NLP Column – 16th August 2016
This week’s NLP programme column written by Sam Elliott.
FANS favourite Jackie McNamara never did want to become a football manager. An hour into the club’s Non-League return last weekend, he probably wished he’d never softened his stance.
A legend north of the border, the 42-year-old was asked to pose for a picture by a couple of starry-eyed Maidstone United fans who had waited a good half an hour after the season opener to meet their Celtic hero.
“I had seen too many managers – guys who’d done a lot in the game – shown a lack of respect by lads who had achieved nothing,” he said before getting the York City job. “I said to myself then ‘no way, not a chance’.”
Not many were giving his Minstermen a chance. Not after their pathetic tumble out of the Football League, and certainly not after a National League curtain-raiser which had hardly seen the goalkeeper of Maidstone – a club in the Ryman South less than a decade ago – touch the ball before Clovis Kamdjo nodded them level against the run of play.
For a man who played in a World Cup, and always one to speak his mind, watching his team trudge around the Gallagher Stadium very much in pre-season mode must have left him wondering why he didn’t follow his gut instinct.
But things change quite quickly. A scruffy 1-0 win over Macclesfield on Tuesday night offered hope that York can mix it. A productive return from games against form sides Boreham Wood and Gateshead and a decent start actually becomes a rather good one. Ability to dig deep yes, but from the evidence so far, his team are badly missing a goalscorer.
Richard Brodie’s signing in the summer was a weird nostalgia trip, probably instigated from boardroom level. Trying to take a trip down memory lane with an obviously unfit player who scored nearly every other game in his three years from 2007-2010 smacks of fan-pleasing.
Aidan Connolly and Scott Fenwick may take longer to hit double figures than they need, but McNamara can call on a defence marshalled by three solid central defenders to keep clean sheets.
The win over Macclesfield on Tuesday was the club’s first clean sheet since February and it was in part down to goalkeeper Scott Flinders, the only surviving member of the squad which were relegated from the Football League last April. Does something sound familiar? A club dropping out of League Two in a bit of a mess and having a near total clear out.
Cheltenham Town manager Gary Johnson went for wholesale changes last summer, so McNamara knows there’s a history for clearing the decks and bringing success. As York went down, Cheltenham took their place.
“I’ve only had five weeks working with them, but they are good, honest lads – they have a good way about them,” he told me after the uninspiring 1-1 draw at Maidstone.
“I honestly feel like there are players in my dressing room now who will fight for each other and after coming down that is what you really need. It’s encouraged me.
“Hopefully they can come together quickly. It’s happened before in this league as we’ve seen and we see no reason why we can’t forge a relationship very quickly.”
Last year Cheltenham, in 2015 Bristol Rovers. Before Darrell Clarke returned the Pirates to League 2, we had waited ten years since Paul Simpson took Carlisle back at the first time of asking.
What goes down doesn’t come up, they used to say. York City and Dagenham now know that it’s not the unthinkable task it once was.