We don’t usually cover NCEL Premier Division side Staveley Miners Welfare but we were contacted by their manager Brett Marshall and this morning conducted our usual end of season interview with the honest and forthright manager.
It was Staveley’s third ever best League placing and their second best points per game ratio in the Northern Counties so it’s a big well done! You must be pleased.
Yes, very pleased. A disappointing end but it’s always difficult for the run in when there’s not a deal to play for. It means a lot more probably to managers, finishing one place higher or whether it’s top ten but we’re really delighted. When you look at the season as a whole has been a really good season. We’ve got a good set of lads and, with one or two additions next year, to bring them along a little bit I’m looking forward to it.
You’ve played a lot of youngsters this season. Do you think that’s testament to the whole club itself and the structure that you’re trying to implement?
I don’t think it’s a purposely driven vision. It’s just the opportunity to look at that side. I’ve managed over 700 games and this is the youngest set of lads I’ve probably ever been involved with but sometimes you’ve got to try it all. The ones woh are a bit older come with their downfalls but it’s just the way it’s landed.
One or two came from academies and they know other lads who have been released from academies and they’ve had a great season. 53 games and a lot of them have played over 40-45 games this season. It’s a lot for some of them who are 19 or 20. 53 games at this sort of level – the NCEL Premier, which is strong – is strong for them, their first taste of senior football.
It was always going to tell at one time but overall it’s been a really, really good season and hopefully we can perhaps go a little better next year.
You’ve only used 28 players throughout the whole season, which is one of the lowest in the Northern Counties. How does that make you feel and what does that say about Staveley Miners Welfare?
What it says is, as Manager and as a management team, you can’t just make kneejerk reactions of making quick decisions on players and I’ve always been fair to players to give them longevity of playing football. It’s like with managers, you’ve got to give them a period of time to see if there’s any bright light at the end of the tunnel. From my point of view, this set of lads are no trouble, which is one thing! On another side, sometimes you do want that little bit of bite at times. It’s just getting that balance right.
There’s no point in chopping and changing. We have a system of how we play. People know how we play. It’s got more positives than it has negatives but it has one or two negatives, which we’re trying to improve on for next year so the games that we have lost against certain styles, we’re stronger next year to put up with it and cope with it.
Next season three clubs from the Northern Counties Premier will get promoted. Do you think it will be easier to get promoted or do you think there will be more clubs throwing money at it to go up?
There’ll always be people throwing money! It’s how long they throw it at it before they make a decision to take it away – that’s when you see the frantic exchanges in transfers. I don’t particularly care what sort of money. Money doesn’t buy you anything and there are one or two clubs who have been testament to that over the last four or five years. Money doesn’t guarantee anything.
The bottom line is: value for money. If you’re throwing a lot of money at it and the players you get you get the rewards that you set out, that’s the objectives you set, then it’s a good job well done. There are a lot of people who are throwing big money at it and get nothing back so it’s no value for money.
From my point of view, I don’t particularly care. I think similar clubs – the best well-run clubs – will still be in and around that. There have been some good clubs: a couple of the clubs who came up. I’m very impressed with Knaresborough, very impressed with Eccleshill and Yorkshire Amateur, when we played them the first time, they were absolutely unbelievable. The second time we really gave them a lesson but, again, all three clubs have had really, really good seasons. What’s coming into the League are clubs which I feel are run properly so it’s going to be a good, competitive League. It’s not about winning the League. It’s about preparation for the League above as well, which is a completely different ball game to Step 5.
In what way is it different?
Stronger. The teams are strong, fitter and technically better. Instead of having three, four, five good players they’ll have seven, eight, nine. Instead of having good right wingers, which a lot of teams will have, they’ve got a lot more good left wingers . Better people on the ball. It’s a lot, lot stronger, as we’ve seen with a couple of teams who went up with these last year.
Pickering and AFC Mansfield went up at a canter, with a certain style but differing – Pickering have a slightly different style to ACF – and both struggled to adapt to it. Ponte have been a revelation and really good to them but it’s a completely different league. The preparation is different. The managers are ringing each other to find out how other teams play. It’s a completely different ball game once you go to EvoStik. I’ve always said and I’ll maintain it: North East Counties Premier Step 5 is the last level of non-league football.
When you go to EvoStik, it’s semi-professional football. That’s it in a nutshell for me. It’s a completely different ball game at EvoStik. It’s a terrific level for people who want to be at that level and we’ll all cross those bridges when we come to it.
Is that something to which Staveley aspire?
As a football club we know where we are. You’ve got to understand that the financial restraints of certain clubs means there’s no point in going into unchartered waters if you’re not prepared. Decisions are made at the time you can prepare for what you’re going to go to. You’ve only got to look at the amount of clubs who are really at the wrong level; they’re punching above their weight.
We’ve had it this year with Ferriby. Ferriby have done excellent over the last decade or so then they’ve ended up where they’ve got themselves in a mess but, with all due respect, they were probably still paying a budget. The easy one is: don’t pay your budget; pay the money you owe. Pay your bills! If you don’t pay your gas or electric, you freeze in your house before you go on holiday. It’s all about paying your bills and keep your house in order.
From my point of view, football clubs need to do a little more of that. It’s not all about throwing money at the players because you might as well throw five litres of blood in the sea and watch every shark come from a fifty-mile radius to it. That’s exactly the same as football but it will always be. It’s been like that the last twenty-five or thirty years, when I played. It’s not changed. You’ve got to be stronger and work harder to find the players who are not simply motivated by money.
