WHITBY Town begin a new era on Saturday when player-manager Darren Williams takes charge for the first time, at fourth-placed Hednesford Town, writes Andrew Snaith.
Williams (34), who made over more than appearances in the Premiership for Sunderland, was appointed on Wednesday afternoon, finding out just a couple of hours before Blues fans on the club website.
Town’s new boss told the Whitby Gazette: “It is something I was looking to get into - I’ve done coaching in and around the area- Darlington, Middlesbrough etc.
“And knowing the lads at Whitby, I feel theres a possibility for me there and an opportunity to further my career in a different aspect.
“I do have some useful contacts here and there - I was at Sunderland for a long time, I played at Hartlepool as well and I have good friends at Darlington.”
Chairman Graham Manser attended the team’s regular training session, addressing players and staff before an emergency board meeting later in the week confirmed an internal appointment.
In a statement issued just after 4.30pm on Wednesday, Mr Manser said: “On Monday evening, a meeting was held with the players and a full and frank discussion took place regarding the poor results this season.
“The players were confident that results can be turned around with everybody giving 100% and pulling together.
“As a consequence of the team bonding together and not wanting to alienate them by bringing in an outsider, the club have decided to promote from within, making Darren Williams player-manager, with David Campbell as player-coach, both being guided by the experience of Dennis Wheeler.”
Campbell (41) is the club’s popular second-highest appearance-maker, while Wheeler has been goalkeeping coach since January 1996, after an 84-game playing career with the Blues during the 70s.
He also managed his native Guisborough Town to the FA Vase Final in 1980.
Club captain Mark Robinson says the players are excited about the changes, calling them “absolutely tremendous for the club”.
He continued: “Every single one of the lads was in favour of the appointment.
“It was like a new team, it felt like the season starting again, everyone felt fresh and I think it’s what was needed.
“You’ll see a completely new attitude from the players and we just can’t wait to get started - we wanted a midweek game - but we’re just chomping at the bit for Saturday.”
Williams, who’ll be attending a thorough coaching course in the summer, also revealed he’s still thinking over how the new set-up will work:
“I think, ideally, I’d like to spend a bit of time on the sideline and be able to see things from that point of view, rather than being on the field, because sometimes it can take away from your personal game itself, having to try and manage it on the pitch.
“However, this weekend, I’m not 100 per cent sure how we’re going to do it.
“We may both need to be on the field, then obviously Dennis will be in the dugout.
“As of next week, when things have hopefully settled down, we can get sorted and I may need to take more of a step back and be more of a manager.”
The Blues’ recent results at Hednesford have been encouraging with back-to-back wins including an FA Trophy triumph under Bob Scaife last season.
However, this season, the Blues have just one league win from 14 outings and find themselves third from bottom, and exited the FA Trophy on Saturday at Woodley Sports from the league below, hastening Cassidy’s departure.
The Pitmen, in contrast, are unbeaten at home with just two league defeats all season and trail leaders Northwich Victoria by nine points, with two games in hand.
Williams is under no illusion about the size of the task ahead - he also wants new additions soon:
“After Saturday, I think we’ve got to sit down - myself, David Campbell, the chairman and Dennis - and have a look at things, see where we can go and see what’s available out there, because it is apparent that we do need to bring some players in.”
“We’ve got three difficult games coming up in the next few weeks, against really good opposition, but I do feel we can turn things around, given time.
“We’ve 28 games left, the main priority is to stay in the league.
“I have ambitions to go further than that, so obviously, I want to do well and continue doing the job next season, but results are key.”
A supporters’ coach leaves the Turnbull Ground at 8.30am with seats just £10. Admission at Keys Park for the 3pm kick-off is £10/£9 for adults, £6/£5 concessions, with a family ticket of two adults and two under 16s costing £18, and other discount rates available.
A fixture change means the Blues now travel to Mickleover Sports a week on Saturday (5 Nov) and host Marine on Saturday 21 January.