Flicker? He dragged the oth­ers along with him...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

TO those who played with David Fl­itcroft, it is no sur­prise that the 39-year-old has dragged Barns­ley back from the dead.

A ro­bust mid­field de­stroyer, the Lan­cas­trian was never renowned for his pace, his touch or his eye for goal. Sweat, not skill, was the pri­mary prod­uct of his labours in a 15-year ca­reer with Pre­ston, Ch­ester, Rochdale, Mac­cles­field and Bury.

Yet what ‘Flicker’ brought to those teams was ar­guably more valu­able; strength of char­ac­ter, ir­re­press­ible be­lief, un­wa­ver­ing pos­i­tiv­ity.

“As a char­ac­ter in the dress­ing room, there was none bet­ter,” said Paul Simpson, his man­ager at Rochdale in 2002-03.“Flicker was just fan­tas­tic – his work rate, his en­thu­si­asm, his gee­ing-up ev­ery­body else. He was dif­fer­ent class.”

Just as he did at Rochdale that year, Fl­itcroft won player of the sea­son at Bury in 2006-07, a shin­ing light in a rel­e­ga­tion-haunted sea­son.

“I don’t like to pick play­ers out, but David was out­stand­ing right through that sea­son,” said Ian Miller, as­sis­tant to man­ager Chris Casper that year. “He picked the lads up and car­ried the fight to them. He dragged the play­ers along with him, had the be­lief and the de­sire and was out­stand­ing.”

As he said in an emo­tional in­ter- view af­ter last week’s vic­tory at Hull, it is a trait be­stowed upon him by dad John, who died aged 59 in 2008.

A painter and dec­o­ra­tor be­fore set­ting up the fam­ily prop­erty busi­ness, John would work long shifts be­fore tak­ing David and brother Garry – who went on to play in the Pre­mier League with Black­burn – all over the coun­try to play games.

“Our dad in­spired us and pushed us, as much as any dad could,” said David Fl­itcroft. “We owe ev­ery­thing to him. Any­thing I have ever done is down to my up­bring­ing.

Leader

“My dad taught me work ethic, courage, never give up and if some­one wants to fight you, fight them. If you don’t beat them, find an­other way to fight them. He al­ways main­tained that. He was the great­est leader you could have.”

That fam­ily bond is also why Fl­itcroft – who spent his en­tire ca­reer in the base­ment di­vi­sion – never felt any jeal­ousy to­wards his el­der brother.

“I never felt that be­cause I al­ways felt part of his suc­cess,” he said. “I watched him, sup­ported him, just like dad. When he did well, it felt like we all did well.”

If fam­ily gave Fl­itcroft his start in football, then it was a friend who gave him a spring­board into man- age­ment. He met Keith Hill when they played at Rochdale and the pair swiftly be­came best mates.

And when Fl­itcroft gave up on football to help his dad run the fam­ily busi­ness, it was Hill who per­suaded him to be­come his as­sis­tant at Rochdale in 2007.

“He said it might last two weeks or might last two years and it was a hard de­ci­sion at the time for me,” re­called Fl­itcroft. “But he said to me: ‘How would you han­dle it see­ing some­one else stood on the Wem­b­ley touch­line with me on TV as my right-hand man?’

“Those words were the de­cid­ing fac­tor in me leav­ing the fam­ily busi­ness and mov­ing back into football and it proved the right de­ci­sion as within two years we were at Wem­b­ley.”

As ‘Hill­croft’ the pair be­came one of the most renowned dou­ble acts in the busi­ness, lift­ing Dale out of League Two for the first time in 36 years and then to the cusp of the League One play-offs a year later. T hey also nur­tured an in­cred­i­ble crop of strik­ers, in­clud­ing the likes of Glenn Mur­ray, Adam Le Fon­dre, Jor­dan Rhodes and Chris Dag­nall, now with the Tykes.

“Keith is an in­spi­ra­tional char­ac­ter,” said Fl­itcroft. “He taught me com­mu­ni­ca­tion, or­gan­i­sa­tion, the power to for­give a player af­ter he’s made a mis­take, how to coach, to men­tor and dis­ci­pline. He showed the way in punc­tu­al­ity and lead­er­ship.”

Then came the move to Cham­pi­onship Barns­ley. Hav­ing kept the Tykes up, a run of de­feats cost Hill his job in De­cem­ber.

And but for pub­lic re­jec­tions from Sean O’Driscoll and Terry Butcher, Fl­itcroft may well have fol­lowed him. As it was, the Barns­ley board asked Fl­itcroft to steady the ship and, nine wins later, he was handed a full-time con­tract. Now he is once more us­ing that force of will to rally the troops.

“His en­thu­si­asm is ridicu­lous,” said mid­fielder Jim O’Brien. “When we see that it helps us get mo­ti­vated and want to do well for him and for our­selves.

“As a leader he is right up there and he kept calm and pos­i­tive even when we lost a cou­ple of games.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

DRIV­ING FORCE: Barns­ley boss David Fl­itcroft and, be­low, in his play­ing days at Rochdale

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