Long Read: ‘Poole has given me a lot of happiness’ – Killick talks about his managerial career

Sometimes, the most tame questions can reveal the most interesting answers. When I spoke to Tommy on Thursday night, I was initially calling to discuss Poole’s Dorset Senior Cup draw, and to check player availablity ahead of the weekend.

Between the time we had arranged to speak and the actual phone call, developments in the west of the county prompted a new dialogue.

Despite the departure of Robbie Herrera still being a few hours fresh, a few Dorchester fans had started to make their wishes for a new manager known on social media – and there were loud calls for Tommy to go back down the A35.

Tommy has been linked with his former club on numerous occasions, mainly thanks to the Magpies’ revolving door policy when it comes to managers.

However, the most concrete links came way back when Killick and Poole were still marooned in the Wessex League – back in 2009 and 2011.

Whilst I must stress that at the time of our interview, there was no firm links, I decided to take the opportunity to get ahead of the rumour mill and nip that fairytale in the bud.

As expected, Tom confirmed his intentions to stay at Poole – but during his answer, he unexpectedly detailed many things.

Of course, there were things I did expect – but I certainly was surprised to hear Tommy speak so candidly about his long term future, and the biggest regret of his career.

“Poole has given me a lot of happiness. I’ve had some really enjoyable times of my life at Poole, there’s a lot of good people at Poole. I feel very happy that I’ve been allowed to stay here as long as I have.

“I’m much nearer the end of my managerial career than I am the beginning. Poole has always been my club for all these years.

“What can I say? I’ve got a huge affinity to Poole.

“I don’t really know what to say. The big thing is, even now, without sounding arrogant, I’d like to be in the Conference South. That’s what I’d like. Those were the two happiest seasons of my managerial career.

“I sort of felt quite comfortable being at that level. I knew realistically we couldn’t go beyond that level as a club, and even me as an individual in terms of the commitment.

“I knew we really couldn’t go beyond that level. I almost felt very happy to be at that level. I felt I was very capable of managing at that level.

“I almost felt at peace with myself for those couple of years. Now that I am getting old, I do have a desperation to manage at that level again, and I would like more than anything for that to be with Poole.

“Because I just feel that the Conference South, without being disrespectful to the league that we are in, I just feel that the Conference South is the league I would feel very happy to be managing in.

“That’s what I’m striving for and I think that the players feel the same. I think that they want to be in that league. It’s just so, so difficult to get there. That’s why it has been the biggest regret of my managerial career was getting relegated.

“I shouldn’t have allowed that to happen, and I still have huge regrets about it now. It was a big failing on my part really, when we got relegated.”

When I first started covering the Dolphins in 2015, Tom had already been in charge for a decade. Since I’ve been around the club, it almost feels like there is an expectation that Poole should win every game, be contending for all the honours, to be in the sixth tier.

But this period of Poole’s history is near unprecedented. The club’s highest ever finish before Tom? 16th in the Southern Premier League.

There will be the argument that the Southern League used to have a higher stature during periods of the 20th century, but Poole didn’t even reach the top half of the table.

In contrast, Killick’s finishes of 7th, 2nd, 1st and 5th are vast improvements – even if the league has changed in shape, stature and competitiveness. Killick himself feels that Poole’s promotion to the National South was downplayed.

“Getting into that league was just an unbelievable achievement,” he continued.

“I don’t think people quite understand what an achievement it was. But, having got in to it, I feel I should have had the capabilities of keeping us in there.

“It’s just something that caused me a lot of angst, even now.

“We’re still striving to get back there, and as long as I’m at Poole, that’s what the ambition will be.

“My ambition is to get into the Conference South, and my ambition is to get into the Conference South with Poole.

“I don’t know whether I’ve got long enough left to do that – if we’re going to be able to do it, but that’s what I would desperately like to achieve, before I finish, if there’s anyway possible.

“I know that it is a big ask, but that’s what I’m striving for. That’s my focus.”

It was the language and tone that Tom used when talking about trying to take Poole back to the sixth tier that really intrigued me.

Tom has at times been his own biggest critic – once offering to stand down as manager if Poole failed to win promotion to the National South at the second time of asking back in 2016.

The idea that Poole’s directors would put a timeframe on their legendary manager to me seems farfetched – but Tom certainly does not take his position for granted.

Nor does he expect to be in management forever. Whilst he didn’t put any dates or timeline on his future, Killick did reveal that he didn’t intend to manage into his 60s and 70s.

“No, I don’t [see myself managing into my 60s and 70s.] My family life – I’ve got young children, it’s a big commitment, but also I think you need to be a little bit dynamic, I think there needs to be a real sort of enthusiasm, a real connection between yourself and your players, and I think it gets more and more difficult to establish all those things, particularly the connection with the players.

“But you never know – you’ll probably ring me up when I’m 62,  saying ‘you said you wouldn’t be here still’, but I really can’t see that happening.

“Like I said, I definitely feel nearer to the end than I am the beginning.”

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