YORK CITY SOUTH
On Friday March 7 2014, York City South were invited to meet the manager, Nigel Worthington in the team’s hotel on the evening prior to the AFC Wimbledon dame. Nigel and his assistant manager, Steve Torpey, spent over 90 minutes chatting to a group of 11 YCS members. We had a prompt start, beforehand, Nigel noticing how many of us had turned out, had a word at reception and arranged a meeting, personally, I found it much more convivial than previous meetings when we’d all huddled in a corner of the bar, trying to hear the manager above the general noise of the bar.
On arrival, Nigel Worthington found a club still adapting to league football and needed to bring in more league experience. He found a half decent team with good morale and never felt City would be relegated.
His priorities were to learn names, faces and abilities. He drew heavily on Steve’s experience.
He gave the impression of not panicking at City’s lowly position and possible relegation, but set about turning the mentality of lots of draws into wins and to make the players believe in themselves. Drip feeding them chosen words and incremental improvements were subjects he came back to during the evening.
The managerial duo felt that during the first month, the turning points were the goalless draw with Rochdale and the second half at Torquay.
“I walked out and saw 500 at Wimbledon, 700 at Torquay and 1,200 at Dagenham. To have that away support is phenomenal, a great credit to the supporters”.
NOW & NEXT SEASON
The recent win over Exeter pleased NW. He felt we showed resilience to hold on against a good footballing side, something that might not have happened a few months earlier. Southend was a tough game but a good measure of how much we’ve improved.
A few months earlier, the Bristol Rovers FA Cup defeat last November and Bury at Christmas were possibly his low points.
NW suggested clubs now have respect for City and come to Bootham Crescent and knowing they’re going to get a game.
NW is looking for a group of players who can complete both physically and mentally. Steve Torpey noted how the training schedule has been enhanced this season so that all the players do a twice weekly weights session which has resulted in improved physicality and upper body strength.
NW felt he inherited too many players (around 31 or 32) and has sought to run with a leaner squad this season to avoid having disillusioned, disappointed players around the club. This season, his more streamlined squad has meant there is a place for the vast majority of his fit players in every match day squad.
NW believes he has a “great spine of the team, solid keepers, good experience and solid at centre half, good league experience, a bit of bite in midfield and would like another forward to go with what we’ve got. Solid down the middle”. Both full backs also got a positive mention.
NW gave the impression that he doesn’t expect to make too many changes to the squad over the summer.
RESERVE / YOUTH SQUAD
NW believes youth policy is a massive thing in any club and pointed to Cameron Murray recently earning his first professional contract.
At this stage, he was reluctant to run a reserve team, citing the additional players and cost involved, and / or the possibility of having to play players 3 times a week, both pros and youth team players, to make up numbers for a midweek reserve team. In his experience, reserve teams were often full of youth team players, essentially becoming more youth games. He’d rather invest the money saved from a reserve team in either the first team or academy team.
THE NEAR FUTURE
NW believes City are still in a transitional phase personality, mentality and club wise between non league and Football League, something he’s addressed on the field by bringing in players with good league experience.
He noted on the way down to Wimbledon, the team stopped off at the Fulham training ground for a light training session. They’d done the same exactly a year earlier. This time, NW told the squad they’d been there before and knew where to go before realising just one of his squad had been there a year earlier.
He suggested we needed to get properly re-established in the league and that promotion / play offs this season might be a step too quick. The experience of Northampton this season and our 2 unsuccessful conference play off seasons were noted and how the hangover carried over into the next season.
Looking back to his days as Norwich manager, he wouldn’t want to lose again in the play off final, “horrible” being the word he used to describe a penalty shoot out defeat against Birmingham in 2002 which denied Norwich a place in The Premiership. To help to get over it, he took the squad to Spain for a holiday (minimal training involved) at the start of the next pre season.
When asked about his best signings, the first name mentioned was Gary Holt, a Scottish midfielder he signed for Norwich in 2001, who gave him great service over the next 4 years. He holds Darren Huckerby in great affection, ”very unselfish, very kind” and mentioned Dean Ashton, a player he signed for £2.5m and sold for 3 times that amount just a year later.
He has a family home in Norfolk and generally spends about 4 nights a week in York and the other 3 in Norfolk.
THE McGILL FAMILY
NW spoke highly of the McGill family. He felt the club is run like a business, in the same way that the McGills run their successful family business. Since being approached by the McGill family last spring, he has found them to be true to their word, to be “very honest, very loyal and committed to the club”. He knows his budget and is allowed to get on with it. Effectively a budget is a budget, no matter how much it is, its something to manage within and suggested the size of the budget not being too important.
NW suggested City currently have about 16th / 17th biggest budget in D2 and budget is a good indicator of whereabouts a club should finish. He looks forward to the day when City can generate income from the new stadium.
He gave the impression that since leaving the Northern Ireland job in October 2011, he had other approaches to return to club management, but had resisted the temptation as the opportunities didn’t feel right.
With Northern Ireland, he missed the day to day involvement, the club banter and sought to try to fill his time by working with the NI Under 19 and Under 21 sides, which also helped to provide a continuity in the sides but ultimately he was a little frustrated by the lack of quality players at his disposal.
“No manager ever wants to get beat; no player ever wants to get beat” – Nigel Worthington
“Know what you can do, know what you can’t do, just do what you can do” – Nigel Worthington
“Make sure we do what we’re good at” – Nigel Worthington
Throughout the evening, NW returned to familiar themes, getting players to do what they’re good at, drip feeding them with information and ideas, he used the phrase, “steady, sustainable growth”, something which he’d apply to his players, the team and the club.
Maybe a slightly different style to some of the previous managers we’ve met, but Nigel came across as a manager who knows the limitations of the club and players and will address them one small step at a time. He has lots of managerial experience and will go about building City up bit by bit, nothing too ambitious, just “steady, sustainable growth”.
Nigel closed by thanking York City South on behalf of the whole club, for their continued support, both vocally at games and financially, both through the turnstiles and in other ways, noting that the branch was occupying a hospitality box at the home game a week later.
Fellow YCS member, Neil Rank, adds his thoughts on the evening.
We had the pleasure of meeting Nigel Worthington and Steve Torpey on the evening before the Wimbledon game.
Aware of the club from his playing days, Nigel had firstly tapped into Steve’s knowledge of the set up and players. Upon arrival Nigel felt morale was good but after a lengthy winless streak the squad appeared to have lost its winning mentality. First priority was to instil some self belief. Never doubting that we would not get relegated, turning point was the second half performance in the Torquay away game. Very appreciative of the level of support, especially at away games, particularly the last game of the season at Dagenham.
Nigel feels the club is still adjusting to league football after a long absence and whilst pleased with the pace of transition, we are still “work in progress”. He considered the squad he inherited too large, 31, and needed more league experience.
Asked if we would benefit from a reserve side, both felt that such was not really practical in view of the smaller size of the squad. Cost was also a factor and he advised that as we had relatively small playing budget his preference was for behind closed doors friendlies. Obviously the size of the playing budget is inextricably linked to performance on the pitch.
One of his first objectives for this season was to attain 50 points. His low points this season were the performances against Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup and the away game aty Bury. He was however pleased with the performance against Exeter when the team show a battling mentality. We are now drawing games that previously we would have lost and winning games that we would have drawn. Pleasingly clubs are now showing us more respect.
Nigel then gave us a precis of the differences between International and Club management, his strategy for signing players, and his medium and long terms plans for the future. Sadly we then had to draw the evening to a close due to time constraints.
Nigel Worthington: An Appraisal