GOOD, BAD & UGLY

David Fl­itcroft takes a trip down mem­ory lane

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

Afoot­ball. S KIDS grow­ing up in Bolton, David Fl­itcroft and el­der brother Garry knew they wanted a life in

“My dad played Non-League so we spent a lot of time in chang­ing rooms,” ex­plains the 44-year-old, cur­rently work­ing for Le­ices­ter af­ter leav­ing Bury ear­lier this sea­son. “For young lads, the ban­ter and the so­cial side was from a dif­fer­ent planet but we loved it.”

Three decades on – via a solid lower league play­ing ca­reer and suc­cess as a coach along­side close pal Keith Hill – that pas­sion hasn’t faded.

From a de­but un­der Sam Al­lardyce to the tales of Gary Ben­nett and a Span­ish show­down with Ge­orge Gra­ham, the man known as ‘Flicker’ can talk foot­ball like most peo­ple breathe oxy­gen.

FIRST CLUB

Pre­ston North End. I was at Man City as a kid but was promised an ap­pren­tice­ship by Pre­ston so I signed for them at the age of 14.

It was tough love in those days, coaches and se­nior pros on at you all the time. But my dad al­ways used to say ‘When peo­ple don’t have time for you, that’s when they’re fin­ished with you’.

I made my de­but in 1992 when Sam Al­lardyce was care­tak­er­man­ager for a few weeks, but I’d been train­ing with the first team since I was 15.

I re­mem­ber ring­ing my dad when I first got asked to step up. He got a group of his lads off the build­ing site and they all came up to watch over the wall. The ex­cite­ment was in­cred­i­ble.

It’s some­thing I tried to do at Bury. Dur­ing the school hol­i­days, I got all the 15-year-olds to come in and train with us be­cause those days were some of the best mem­o­ries of my life.

BEST MAN­AGER

I loved Steve Parkin at Rochdale. His style suited me per­fectly. When I was out of the team, I knew why. When I was in the team, I knew ex­actly what he wanted.

There was just a pure hon­esty and clar­ity about his man­age­ment. If I wasn’t play­ing, he’d sit me down on a Fri­day and tell me what I needed to do dif­fer­ently. Some­times I’d ac­cept it, some­times I wouldn’t.

But I knew that ev­ery de­ci­sion he made was pro­fes­sional, not per­sonal. That’s some­thing I’ve tried to take into my own coach­ing ca­reer.

BEST TEAM-MATE

Lee Ashcroft at Pre­ston was a phe­nom­e­nal player. So was Tony El­lis. But my out-and-out best team-mate has to be Keith Hill.

We’ve been best mates ever since we played to­gether in the nineties. We coached at Rochdale and Barns­ley.

We had no ex­pe­ri­ence of man­age­ment but our at­ti­tude was just ‘Let’s have a tear-up, let’s take ev­ery­one on and see what hap­pens’. It was so pure and un­spoiled, none of the bulls*** and pol­i­tics of foot­ball.

We used to say ‘Let’s cre­ate a mon­ster, let’s keep go­ing’. We’d beat some top Cham­pi­onship team and on the way home we’d be laugh­ing, mu­sic blar­ing, say­ing ‘What are two lo­cal lads do­ing turn­ing them over?’ I can’t ex­plain what a mag­i­cal time it was, or how much I miss those days.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

Ch­ester City, 1993-94. We had a great sea­son un­der Gra­ham Barrow and the dress­ing room was one of the best I’d known.

We had a mas­sive Liver­pool con­tin­gent and all the lit­tle games we had were Scousers ver­sus the rest. The com­pe­ti­tion was fierce tack­les fly­ing in, no quar­ter given. But it was a great laugh and set the tone for the team.

We had a guy called Roger Preece who led it and some un­be­liev­able pros Mark Leonard, Colin Greenall, Dave Fel­gate, Stuey Rim­mer. Ev­ery­thing just clicked.

FUNNIEST PLAYER

Gary Ben­nett, who used to play for Wrex­ham. An ab­so­lute leg­end. Just think­ing about him makes me laugh. Ev­ery morn­ing he’d sit and tell sto­ries about Harry McNally, the old Ch­ester man­ager. I once saw him on a beach in Ma­galuf, sur­rounded by about 40 or 50 peo­ple, all to­tally cap­ti­vated. I re­mem­ber when in­ter­net dat­ing first started, he’d find some­one to meet ev­ery week. Driv­ing home af­ter an away game, he’d make the bus driver stop at some town half­way up the mo­tor­way, get off and say ‘See you Mon­day, boys’. Then he’d come in with some daft story.

FUNNIEST IN­CI­DENT

When I was man­ag­ing Barns­ley, we lost 5-3 to Bris­tol City. Three set-pieces. I wanted to make a point about dis­ci­pline and or­gan­i­sa­tion so, be­fore a trip to Spain, I went to Toys R Us and bought some of those lit­tle toy sol­diers.

