CHRIS Tracey has been given until Christmas to stake his claim for the manager’s post at AFC Sudbury following the departure of Nicky Smith the morning after the team’s 4-0 defeat at Grays Athletic last week.
Tracey, Smith’s assistant for the past three seasons, has been appointed caretaker manager, and led the team to a superb 1-0 FA Cup victory at Leiston on Saturday in his first game in charge.
Mark Pearman, chief executive officer at AFC, said: “We have told Chris ‘here’s your opportunity, go out and enjoy it and do the best you can’. We want Chris to succeed and put a smile back on the fans’ faces.”
Tracey achieved that in his first game, as underdogs AFC turned league form upside down with a narrow, but richly deserved, first round qualifying victory at Leiston. “Saturday was one of my best football moments in a long career,” said Tracey. “I was very proud.”
Tracey has never hidden his ambition to be manager of the club he has served with such distinction as a player. “I intend to give it my best shot. I got a taster when Nicky was away, and I enjoyed it.”
Smith’s departure came as something of a surprise. “I hadn’t really expected him to resign as we had been talking about the changes we needed to make for the trip to Leiston, but he rang me on Thursday morning to let me know he had decided to go.
“We had just over three years together. We had a lot of critics in the first two seasons, and last season we were a nearly team. Sadly it just didn’t happen for Nicky.”
Leiston away could have been a baptism of fire. “I couldn’t have wished for a harder first game, but I got a fantastic response from the players. They have set a benchmark for grit and determination, and I couldn’t fault anyone on Saturday.
“It’s disappointing that we hadn’t shown that sort of commitment in previous games, and everybody has got to put in that effort and commitment all the time.”
Tracey, who will have player-coach Jack Wignall in the technical area with him — “He is someone I can bounce ideas off” — is also looking to bring in new faces, and has put in three seven-day notices of approach.
“I believe in competition for places. I don’t want a high turnover of players, but if we can strengthen the squad, we will.”
His first signing was Dubi Ogbonna, for a third spell at King’s Marsh, with both Chris Sullivan and Ashley Stoneman being released. With James Baker sidelined for several weeks with a hamstring injury, Ogbonna can provide the presence up front AFC have lacked.
AFC’s reward for Saturday’s victory is a trip to Ryman South Merstham in the next round on October 1. Last season the clubs met in an amazing FA Trophy match, AFC winning 6-4 after leading 6-0 with less than a quarter of the game remaining.
Tracey, who played for Sudbury Town and AFC, enjoyed managerial spells at Ipswich Wanderers, Needham Market and Long Melford, and played more than 1,000 competitive matches before hanging up his boots at the end of the 2009/10 season.
AFC are at home to Thamesmead Town in the league on Saturday (3pm), and travel to Leiston on Tuesday for a league fixture which will see Mark Morsley’s men looking for revenge.