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 Two, Grainger talks about his coaching team, our important players, the few disappointments, and the strength of our ‘magnificent’ support.
What was it like when Gaz left and Macauley came in to help alongside you in the coaching staff?
Macca’s someone who I’ve got a really good relationship with. He sort of came in to boost his own knowledge of how things get done behind the scenes but also to help us out with looking at other teams and things like that.
I think it’s worked really well and I honestly can’t speak highly enough of Ruddy.
He’s someone I’ve known for a while and I’ve fallen on my feet with having him as my assistant.
We work really well together, he’s not just one who’ll agree with me but he won’t throw it back on my face if I get it wrong. He’s exactly what you want from an assistant manager. He’s perfect for me.
How lucky were you to fall on your feet with a good core of the squad as well?
We looked at the squad in the summer and who we wanted. We looked at the type of people rather than just the actual quality to create a good team spirit and buzz about being at Workington together.
It was a big thing for me, getting the right types of people to start with. With the likes of Scotty [Allison], Goose, Dav [Symington], Tinners [Conor Tinnion], Sam Smith – people who’ve been here a while – they are a special group and it was just a freshness that they needed.
I think when they’ve been working with the likes of Lee Andrews and Dabba [Hewson] they’ve actually played with them, so maybe it was a bit harder to drive themselves on.
Bringing in the likes of Cass [Ceiran Casson], Brock [Liam Brockbank], Clarkey [Matty Clarke], Robbie Hebson, Charlie Bowman and Jim Atkinson, you’re building a really good squad.
The likes of Brad Carroll and Hubbold coming from south of the country with Nathan [Waterston], they must be enjoying it because they travel to far to play for us.
There’s not been many, but what were the bad moments?
The two league games I look at, Pontefract and Ramsbottom, they were disappointing because we didn’t turn up.
I’ll take the blame for that – did I get the right team selection and stuff like that?
In those games, we didn’t do ourselves justice because when you lose a game, play the way you can, put in the effort and desire and you lose, you can accept it a little bit more.
I just felt we fell a little bit short on all of our aspects, quality on the ball, bravery and maybe the occasions got to us.
Again, though, I can’t question these boys because of what they’ve done over the season.
The other one would be Newcastle Benfield. It was early in our tenure and we tried to find a certain way of play but I think we got stuck between two that day and unfortunately, the FA Cup is unforgiving.
That was a real disappointment because I love the magic of the FA Cup so to bow out the first hurdle was disappointing.
What did it feel like having such strong support from the off?
The support that we’ve had from everyone at the club and in the town has been amazing.
It gives you freedom sometimes but obviously when we play the way we do, it’s not easy to watch – it’s very edge-of-your-seat. We never wanted to play for the sake of it, there’s always been a purpose.
The fans themselves have been magnificent. When you look at our support home or away, the boys absolutely love it.
Going down to places like Kendal and hearing them, how much they get behind us, every game is amazing.
Finally, with how the season ended, how determined is everyone to win promotion next time around?
Obviously, we’ve always said people’s health is the most important thing and we’ve never gone away from that but what we will say is, there could’ve been more time taken with the decision.
We won’t dwell on it, we’re recruiting now, speaking to the lads week-in, week-in and hopefully, we can start the season the way we ended it.
If we can go and put our stamp on the league the way we know we can, I think we can be successful again.