New Nelson Suburbs MPL coach Neil Connell with the new director of football Ryan ‘Skippy’ Stewart and current coach Steve Bignall. Photo: Jonty Dine.

New appointments for Suburbs


Nelson Suburbs has added a pair of its stalwarts to the management ranks as it looks to cement its status as the region’s strongest club.

Ryan ‘Skippy’ Stewart has assumed the role of director of football while Neil Connell will step up to co-coach the MPL side with Steve Bignall.

The club has taken on Ryan in the full-time development role.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I do love coaching and playing but I also love working on the ins and outs of the club and trying to help the club go where it needs to be and push it as far as I can.”

Ryan says he plans on starting from the bottom to ensure the club has a strong foundation for the future.

“I will be working a lot with the juniors, putting things in place that improve the standards and the enjoyment levels for the players.”

The Suburbs star says he gained invaluable experience at Coastal Spirit working under Gareth Turnbull, who has gone on to coach NZ U20’s.

Ryan says the state of football in the region is healthy.

“Nelson has a lot of young talent, we struggle in a small town a bit, but we want to work with the players we have and not pillage players from all over the place.”

He says the more they can improve the players at the club the more the region will improve.

“We are trying not to be narrow-minded and want to bring players through to the play at the highest level which comes through club.”

With player/coach Ben Wright stepping down, Suburbs has appointed another long-serving club member to the coaching ranks.

Neil will assume the role with Steve as this will be the latter’s last year in charge of the senior side.

“I’m only going to be here overseeing what Neil does, Neil will be taking the majority of training sessions and eventually I will get out of the way,” Steve says.

“This will be my last season, so I will just be looking to help him out as much as possible.”

Neil will hang up his playing boots to take on the role and says he is relishing the challenge.

He says like he did as a player, he hopes to instil determination in his side.

“I was always a fighter on the pitch, never the best player but I would do whatever it takes to win.”

Suburbs will lose the key duo of Mat Todd Smith and Bertie Fish who are moving to Wellington, so Neil and Steve say there will be an element of rebuilding and looking to the future.

“We have still got a lot of good players in Sam Ayers, James McClay, Ed Sillars, Jordan Yong and Corey Wilson.”

Steve says the goal is to better its fourth placed MPL finish last season.

“Another good cup run would be excellent, but the bread and butter is the MPL and we want to climb higher this season.”

Suburbs pre-season training got underway last night with the season set to kick off on March 9.