The latest plethora of managerial changes in and around Non-League football has certainly caused some raised eyebrows. Managers leaving roles, mutual parting of companies and sackings – with fans up and down the country ferociously refreshing social media accounts to check the latest news.
Over the past couple of weeks we have featured articles from former Handsworth Parramore manager James Colliver and ex-Parkgate manager Billy Fox, who both gave honest accounts after leaving their respective clubs.
Late last week it was announced that EvoStik Premier Division East side Cleethorpes Town had also lost their long-term manager, Marcus Newell, as he had decided to step down from the prestigious role he had held for over six years – taking up the role of Director of Football, a position previously held by former Grimsby Town legend John McDermott.
We, at The Bootiful Game got to know Marcus very well from our time at the club from 2012-2017, when we saw the club raise from Step 6 NCEL Division One to the FA Vase Final at Wembley Stadium and EvoStik status in just four seasons.
Marcus’ reign also saw him retain most, if not all, his players from season to season with a few additions just to strengthen his already great side. His knowledge and leadership saw ex-Professional’s Peter Winn, Matthew Bloomer, Daniel North and recently Craig Disley, Scott Vernon and Paul Walker swell the ranks.
Many of their players are local lads and this brings in a real community feel to the squad, and also moving back ‘home’ to The New Linden has certainly raised the profile of The Owls even further.
Talking about the community feel, The Owls announced their new manager straight away by promoting within as Assistant Manager, Dave Smith took the step up to become the main ‘gaffer’.
Dave has been at the club for a number of years, firstly working with the Reserves in the Lincs League before making the leap to the first team under Marcus in 2012, following the departure of Andy Liddle.
His calm and measured approached won over the hearts of the Cleethorpes Town faithful over the years and gained respect through building a strong relationship with the players and having a meticulous approach to preparing the squad for matches.
Speaking on Saturday to OwlsFM, Dave announced that he was shocked at the news that Marcus was stepping down. Only hearing the news on Monday just 24 hours before their game away at Wisbech, he said, “I think we were all shocked. It hit everyone hard, when Marcus made his decision, but it probably hit me harder. I spent a lot of time with Marcus on Monday, trying to talk him out of it, being totally honest, and talking through everything, however, it was very clear that he felt it was the right decision for him.
“He was excited about his future and the role he wanted to play at the club and, when we finished, he asked me to step up because he wanted to show that it’s a plan we’ve been talking about. It’s continuity. It shows what we have built over the past five or six years, with more than us included, that we were there to be strong enough to progress from that point.
“Once he’d done that, someone I respect and someone who’s taught me so much in football and someone I’ll go to from now on as well… once he’d asked me that, then I gladly accepted. We spoke to the club from there to see what their views would be.”
Attention then turned to their recent home form, and the fact that their start to the season hadn’t been what most had expected. “The home form is the problem, to be honest. The pitch has different dimensions and we’re learning to adapt to that, after all we made an awful lot about coming home, and quite rightly. It’s a massive step for the club, it’s the right direction to go and it gives us a settled home base to play from. However, it has invoked new pressures on everyone around the club, in terms of the players and the management, to go out there and deliver the goods as all eyes are on us. It’s new and it plays different!”
“I think what we need to do is train on the pitch. I think the pitch is standing up superbly well. That’s all credit to everyone’s efforts and work in the summer. I think once we get people more comfortable with it, we’ll be able to relax around it. Everyone who comes in this ground to watch the boys want them to do well and if they can understand that – well, apart from 20 or 30 opposition fans but we soon shout them down anyway! – but everyone comes in the ground willing the boys to do well and wanting to watch good football and wanting them to be successful. It’s just getting boys to understand that, that everyone’s behind them.
“It’s bigger crowds as well! You do feel it, it’s much more on top of it and it’s just adjustment, I feel. We’ve had some really good Cup performances here, let’s not forget. It’s adjusting to our surroundings, playing our football, enjoying being here, feeling like a home and I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
The appointment of Dave at the helm of the First Team, saw an opening at Assistant Manager level and it was announced that defender and former Football League veteran Matthew Bloomer would step into the role. Dave touched on the fact that ‘Blooms’ might one day hang up his boots and take the role on a full-time basis.
“The playing bit’s down to Blooms. Blooms probably thinks he’s got five years in him and we’ll see how it goes. Blooms has got to be thinking about what’s next for him. Just on that – I know you’re saying main assistant and everything else – I have appointed a management team there that I will work with and we’ll make an awful lot of decisions by committee. I’ll have the final say but I want everybody’s input because I think they all offer different things.
“I’ve got a real different mix there of characters, experience and knowledge that’s going to help me. Then go into the changing room and deliver the message that we’ve all agreed on: that’s how I’ll work. It’s critical that I’ve got the people I wanted in.
“On Blooms, like I said Blooms I’ve known a long time. People might not know that. They might just think from my time at Cleethorpes Town but I’ve known Blooms a hell of a long time. He’s someone Irespect from just the way he conducts himself, he’s been a professional footballer and he’s made the very best of everything he had to go and make something for himself.
“The dressing room… that one will just make sense to him. I think the boys were probably hoping that he got involved at some point – whether it was now or somewhere in the future – and he commands the respect immediately of the players. He gives me that inside information as well. I don’t mean that he snitches on the players! What I mean is he’s been a player amongst this group and he can talk to me more about the mood, how they feel or how they’ve reacted to certain things, which is a different perspective that we’ve not had.
“Blooms will play as long as he’s playing well. I’m sure when he sends me a team his No. 5 spot’s off! We’ll see how that goes.”
Dave also announced that Jon Davy would be stepping up as Assistant Manager in a joint role with Blooms; while after a period of rest, Matthew Powell would take the mantle of First Team Coach.
With change and transition in management, there is always a sense of trepidation, but Dave is confident that the dressing room will remain focused and on track. “The most important thing is, this isn’t about me being all, ‘Yeah, that’s a great profile opportunity for me! Etc.’ The main crux of me coming into this, is to continue the work we’ve done and help the lads in the team do well and we shared this view with the boys on Thursday at training. Jason Ledden, the Chairman came down and spoke from a club perspective, talking about me and then I addressed the players. Although I know the boys well, obviously, it’s a different dynamic for them now in terms of who I am to them.”
“I won’t change an awful lot. I am who I am. I’m not someone who’s just going to be all of a sudden shouting and barking things at them and changing the way I am. It’s just a bit more respect and responsibility. The boys responded really well with some really good messages and they got on with it on Thursday. We had a really good session. Jon [Davey] put on a fantastic session and that got talked about and it was really good fun but hard work and technical and they came away buoyant about it. When I’ve announced the backroom, there been good messages there as well. It makes an awful lot of sense to them. They’re looking forward to being a part of that.”
A big thanks to Ellie Dalglish for her excellent transcribing skills.