joking at myself it gives them consent to do so as well which takes the elephant out of the room in many regards. For example, when I first joined Hartley Whitney and one of the fans told me that he’d never met a gay person in his life. If I was to be very tetchy and uptight about any humour that came my way then their first impression of a gay person would be that he’s different to us.

I’ve never wanted that because I don’t see myself as different to others. I have a laugh and joke like we all do in society and further down the line we can have a chat about more serious issues and the language that is used. You have to gain respect and create a comfortable environment to be able to have those meaningful conversations.

Last but not least, what are your ambitions as a manager in the medium to long term?

Within the next five years my aim is to be managing within the national league and within the next ten years my aim is to be managing in the football league.

Whether that’s a dream rather than a reality only time will tell but my journey so far from where I was ten years ago to now has been a positive one that many wouldn’t have thought was possible.

I’ve come from borderline park football to step 3 within a decade which gives me great belief in my own ability to progress.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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