Lewes’ new manager Tony Russell was ‘blown away’ by the club and admits it was one of the main reasons behind him joining.

Russell and his assistant Joe Vines, who used to play for the Rooks, signed a two-year deal at the Dripping Pan on Sunday.

The pair had been at BetVictor Isthmian Premier side Cray Wanders for six seasons, but left last month.

But they have now joined the Rooks, who were without a manager after they parted company with Hugo Langton last month.

Russell began his management career at Erith Town where he won the Kent Senior Trophy before moving on and winning successive promotions with VCD Athletic.

Where he took the club into Step 3 for the first time in its history.

He was then appointed as manager of Cray Wanderers in 2015, with his side winning the Isthmian South East in 2018/19.

They finished second in the null and voided 2019/20 Isthmian Premier season and just outside the play-offs in the curtailed 2020/21 season.

But he spoke about how the move to Lewes came about.

He told the Argus: “Strangely. The Chairman of Cray is friends with Stuart Fuller, so I sometimes saw him at the ground and said hello.

“Then I was on a podcast with Nick Robinson and a few others and Stuart was on there and we were having a bit of a debate about the decision to null and void and other things.

“Stuart then privately messaged me and said can I interview you for a book and was interviewing loads of people for the book and asked me if I could do an interview with him on how I was as a player and how I got into management.

“So we had built a relationship recently.

“Then as luck would have it I left Cray on the same day that Lewes parted company with Hugo by pure coincidence.

“Then Joe Vines my assistant started saying to me what a great club is Lewes and I said but it is a long way, but he kept saying it is a proper football club, when I played for them they did this.”

He added: “Joe then said let’s get on the Zoom call with the guys and let them tell you what they are trying to do with the club etc.

“I almost a little bit reluctantly jumped on the Zoom call. Half an hour in I found myself getting closer to the screen and I was just blown away by them.

“I was just taken back by them as people, for what they stand for, the way they go about it, and what they want to do going forward.

“So we ended that call which went on for over two hours and then we got invited down to Lewes to look at the ground and the training facility next to it, just more talking and meeting more people.

“They are all very good and humble people, who are so passionate about their football club.

“They are also so proud of what they are doing with the women’s team and the men’s team and stuff they want to do in the community, which I liked.

“But it really just hit a note with me and then I had another Zoom call with Stuart and then he spoke to me afterwards and said we would love you to come on board.”

Russell also admitted Vines played an important role in persuading him to join the club.

He said: “Joe for those who would have not seen him play, he is a very passionate footballer, but as an assistant manager he is very calm and collected.

“But it is probably the most passionate I have seen him, he was pushing me to come to Lewes and wanted us to go.

“At the start when I was a bit cold to it he drove me and we drove down on Saturday and Sunday to sign contracts, we were buzzing and both so excited.

“So feeding off his energy was important, he speaks about the club so well and I feel like I am part of it already.”

However, someone else also played an important role in Russell’s joining.

He said: “Dale Hurley the U18’s manager, we are bringing him in on the coaching side and he is just as important as well.

“As he has got his ear to the ground of the best young players, so it is a real conscious effort.

“To have that longevity I need to have local players and want to produce young players.

“At Cray I set up the youth team as they didn’t have one.

“In my time youngster coming through had made over 300 appearances.

“When we won the league the guy who got the golden boot was Freddie Parker and he came through the youth team.

He added: “I know it connects with the fans and everyone.

“Everything I am doing is going to drive towards that.

“So I am going to lay seeds in the ground right now in the next three or four months that most won’t see.

“But hopefully then by this time next year we will be flourishing when we are producing plenty of local young players.

“I want to connect with the locals and my plan is to play attacking football.

“I have been fortunate to have won a couple of leagues and score over 100 goals in those seasons.

“So, for me it is all about playing good football, scoring loads of goals and, producing loads of local players.”