The University of Gloucestershire men’s football team are celebrating after clinching a league title for the first time in nearly a decade. They have finished top of BUCS League Western Conference Tier 2, which will see them step up to Tier 1 next year, when they will face tougher challenges. But for now, coach Jack Rutter believes his players can take real pride from their progress, with a varsity showdown with rivals Worcester still to come at Evesham United’s Jubilee Stadium on March 26.
“We finished second to UWE last year, but we’ve stepped it up a notch and hopefully this is the start of something special and plenty more titles,” Rutter said.
“We have really gone for it in the last couple of years, trying to create a more professional culture and I’d like to say well done to the players and my fellow coach Jack Costerton.
“We’ve punched above our weight and we’ve won the league playing attractive football too.”
Rutter and former UOG student Costerton are both Uefa-qualified, with Rutter working towards his A Licence and Costerton already a B Licence holder.
“We had meetings at the start of the season to discuss values, expectations from coaches and players and things like arriving on time with handshakes and being positive, playing and training with a purpose and passion,” Rutter, who is in his fourth season in charge, said.
“We’ve all been supporting each other and it’s come to fruition.
“We’ve benefitted from the advice of my A Licence tutor Mike Cook (former Cambridge United midfielder and ex-Gloucester City manager), whose input has been brilliant and I treat the players as professionally as possible.
“We have to take that into next year, when we are planning to add extra training days and more support with both the physical and psychological side of the game.”
Among the key men for Gloucestershire during their successful campaign has been left winger Dan Hammett, who has been sidelined with injury in recent weeks. Centre forward Terrence Kangandu has led the line strongly, while Mason Courtney has performed well in a number of different positions. Skipper Tom Morris has moved from his favoured midfield role to shine at centre-half, filling the position left by long-term injury victim Joe Tryner, also chipping in with some vital goals. Toby Dunn and Billy Stone have also made major contributions.
“We have six or eight players leaving this year, so it’s going to be tough to replace them,” Rutter said.
“We’ve had a good group, with good characters and hopefully we have some quality coming through, with lads who are just as coachable.
“It’ll all be set up to try and compete next year, but we know it’s going to be a big step up.”
UOG men’s football squad
Harrison Veale, Jacob Cross
Tom Morris, Toby Dunn, Harry Elliott, Joshua Taylor, Max Cooper
Bradley Stalley, Tom Powell-Davies, Andrew Ikuesan, Billy Stone, Dan Hammett, Mason Courtney, Jake Hawson