This time last year, Gavin Allen had just left his post as manager of Aberystwyth Town.
From the pandemic’s hindrance on the JD Cymru Premier schedule to difficulty in recruitment, Allen’s reign had a number of challenges, leading to him falling out of love with the game.
Fast forward to now and he is back in the hot seat at Park Avenue and thriving as manager – this time as boss of the women’s team.
The Seasiders have been a revelation so far this season in the Genero Adran Premier, with Allen bouncing back to remarkably take Aberystwyth into the top four at the end of Phase One.
Looking back at his time as manager of the men’s side, Allen says the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges.
“For me, it was the correct decision at the time to take over," Allen said.
"There were a lot of challenges and I was just a little bit disappointed that after I took the reins because we hit Covid, which made it a very stop-start season.
“I think we had two weeks of pre-season, we played eight games then we were off for two weeks and had to play the four teams that could train of TNS, Bala, Connah’s Quay and Haverfordwest all back-to-back, which made it really difficult and unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.”
The Seasiders were in battle at the bottom of the table and suffered crushing defeats over the Christmas period to the likes of Haverfordwest County, Caernarfon Town and Flint Town United.
A series of disappointing results led to Allen departing his post, which he felt was the correct decision.
“I think it was the right time for me to leave, there were a lot of elements to it. For me as an individual, when you get to a point of not enjoying football, something’s definitely not right.
“I felt that things weren’t right between myself and the club. We’re all here to do what’s best for the football club and I felt that it was best for me to leave.
“It gave me an opportunity to sit down, reflect, make notes, get my laptop up and running, consider where and what I can improve.
“I’ve tried to put those elements into the ladies’ team, which were quite difficult to do with the men’s and at this moment in time, it’s worked.”
Despite the difficulties during his time as manager of the men’s side, Allen expressed that his reign was a learning experience.
“Everything went wrong if I’m honest. At the time, the engagement with the players was difficult; there was only so many zoom calls we could do.
“It was a very difficult situation, but unfortunately, results weren’t good enough. I thought the young players did very well during the period, but it was just a poor time of Covid. For my own management and coaches, I took a lot from it, a lot of experience and a lot that I would probably do differently.”
Allen has since taken up the Seasiders hot set in the Genero Adran Premier and has made a big impact so far.
As well as securing a place in the top four at the end of Phase One, the Seasiders secured a hugely impressive stalemate with back-to-back champions Swansea City.
“From looking at where we were in the last couple of years, we’ve been disappointed to finish bottom of the league for the last two or three years," added Allen.
“We weren’t really winning many games or looking a threat. My thought was to look at the recruitment and what we were doing, looking at the current squad and the areas we needed to improve.
“We brought four or five girls in that have made a massive impact. The league doesn’t lie, it’s been a fantastic first phase for us and hopefully we can improve even more.”
Allen's side will be competing in the Championship Conference in Phase Two after a split-league format was introduced for the first time this season.
They pipped Pontypridd Town to a place in the top four on the final day of Phase One and Allen says they will be aiming to pick up where they left off this Sunday.
“With a lot of the big games, we’ve been not quite negative, but we’ve put a different structure to the girls to make sure we don’t concede, being behind the ball and making it very difficult for the opposition.
“If there was one negative when Phase One came to an end, it was that it did come to an end, because we were in a good place in the dressing room, there was a strong mentality and belief about the girls.
“Hopefully, we can start fresh now and crack on with where we finished, because in the last four games of Phase One, we were excellent in every manner, scoring goals, not conceding and we looked very strong.”