NLP Column w/e 26th August
WHETHER it be a chairman all too quick to pull the trigger on a manager after a disappointing run of results, or a star player switching allegiance to your big rivals for an extra few quid on the hip, a long-standing relationship is a rare trait in football these days.
At elite level, you can count the loyal few on both hands. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger immediately spring to mind, then throw in the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Gerrard, Carragher and Terry, all of whom have their names firmly etched in folklore at their respective clubs.
Generally speaking, Non-League football is not quite as cut throat as the professional game when it comes to hiring and firing, but the concept of a one-club man, who fans can call their own, is sadly a dying entity.
One man who bucked the trend, however, is Gordon Bartlett. Twenty-two years as manager of Wealdstone, he was the longest serving manager in English football – pre-dating Wenger by 16 months – until he unceremoniously stepped down at the west London club five matches into the new campaign.
The 61-year-old took over as Stones boss in June 1995 with the club still in the Isthmian Third Division and took them to within a whisker of the National League South play-offs last term.
The arrival of new chairman Peter Marsden 12 months ago altered the financial dynamic of the club completely and finally gave Bartlett his best chance yet of fulfilling his dream of taking the Stones to the top of the Non-League ladder.
Yet still the wily campaigner but club before personal pride and decided that the Gordon Bartlett legacy should be best served by taking over a role in youth development.
“This is undoubtedly a tough decision,” said school teacher Bartlett, who has struck up quite a relationship with us all here at NLP Towers over the years. “We are in an ambitious era with the club, with a significant financial increase.
“Peter and I have sat down and agreed it isn’t working so it’s time for a change and unfortunately the buck stops with me.
“I have a huge amount of pride on the success and progress we have made since my arrival in 1995. I move on with some brilliant memories and the knowledge the club is in a far better place than when I took over.”
In a heartfelt statement, Marsden paid a glittering tribute to the departing manager, added: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Gordon Bartlett for his 22 years at the helm of Wealdstone Football Club.
“Often working in trying conditions which would have confounded lesser managers, Gordon has been pivotal in the club re-establishing itself as a force in the Non-League game. He is quite simply a Wealdstone legend.”
Marsden pretty much sums up the feelings of every Wealdstone fan when looking back on the achievements of the club’s favourite son. Knowledgable, charming and the consummate professional both on and off the field, his are very big shoes to fill.
Written by Jon Couch