You’re pretty quiet in the realms of pre-match and post-match previews for ourselves. What’s the meaning behind that and what do you think of other managers who do come out each week and voice their opinion?
To be honest with you, week in, week out I’ve got nothing to say. As I’ve said before, a lot of the managers unfortunately who do make comments week in, week out generally criticise referees or blame the fact they’ve got players injured or away to dilute failure. It’s as simple as that: they dilute failure. The bottom line is we’ve all got injuries. We’ve all got people who’ve booked a stag do. We’ve all had referees who might have made the odd mistake but that happens at this level. Centre forwards, centre halves, goalkeepers, right backs… they all make mistakes.
These aren’t professional people, these referees. They do their best and they work hard so yes, they make mistakes. We had a couple yesterday but you’ve got to get on with it. The modern manager is completely different. Back when I started twenty years ago, you just got on with it but today it all seems to be about self-publicising constantly and a one-person self-promoting document in social media. Just get your head down and do it! Certain managers do and have backed it up; credit to them. Some managers just live their lives on social media and promote themselves who’ll do nothing. They’ll end up sweeping dressing rooms out because that’s all they’re fit for, to be fair.
Credit where it’s due and the longevity of being in management is credit to anyone, with all the managers who have been around over the years. Marshy at Pickering, Billy Fox, people like that who have had well over a decade, fifteen, twenty years at it. You’re doing something right if you’re at it a long time but people come in two minutes and suddenly think that they’re turning into Pep Guardiola overnight but, at the end of the day, get your head down, manage and get on with it. The results and the longevity will get you the benefit and the credit that you’ll deserve. Simple as that.
You’re coming up to four years in management at Staveley. You’ve managed over 700 games in total. If you look down the list of Northern Counties sides, there are quite a few managers now who have gone three or four years. How much importance does longevity have with clubs at this level?
A lot but the problem is the people who make the decisions – normally a benefactor if it’s money driven – have got to be on the same wavelength or what the objective is at that football club. If it’s wrong, it’s always going to fail because the problem is, as soon as you start losing football games, everybody thinks that certain managers have a secret remedy to win football matches. It doesn’t happen like that. Nobody would have banked on Spurs losing yesterday. The amount of bets and the amount of money that was lost on that decision! Even at the top level.
What you’ve got to do is have a clear picture in front of you of what your football club’s all about. Everybody talks about the EvoStik dream but people have got to the EvoStik and it’s been the end of them. It becomes the beginning of the end. Let’s be honest, you may lift a trophy and in September people could be calling for your head because you’re not winning football games. You hear the terms, “They’re out of their depth” or “They only knew players at that level”. You’ll hear it! Everybody’s got an opinion. The bottom line is: we all do it generally as a hobby and you’ve just got to work hard. Don’t try and to make something out of what’s not and there are too many unfortunately who are like that nowadays.
It’s been a great year. There have been some really, really good managers. I’d like to give Worksop a shout because they deserve it. Craig’s just started his management career – a couple of years – and he’s started off at a wonderful high. He’s got a team there that’s made for this level and I wish the club all the best for the future. As a non-league club really, as they say, they shouldn’t be playing at this level but they’re in a level now where they should be playing. This is when the pressure starts! I’ve been there. I’ve won this League, the same as Craig has, and within six months I’d lost more games in the first six games than I had the previous twelve months.
That’s the sort of thing you’ve got to handle. I’m sure they’re going to have a good ride at it but credit to them. They’ve been the best team in the League and that’s why they’ve won it.
The League is going to be very interesting next season. Very interesting!
You played in a generation which is a lot different to nowadays. The modern player, as such, has probably got a different attitude, commitment and lifestyle to twenty years ago. How much have you seen the game evolve in that aspect?
I started playing senior football in 1986 when I was 17. Back then, basically 90% of the sides were full of miners and builders so the mentality of the players was completely different but that’s a generation ago. The modern player is a different player. Children are brought up different;y. I had fifteen lashes across my arse with my dad’s belt if I did anything wrong! Now you don’t even shout at people so it’s completely changed. You’ve either got to stand back and stand with everybody else criticising it and criticising whatever you do or don’t get involved with management or walk away from it.
How do you deal with the players now? You’ve been in management since 2002 so, in the past sixteen years – especially with social media – it’s massively evolved. It’s a good thing in one aspect but managing the players must be difficult in another.
It is difficult but let’s not kid ourselves, at NCEL level or even above. You see these lads two hours in midweek if you haven’t got a game. You see them on a Saturday and midweek if you have a game so you can’t really do anything with them technically but what you can do is find out about them. It’s all about man management, as you can see with sides who do well. The ones really who get involved with the players and just listening to who they are, finding out what they do for a living. Have a chat with them.
That’s the level that they’re at. In the old days, as we used to say, a lot of people laugh at this but when they were going out they were ripping the door off to get out! You came in at half time or you came in at full time and there were all-on fights in the dressing room between players! When you stepped back out again into the bar, everybody was chatting chitchat. Now, you’ve only got to look at the professional game. You’ve got Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira, absolutely at loggerheads walking out of a tunnel onto a pitch. The other night I watched a game – Real Madrid – and everybody’s cuddling everybody on their way out so that’s the way the world and the football game’s evolved.
You’ve got to either accept it and embrace it or walk away from it. There’s no point in moaning about it. As regards life, they are different but you’ve got to find a way of not hitting them with an iron rod but giving them discipline. Also giving them the freedom to play and just hope that they’ve got that work ethic when they’re playing football at this sort of level.