Tom Killick: “I’m driven by my fear of failure… and it’s my dream to take Poole Town to the Conference South!”


The Poole Town manager talks his managerial style, balancing his day job with Non-League football management and explains to me why he’s considered resigning as Poole boss, as well as what it was like to manage Premier League star Charlie Austin.

As he walks into the Tatnam ground on a cold Tuesday night for a big cup semi-final, and his 600th game in charge, the Poole Town boss greats everyone, from the directors to the stewards. As he walks into the club bar, the elderly barman jokes “we’re not open yet,” in response to which he laughs. Killick looks visibly relieved to have a sit down after a long day at work, his attention now turns to the football.

Killick was a Non-League playing star back in the early 1990s, and was awarded Non-League Player of the Year in 1992, after winning the FA Vase Trophy whilst playing for Wimborne at the Old Wembley stadium. “It was surreal,” he explains. The Poole Town boss then jokes that it felt “not quite right” to be playing at Wembley at the age of only 23. “You’re used to seeing people playing there on the tele,” he says.

You’re there, but you don’t belong there”

However, Killick then mentions how he almost dramatically missed the final due to a “bad knee injury”. “For a time the injury looked like it would keep me out of the game,” he reveals. Injury meant that he missed the semi-final, and he told of the “empty feeling” during the semi-final win celebrations.

“Thankfully I went from a situation where I was going to miss the final to playing a big part in it” he says. “Even during the final I was apprehensive that my knee wouldn’t last the day. Only after about 20 minutes of the game did I start to relax, feeling that it was going to be ok,” he admits.

Killick scored twice on the day as Wimborne won 5-3 to lift the FA Vase Trophy. “I played quite well in that final” he says nodding his head, adding with a humble smile:

I think that’s why I won the player of the year award”

Killick’s win percentage in his 11 years, and 600 games as manager of Poole is almost 70%, an unbelievable record, in response to which he widens his eyes and smiles. But what’s his secret?

“I try to create an environment that the players enjoy being in, and establish a winning mentality,” he explains, then adds: “I manage in accordance with my personality.”

Killick shrugs a shoulder and smiles again, as he explains why he chose to go into management after his successful Non-League playing career: “I wasn’t ready to end my involvement in football,” he says.

His worst moment in football? “There’s two that stick in my mind,” he reveals. In a two legged FA Vase semi-final against Whitley Bay in 2011, with the winner going to Wembley, Poole were defeated. “It would have been a momentous day for the club,” Killick says with a disappointed tone. He sighs and says:

The other was the play-off final.”

1-0 up against Gosport Borough in the Evo-Stik League Southern Division 1 2011/12 play-off final with a minute to go, “it looked as if we’d been promoted,” Killick says, but Poole threw promotion away as their opponents equalised and went on to win in extra time, 3-1. “It was devastating,” he says looking down to the floor. “I remember being really nervous, we were so close, there are so many things I wish we somehow could have done, we could have easily avoided what happened,” he says shaking his head.

“So many things stick in my mind. For example, we broke and their ‘keeper had come up for a corner. All what had to do was run the ball into the corner and the game would have been over,” Killick explained. “Instead, our player had a shot, and the defender ran back and got it, punted it forward, and that was how they scored,” he says.

It was horrendous. That was probably the worst feeling I’ve ever had in football”

“I feel I’m quite good at assessing merits of teams and players, and we were much better than them. We were a better team, with better players. With respect, they were inferior to us, it was just horrendous,” he admits.

The next season was very different though, as the Dolphins were promoted as Southern League South & West Champions, in what was a memorable season for the club, where they won a league and cup double. “There was an unbelievable determination, from me, and the players that we wouldn’t be involved in the lottery of the play-offs,” Killick says.

“Some people are motivated by their successes and wanting to replicate those, but I’m much more motivated by the pain of previous defeats,” he reveals.

“I could tell you details of all the games I’ve been involved in as a manager where we’ve lost,” he explains.

Killick then reveals, nodding his head:

I’m driven by my fear of failure”

The Poole Town boss goes on, and explains that he sometimes loses his temper during matches. “I’m quite emotional when it comes to football… it comes from my desire to succeed,” he admits. “I don’t react well to defeats, I find it hard to be sociable after them. I try not to make plans for Saturday evenings!” he jokes.

The Dolphins boss also managed now Premier League star Charlie Austin in 2009, when the English striker netted 46 times in his 46 appearances for Poole that season. “People get a bit carried away when they talk about Charlie. They say that from the minute he walked through the door of the club he was an amazing player and everyone knew the success he would have. That’s just not true,” Killick reveals.

With him I saw a bigger improvement in a shorter space of time than I have ever seen in a player”

“It was only at the end where he had outgrown the club and you could see he was destined for bigger and better things,” he says.

“Charlie was fun to manage, he was a big personality and a very sociable lad. I enjoyed having him around,” Killick says. “I have a lot of affection for him. Killick then reveals with a big smile:

I’m going to his wedding and stag trip in the summer!”

Alongside his duties as manager of Poole, (and when he is isn’t attending Charlie Austin’s stag do!) Killick is a solicitor at Jacobs and Reeves firm in Poole. He explains how it is “horrendous” during the summer when he is sorting player contracts alongside his day job, as well as balancing his personal life.

Killick reveals that he has considered quitting as Poole Town boss “reasonably regularly”. “At times I’ve felt worn out by it all,” he admits. During Killick’s 11 years in charge at Poole, 10 of the seasons he has been in contention to win the league. “Every match there is major significance, that takes its toll,” he says.

You’re trying to work, be a football manager, sometimes other things in your life suffer. You perhaps feel you’re letting down your family”

“Some games you’re stood in the dugout and wonder why you’re doing it to yourself. I wonder: ‘do I even know what I’m doing?'” he admits with a smile.

“As long as I feel the positives are outweighing the negatives I will carry on,” he says defiantly.

When I leave, I want to leave on a high”

But what of his personal aspirations? Killick finishes by saying: “It’s my dream to get Poole into the Conference South and I want to achieve that before I even consider stopping.”