Paul Dipre marks a year in charge of Carshalton Athletic tomorrow and admits it has been a baptism of fire.
The Robins owner sacked Mark Butler 12 months ago and decided to take over team affairs himself, leading them to a 13th place finish.
But this season has been disappointing, with defeats to Lewes, 1-0, on Saturday and AFC Hornchurch, 2-1, on Tuesday – where the Robins were missing a number of players in both games through injury – leaving them languishing in 15th place in the Ryman Premier League, closer to the relegation zone than the play-offs and still 12 points short of last year’s points total.
“The last year has been a massive learning curve,” said Dipre.
“There have been lots of things I expected and some things I didn’t expect.
“One thing I didn’t expect was to get it right first time – I said in the summer that if I did I would be a genius.
“I would of course like to be higher in the table and I would like to have scored more goals than we have.
“But I did not expect the issues that have come up in terms of the injuries we had at the start of the season and are having now.
“I would not say I am a better coach for the experience, but I would say I have a better understanding of the things that make it difficult.
“So many of those things with non-league football are nothing to do with football – such as travelling to Newport on a Tuesday night when all the players have worked a full day at work.
“In terms of the team – the balance of personalities this season has not been right and the chemistry has not been right.
“But for a first timer starting with a blank sheet I could have done a lot worse.”
Supporters have voted with their feet in recent weeks, with just 138 turning up at Colston Avenue to watch Tuesday’s defeat to promotion-chasing Hornchurch.
Many expected the additions of players such as Paul Vines, who scored his 20th goal of the season against Hornchurch, to at least result in a play-off push but Dipre, whose side host Canvey Island on Saturday, believes expectations were ambitious.
“I think one thing which has been totally skewed this season has been the unrealistic expectations on the players,” he added.
“Only two players have come down from Blue Square South, everyone else has come from the Ryman Premier and they are not players with fabulous records.
“Paul Vines and Dean McDonald were at Tooting & Mitcham two season ago and no one told them they should be winning the league.
“People saying we have this gilt-edged team make things more difficult for us – it is not realistic.”