Centre-back appointed after search which included club asking for applicants on Twitter
17 October ~ On September 23, Richard Hill left Eastleigh. During three successful years, he transformed the Spitfires from Conference South mainstays to Conference National play-off semi-finalists. Yet in the formative stages of this season, his side suffered a barren run of five games without a win, leading him to step down.
The club opted to take a modern approach as they sought out their new manager – announcing the vacancy on their Twitter account. This decision attracted media attention and reached more genuine contenders for the job than would have been the case had they used a traditional method. As expected, the club had to sift through several mock applications, but were pleasantly surprised that around 60 capable candidates had applied, including 15 who have previously managed abroad.
As this search took place, assistant manager and centre-back Chris Todd came in as interim boss. The 34-year-old Welshman won three of his four games in charge against high-level opposition, which prompted senior player Ben Strevens – who scored the winner in his Todd’s first game in charge away at Wrexham – to state the players' desire to see his team-mate remain in the position as a permanent fixture, before he was eventually appointed yesterday.
Todd's playing career was tinged with melancholy. In November 2008, he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, but returned three months later after fighting against the illness. This shock inspired him to broaden his horizons beyond football. He became a member of a choir for cancer sufferers, tried his hand at modelling and starred in a music video as well as an independent film.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Todd would embrace the challenge of becoming a manager in his 30s. In comparison with his predecessor, the 34-year-old is softly spoken and is credited with having created a sense of freedom among his players during his brief time in charge. On Tuesday, Eastleigh fell behind to Forest Green on the stroke of half time after initially leading. However the new manager did not criticise his players for taking their eye off the ball, he encouraged patience and calm; consequently, the Spitfires rose to the challenge and won 3-2.
With an experienced assistant behind him, Todd may yet get Eastleigh into the play-offs once again this season. There is a good blend of experience and youth in the squad, while off the pitch their fanbase is growing. Entry was free for the Spitfires' home game on Tuesday, an initiative that the club have used several times previously, leading to 200 new season ticket holders according to owner Stewart Donald. He also continues to back the club with significant funds, having already injected £3 million. The Spitfires have built the structure to become a League Two outfit – and could yet experience a Hampshire derby with Portsmouth. Nick Roberts