Workin' Hard or Hardly Workin'?

Heavy Metal

Mar 6, 2024
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Hello all, and welcome to my new career as manager of my local side, Workington Reds; and my attempt to bring glory to West Cumbria!
Formed in 1921, Reds were part of the Football League for 22 years between 1955 and 1977. My aim will be to return them to the EFL and become the third Cumbrian club to occupy a place in the top four leagues, alongside Carlisle United and Barrow.
2022/23 saw the club gain promotion from Northern League Division One via the play-off's, so my short term aim will be to keep us in the NPL and build from there.


Club Info - We will be competing in four competitions this season. I'm not bothered about the Northern League cup and will use that to give my fringe players a game, but certainly a run in the FA Cup and/or FA Trophy would be great, the prize money would be useful too.
Board Objectives - Nothing specific from the board for this season, just to try and keep the team up and do as well as we can in the cups.
Initial Squad - Pretty good basis to work with here, some good players who should be solid at this level, with the amount of central midfielders I have, I'm thinking 4-3-3 could be a sensible option to begin with, possibly a diamond shape when I want to really shut things down in the middle. We shall see how pre-season goes. I will be looking to bring in a few reinforcements to add a bit of depth, probably on loan to save money, but I won't be making wholesale changes right off the bat.


Borough Park (Capacity -3,101) sits at the mouth of the River Derwent, near Port of Workington.



First week
Welcome back folks! My first seven days as manager of the mighty Workington AFC have seen me working hard on numerous tasks as I look to bring my own ideas into the club. Time will tell whether they are good ideas or not!

First on my list of priorities was to set up training for my existing squad, at this level we only train twice a week so I don't expect much in the way of individual development, though I did go through each of my players and determined weaknesses within their games, mostly physical limitations such as strength and stamina that I will focus on, more in hope than anything, of improvement. My weekly schedule, though I will tweak it each week depending on our opponents and recent performances; is very much focused on recovery and fitness which I think are much more important than technical attributes down here in the basement divisions. I'm also trying to fit in team bonding and community outreach sessions at least once a month to keep morale high and improve team dynamics.

I've set up two mentoring groups for the benefit of my younger players, honestly I'm not sure how effective this will be, but I'm happy to give it a try, the first attributes I look for in any player are determination and work rate and I would love my veterans to impart some of their mental strength upon the youngsters.

No time has been wasted in bringing in some reinforcements, I could have scoured around more for the perfect pieces to the jigsaw, but I want to get the team familiar with the tactical approach I want to employ, and to do that I need my players collectively focused on that rather than staggered arrivals over the course of the summer who would all need bringing up to speed and potentially disjoint the tactical familiarity. In fact neither of my new recruits should lack familiarity at Borough Park as both are former Reds!

Cameron Harker - Cameron started his career here, he only managed six appearances for the club before being allowed to drop down a few levels to join neighboring Penrith where he spent four years. I decided to bring him back to act as a rotation option on the flanks. I will be working on his left foot so he can fill in on either side.

Charlie Birch - A trainee at Carlisle; Charlie made a solitary appearance in the EFL for United before being loaned to Kendal Town, he was eventually released and made the short journey across the Scottish border to Annan Athletic where he made seven appearances in Scottish League Two before returning to Cumbria at Penrith. He then joined Workington where he helped us to promotion under my predecessor last season, playing 28 games. I'm not sure why he was allowed to leave but I was keen to get him back on board for the new campaign.

To keep wage budgets under control and avoid stumbling into financial issues, I am operating with a skeletal backroom staff, I have no assistant manager as I've never found them to be particularly useful, I am a self confessed control freak and don't like delegating anything to them so there is no need to hire one. Jamie Devitt is a player-coach who at the moment is the only other member of my first-team coaching staff, I am on the lookout for a fitness coach though.
I have no scouts, as is realistic at this level, most players who sign will either be trialists, locally based players from other Cumbrian clubs opposition players who impress me and go on my shortlist, or players already know to the club, as was the case with Harker and Birch, so no need for spending money on scouts.
I have one physio, local lass Caitlin Gribbon who to be honest isn't the best physio and I may look to replace her if I can find someone significantly better who won't cost me an arm and a leg.

The only new recruit to my staff so far is James Spalding, who will fill duel roles as Head of youth development and Under-18's manager. Having duel roles is something I am keen on to save money and simplify things.

As much as I would love to light up Borough Park with beautiful, flowing, attacking football; the reality is I don't players who can do that, and as a newly promoted side we need to make sure that we are first solid in defense and build from there. Initially I have gone with this variant of 4-3-3 as my base tactic, as well as a box-standard 4-4-2 as a secondary plan.

The pitch is split into two distinctly separate defensive and attacking units with Connor Tinnon acting as something of a pivot in the center of the park. The full backs are inverted to keep things compact at the back, they will stay closer to the centerbacks to limit the room the opposition get around our area.
I've tried to keep instructions simple, I don't tend to use opposition instructions unless the other team has a player who is really causing problems, on the whole I think they detract from the desired tactical shape and I would prefer my players weren't drawn out of position.I also don't like to use many individual instructions for the same reason, unless I need to intervene I generally let my professional footballers be just that and trust them to make their own decisions rather than over complicate matters.

First Friendly
For my first game in charge we welcomed our Lake District dwelling neighbors Kendal Town to the Cumbrian Coast, it was at home despite Kendal being a division below us as I wanted the gate money to add to the coffers, I'm tight like that!
We lined up with the above tactic, initially things didn't go to well as the Mintcakes (Intimidating nickname that) took a twentieth minute lead. After reminding my players what is expected of them from the touchline our performance improved after that as we dominated Kendal possession wise, crafting out numerous opportunities, but it wasn't until the 65th minute we final made one count with the new boy Cameron Harker equilising. Of course it would have been nice to win, however pre-season is about building up fitness and working on tactics. I saw enough from this game to make me think this one could be successful once the players gain more familiarity.
Training next week will focus on chance conversion and passing as we were a little slack in both departments.