Bluebirds have a new Belgian boss

Nicky Hayen appointed manager of Haverfordwest County


Haverfordwest County have announced their new manager to take over from Wayne Jones and it is what chairman Rob Edwards described as an appointment that might be considered by some as ‘left field’ because Nicky Hayen will become, subject to the necessary work permit, the first-ever Belgian manager to take charge of a club in the JD Cymru Premier League.
But chairman Edwards is clearly delighted with his appointment as he told how his new manager came to his attention through a managers’ forum where the Belgian expressed a wish to be considered for the job.

Chairman Rob is impressed and ready for the challenge

“From the very outset it was evident that he not only had the necessary pedigree through his playing and management experience but shared Haverfordwest County’s values and beliefs. He ticked every box.”
“We have some very good players, and we are currently strengthening the squad so we start the New Year in optimistic mode and ready to face the challenges under our new manager.”

New manager’s background and values

Hayen was interviewed on Zoom by Tom Pritchard, Haverfordwest County’s Media Officer, and spoke impressively about the philosophy he will bring to his new team after the experience he gained throughout a long playing career before he became injured – and after a temporary spell as a player/manager stepped down to a lower division to gain experience.
Whilst acting as an assistant manager in Saudi Arabia he learned the importance of the need to respect differing cultures and values, and not rush in to make changes for change sake, but to assess carefully first and then make decisions calmly and with everyone aware of why they have been made.
It is clear that he has watched The Bluebirds play via television and says that he is seeking flexibility from his players to adapt to situations but also to come off the pitch after every match, win or lose, and be content in the knowledge that they have given total commitment to the cause.

Nicky Hayen gets the best from his players

Looking forward to the challenge

It is evident that he will demand self-belief and the need for players to feel totally part of their club – so it will be interesting to see who the club recruits in this transfer window after he eventually takes over from temporary leaders Sean Pemberton and Jazz Richards.
He says that he likes play to be built up from the back as a result of good ball retention in what he describes as ‘combination football’ and in his Zoom interview, which was well conducted by Tom Pritchard, it was evident that he will soon be exerting his influence at the Bridge Meadow Stadium.
What is for sure is the fact that and it will be interesting to see the reaction of the club’s hardy band of supporters, who are fair-minded and love supporting The Bluebirds – and it is our guess that they will be reassured after watching his initial interview, and we wish him every success in his challenging new role.

Nicky Hayen gives instructions from touchline

This is Haverfordwest County’s statement from Tom Pritchard, announcing the club’s new manager’s arrival:

Haverfordwest County AFC is delighted to confirm the appointment of Nicky Hayen as the club’s new First Team Manager and Technical Director.
The Belgian, who is a UEFA Pro Licence holder, arrives at The Ogi Bridge Meadow on an 18-month contract, with a clause for an additional 12 months – subject to a work permit.
His coaching career to date has seen him take in spells at a variety of clubs, with his most recent role coming with Waasland-Beveren in the Belgian Pro League, which he left at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Prior to this, Hayen had a three-year spell with former club Sint-Truiden, where he initially began work as the Under-18 Manager, before taking over as Caretaker Manager and latterly Assistant Manager of the Belgian Pro League side.
The 41-year-old, who made over 300 senior appearances in a 15-year playing career, began his coaching journey in 2013 when he took the role of Player/Coach at former club Dender in the then Belgian Third Division (now Belgian Division 3).
Hayen’s distinguished career on the pitch, which began in 1999, saw him compete at the highest level of Belgian football with Sint-Truiden, his place of birth, for nine years.
After departing his boyhood club in 2008, he went on to represent RBC Roosendaal, Oud-Heverlee Leuven and Antwerp on loan, before hanging up his boots at Dender.
“I’m very delighted, it was actually an easy choice [to join the club],” said Hayen. “The first conversation with the chairman was a really good one; we were just on the same page, the ambition and the things he wants to realise for the club fit with my ambition and the things I want, so I think it was a match from the first day.
“I hope we can succeed in the coming months and in the future.”
Commenting on Hayen’s appointment, chairman Rob Edwards said: “Nicky may feel like a left field appointment, but he stood out all the way through the process, and his values and philosophies resonate with me personally, and with what I want from Haverfordwest County on and off the pitch.
“He has played a huge amount of games and managed at the highest level within Belgium, and ticks every box of our criteria when we started this recruitment process.
“I am delighted to have somebody of his calibre on board, and I am really looking forward to working with him.”
Nicky will be unable to officially start his role until visa paperwork is complete, so Sean Pemberton and Jazz Richards, who have overseen the previous two matches against Bala Town and Connah’s Quay Nomads, will remain in charge for the upcoming double header with Aberystwyth Town in the JD Cymru Premier.