Neil Blackmore is no stranger to getting out of his comfort zone, and he's ready to embrace his latest challenge after being unveiled as the University of Wollongong Football Club's new head coach.
UOW this week announced that the English-born Blackmore would lead their District League first-grade side in 2024, with the news coming just days after previous mentor Scott Regent stepped down. Regent's assistant coach Paul Morgan also vacated his role.
Blackmore has been part of the club's system for several years, mainly helping to develop University's juniors. However, he was recently approached by UOW FC president Gareth Lucas for the promotion to become top-grade manager.
He arrives in the role boasting an impressive resume as both a player and mentor.
A former Norwich City Academy player, Blackmore then emigrated with his family to Australia, where he went on to play for several clubs, including NPL NSW outfits Sydney United 58 and Sutherland.
In his post-playing career, he became an FA qualified coach in the United Kingdom. Since then, he has gained invaluable experience working in youth development and senior systems.
"I've had a fair spectrum of coaching experience. I've coached all across the age groups and at different levels as well, and I played at quite an extensive level myself," Blackmore told the Mercury.
"I jumped at this opportunity because I enjoy a new challenge, which is something that us coaches always love. I met up with the coaching staff recently for the plan for the coming season and I'm really looking forward to testing my skills set.
"It's very different coaching junior teams to senior football, there's different things that you have to manage and deal with."
Regent stepped away from the role after spending four seasons at the helm with UOW.
The Students' standout season came in 2022 when they booked a top-five finish before hitting their straps in finals, with their run eventually falling one game short of a grand final berth, falling 3-1 to Unanderra in their preliminary final.
Things were much tougher for UOW this year, with the side missing out on finals after claiming seven victories.
The club's trials for the 2024 season will begin in the coming weeks, and Blackmore admitted that he had plenty of things to ponder in terms of recruitment.
"I haven't met any of the players yet, so certainly the existing player base will be there, but I'm definitely looking to recruit new players - if and when," he said.
"We'll spend plenty of time analysing what we need to bring in, and the areas that we need to strengthen in terms of our squad."
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