Jacob Ford feels Westcliff showed “clear signs of progression” throughout the National Two South campaign following their promotion to the fourth tier of English rugby. (Photo Credit: Tim Browne)

Last summer, Ford was appointed as the club’s new head coach and he helped guide Westcliff to safety as the south coast side avoided an immediate return to level five.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league campaign was curtailed and based on the ‘best record playing’ formula devised by the RFU, Westcliff ended up finishing the season 15 points clear of the bottom three.

Ford told Talking Rugby Union’s ‘TRU Talks show’: “[There were] lots of learnings. Lots of learnings for me as an individual as well.

“I feel like it was great first season in terms of understanding who we were working with together, understanding the environment and the people. I think that is really important to get that in the first year and I think we did that.

“The journey from where we started at the beginning of August to towards the end of the season was a long one and we showed clear signs of progression throughout the season.

“We didn’t really get much of a pre-season which put us on the back foot a little bit. We missed out on a few results very narrowly, but after Christmas, fortunes started to turn our way. Impressive results at [Old] Redcliffians in February and Old Albanian away were two highlights and I’d like to think if the season had carried on, we would have picked up a few more results but obviously I am going to say that! I think it has put us in a great stead for next year.”

Even as 2019 drew to a conclusion, things were starting to look brighter for Westcliff as successive home victories over Esher and Redruth sparked their season into life after just one win from their first 11 games.

A key triumph over Sutton & Epsom and a draw against Bournemouth were both positive outcomes at the beginning of 2020, but Ford admitted the club never set goals or targeted specific ‘must-win’ games.

Ford, who is the youngster Director of Rugby in the National Leagues, added: “I always stay very positive. I’d like to think that is one of my traits as a coach. Even when we were losing games narrowly or heavily, I always knew we were progressing and wins were going to come.

“It is important not to set targets and say ‘we are going to win this game, or get this amount of points or, finish this high up in the table.’  I think it is more important to worry about the values because I think if you focus too much on targets, you can come away from the process a little bit or you can forget about the things that actually matter and the things that we want to develop as a team.

“We stuck to our processes and took every game as it came and those results against Esher and Redruth were probably the first signs of where the tables were turning a bit, for sure. They were good games in terms of the character they [the team] showed. That was one thing I couldn’t knock about the lads; they showed fight and even in heavy defeats, they kept on going and playing for each other.”