Ex-cabbie has taken long road to top job
JIMMY Dack may be inexperienced but if there’s one thing Newport’s new gaffer won’t lack it’s a bit of dressing room banter. From his days as a Non-League player with Sutton United and Aldershot to the nights spent driving a black cab around the streets of London, the 42-year-old has never been short of a word or two.
“Chatty, bright, friendly – he’s a fantastic, enthusiastic character who loves his football,” said Bruce Elliott, the Sutton chairman who has known Dack for a quarter-of-acentury. “It’s hard to say anything more about Jimmy because that perfectly sums him up.”
Dack’s popularity is not confined to his old boss. Widely regarded as one of the nicest men in the game, team-mates at the U’s still remember the midfielder dropping in for a pint and a chat long after he’d left to join Graham Westley at Farnborough.
And former Spurs defender Justin Edinburgh was so enamoured that he appointed Dack his assistant at Fisher Athletic, Grays and Newport. If rumours are to be believed, the pair could link up again at Gillingham this summer.
It’s all a far cry from Dack’s days of touring the highways and byways of the Non-League game before climbing in his cab to earn a crust.
Released by Brentford as a youth, the midfielder played for Epsom & Ewell, Dorking, Crawley, Carshalton, Aldershot and Farnborough, winning the Isthmian League title at the latter under Westley in 2000-01.
But it was always Sutton which held the greatest pull. Three times he joined his local club, the first as an 18-year-old in 1990, the last some nine years later. In all, Dack made more than 270 appearances, crowned by Isthmian League glory in 1998-99.
“He’ll always be held in high esteem here,” added Elliott. “We see him often and he’s one of those who has always kept in touch with his team-mates.
“Whenever Jimmy pops in to see a game – which he does regularly – everyone remembers him and he’ll always stop for a chat. I hope he’d say he has fond memories of us and it’s always very nice when ex-players come back. It shows you did something right.”
Indeed, had Elliott got his way, Dack would have managed Sutton seven years ago. Forced to retire through a knee injury in 2003, Dack spent time on Westley’s coaching staff at Farnborough and Stevenage, helping Boro reach the Conference playoff final in 2006.
He then returned to Gander Green Lane as caretaker-boss when Ernie Howe was sacked, only to turn down a permanent job because it would interfere with his job as a cabbie.
Even during his time with Edinburgh, Dack would bomb up and down the M4 to Newport in his Hackney Carriage, only giving up the day job in the season the Exiles won promotion to League Two. Fiercely loyal (in 1994, Crawley boss Ted Shepherd was fired for letting his players have a quiet drink on the eve of an FA Cup first round tie and Dack quit the club in sympathy), he has stuck by Edinburgh for the last six years, helping him take Newport from almost relegation to Conference South to the brink of League One.
And such was his popularity in the dressing room that when Edinburgh joined Gillingham last month, the Exiles’ players successfully petitioned their chairman (Les Scadding) to give Dack the top job until the end of the season.
“It was an obvious choice,” says Newport striker Aaron O’Connor, who also worked with Dack at Grays. “Nobody knows the players as well as Jim. He’s immensely popular, a bubbly guy whose always got a smile on his face. A lot of No. 2s are quite quiet and just tend to hide behind the manager.
“But Jim’s bright and loud, he’s one of the lads. He has dinner with us, plays table tennis with the boys, has a good laugh.
“I think he was happy being an assistant. Whether that’s still the case I don’t know. But if he goes well here, then it could be a new chapter for him.
“There have already been a few differences. Before it was a case of ‘We’ll do what we’re best at and see if other teams can deal with it’. It wasn’t a bad strategy but now there’s a bit more analysis of the opposition, more work on countering their strengths. Tactically, he’s spot-on.
“But the biggest thing is still his personality. Win or lose, Jim is always the same upbeat, enthusiastic character.”
IN WITH A SHOUT: New Newport County manager Jimmy Dack
PLAYING DAYS: Jimmy Dack in action for Aldershot