Following the much-debated decision to null and void the 2019-20 season, Workington AFC and first-team manager Danny Grainger will still take plenty of memories from a special campaign.
Looking back on his first term following retirement in this two-part interview, the boss discussed his debut season, which saw Reds ‘finish’ 10 points clear at the top of the North West Division.
In Part One, Grainger discusses his first steps in management, volunteer work around Borough Park, his favourite moments of the season and more.
Firstly, looking back to our first training session last summer, how proud are you of the journey we’ve been on since you arrived?
The season obviously started long before the first session, the recruitment between myself, Ruddy [Steven Rudd] and Gaz [Rowntree] in the summer helped us get a squad together which we knew would be at the top of the table.
The hard work we put in from that first night, in the boiling heat, the smiles seen on faces every week with good numbers with a real commitment, was vital for how successful we were this season.
The way the boys bought into what we wanted to do, I can’t thank them enough.
How nervous were you on the opening day?
It’s probably one of the most nervous times I’ve had!
I’m not someone who often had nerves as a player but the first time I sat in the dugout for my first proper game, I was really nervous.
There were nerves around the club as well because when you’re relegated, you’re expected to be successful straight away.
I think after the first 45 minutes, we showed everyone what we could do.
Did you have any idea of how much went into running a club at this level?
Yeah, I think volunteers are absolutely vital at this level. The people who come in every day; from people who do the music, those at the club shop, the kit man and the guys and girls in the office who are trying to get sponsors in to support the club.
There’s so much work behind the scenes, you saw how hard they worked to get the pitch and the stadium at the level we wanted to be ready for the start of the season.
It is vital for those types of people to be in and around the club.
So, what about the best moment of the season?
To be honest, when you make the start we did – three wins from three, sitting top of the pile – you look back at that time as one.
But for me, when we were stood in the rain at Trafford, second game of the season with 10 men and Goose [Dan Wordsworth] heads in the winner late on, it just showed something was building.
A lot of teams would’ve rolled over and that sort of cemented my decision to retire. That moment made me think: ‘Yeah, this is what it’s all about.’
And a favourite moment at Borough Park?
Boxing Day was really special to me.
Not only just because we got a chance to say goodbye to Gaz and give him the send off he deserved but everything about it.
The performance, the crowd and it topped it off being able to say goodbye to an absolute legend.
So for me, Boxing Day and even the Farsley Celtic game, our only home defeat all year, that was a real positive because we played against team two divisions above us and we absolutely dominated them.
We should’ve got something out of the game but that’s cup competition – sometimes you get punished for one mistake.
There’ve been some great games all the way through the season.
Keep an eye out for Part Two, coming Thursday.