Then I made all the lads pick one out of a bag. I said ‘Right - for the next three days, you do not lose that sol­dier. Re­mem­ber what he’s do­ing. Be­cause when­ever I blow my whis­tle, you need to drop ev­ery­thing and pull that pose’.

Any­way, we went to this restau­rant on the first night and who should be sat there but Ge­orge Gra­ham. Stern face, look­ing im­mac­u­late.

Be­fore long, the lads were ev­ery­where. Danc­ing, talk­ing to girls, ties round the head. One of them had the res­i­dent singer slung over his shoul­der. It was chaos.

Ge­orge pulled me over and said ‘So, are you the man­ager of this rab­ble?’ He started telling me how a team was noth­ing with­out dis­ci­pline. I was stand­ing there like a naughty schoolkid, then I re­alised I had my whis­tle.

I blew it and lit­er­ally ev­ery sin­gle player in this place stopped. Some pre­tended to throw grenades, some lay on the floor, some pre­tended to use ra­dios.

Ge­orge looked at me and said ‘What’s go­ing on?’ I said ‘That’s dis­ci­pline, Ge­orge!’ We ac­tu­ally gave him a guard of hon­our when he left - a to­tally sur­real night.

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

Keep­ing Barns­ley up in 2012-13. That was big. No­body had ever come back from that many points adrift and we beat Sean Dy­che’s Burnley, Le­ices­ter un­der Nigel Pear­son, Zola’s Watford, Hull with Steve Bruce. Pro­mo­tion with Hilly at Rochdale was spe­cial. So was go­ing up with Bury in 2015, purely be­cause the pres­sure to get pro­moted was so in­tense. I couldn’t choose be­tween them.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

Hilly get­ting sacked at Barns­ley in 2012 re­ally floored me. We’d been to­gether seven years and I loved ev­ery sec­ond of it - we were like a mar­ried cou­ple at times.

I was out train­ing at the time and some­one came to tell me. I walked straight in and said ‘That’s me done, I’m go­ing too’.

But Keith said ‘Don’t be a

d***head, you’ve got fam­ily, a mortgage, bills to pay’. Then the union told me I was con­tracted to stay.

Ob­vi­ously I ended up be­com­ing man­ager but what made it eas­ier was that Hilly knew I hadn’t man­u­fac­tured the sit­u­a­tion. Sean O’Driscoll got it, then turned it down. Terry Butcher was ap­proached and then van­ished. I just won a lot of games and got it by de­fault.

TOUGH­EST PLACE TO GO

Kingsmeadow, AFC Wim­ble­don. It’s been a re­ally bad ground for me. I al­ways strug­gled to get re­sults against them and I ac­tu­ally lost my job at Bury af­ter a game there.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

We played Wolves in the FA Cup when Paul Ince was there. When he tack­led you, you re­ally rat­tled. You felt it through your body.

And play­ing against our Gaz (Garry Fl­itcroft) was al­ways a right tear up. When we played on the same pitch, we weren’t brothers, we were op­po­nents.

He was a fan­tas­tic player, Gaz. A lit­tle bit un­der­val­ued, I think. When you took him out of team, you saw the dif­fer­ence. At Black­burn, he was the one who made Tu­gay the player he was. Gaz would do the dirty work, the track­ing and run­ning.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO

As a kid, I al­ways loved the idea of play­ing at White Hart Lane. I fi­nally did it as a player and it was to­tally mag­i­cal. Play­ing on that felt like when your mum gets a new Axmin­ster car­pet.

And I’ve got to men­tion Wem­b­ley. I re­mem­ber Hilly say­ing to me ‘Right, we’ve got to calm them down, show them the sta­dium so they don’t get over­awed’. I said ‘Yeah, no prob­lem’. The mo­ment I got there, I just sprinted up the steps, over­come with ex­cite­ment.

AM­BI­TION

I’ve got my own team, FC Strik­ers. I run a coach­ing com­pany with staff who’ve ended up ev­ery­where from Canada to Dubai. I’m work­ing with Le­ices­ter on the re­cruit­ment side.

Ul­ti­mately, though, I just want to work with play­ers and do some­thing that makes a dif­fer­ence – whether that’s as a man­ager, as­sis­tant or some other role.

I ac­tu­ally went for the Eng­land Un­der-21 job. There were 165 ap­pli­cants and I made it to the last four, which I was very proud of.

Gareth South­gate was bril­liant. He said the only thing I lacked was in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. When I asked how I could change that, he said ‘Why don’t you come in and shadow the first-team setup for a cou­ple of days?’.

Long-term, my dream is to work in the Premier­ship. See­ing the way Sean Dy­che and Ed­die Howe have built clubs, it does in­spire you.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

Best Team-mate: Keith Hill Best Man­ager: Steve Parkin ON THE RUN: David Fl­itcroft in ac­tion in his Rochdale days Big­gest Achieve­ment: Rochdale Pro­mo­tion

Favourite place to go: White Hart Lane Tough­est op­po­nent: Garry Fl­itcroft

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