‘He made me feel ten feet tall’ – FPA members reflect on their managerial influences at the Priory Trust

Yesterday I had the immense pleasure of being involved in a question and answer session with former Imps Danny Hone, Phil Hubbard and Trevor Swinburne.

I’ve been taking part in a Lincoln City Journalism course, where Year 9 students from across the Priory Trust come together to look at English in a different way, seeking out the practical application in media and mixing that with their passion for football. It’s genuinely been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever become involved with and the students have been exceptional in how they’ve engaged.

We’ve covered writing for an audience, the difference in approach when penning for the Daily Express or the Stacey West, we’ve looked at creative language, describing different goals and different reporting styles. The final couple of sessions are based around interview techniques, bringing in the different elements they’ve already developed.

Last week they interviewed me, as well as three of the Priory staff, about our football background, in preparation for this week’s session in which the Former Players Association came along to help out. They were the willing subjects and who knows, possibly the hot-shot journalist of tomorrow conducted his or her first interview yesterday.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I also asked a question of the three players, interested to know who the most influential manager of their career had been. 

“Bobby Moncur for me,” replied Trevor Swinburne. “He took me from the reserves at Sunderland to the first team at Carlisle, kept me in perhaps when he shouldn’t. He showed confidence in me.”

Phil Hubbard was straight in with a two-word answer; “Graham Taylor.”

Peter Jackson (courtesy Graham Burrell)

“Peter Jackson,” was Danny Hone’s response and, as readers of the blog will know, that came as a surprise to me. I’m not a big Jacko fan, but 29-year-old Danny spoke passionately about a man who clearly influenced his career.

“He gave me my first break and believed in me. He just had an aura about him. His man management was frightening, he made me feel ten feet tall, no matter what. I remember three or four games in I got sent off against Chesterfield at home. I walked off and he could quite happily have had a go at me. He literally just gave me a big hug, as I was walking off the pitch.”

Another man manager who impressed Phil Hubbard was Lawrie McMenemy.

“Lawrie signed me from Norwich City, for Grimsby Town. After about six games we played Walsall at home at Blundell Park, Wednesday night game and we lost 6-0. Lawrie got us in the changing room afterwards and gave us the biggest talking too (we were in a school after all). We had to meet him at six o’clock the next morning down Grimsby Docks.

“We had to walk around the Docks at six in the morning and the abuse we got from the dockers, the filleters and the fisherman was unbelievable. He took us to a pub called the Wheatsheaf for lunch afterwards and he gave us a talk, the best talk I’ve ever heard. He told us these people pay your wages, yet you put in a performance like you did last night? You don’t deserve anything. 

“That is man management. He was brilliant at it, couldn’t kick a ball to save his life, but a brilliant manager.”

Lawrie McMenemy

The is a lot more content to come from the session, but rather than me delivering it the students of the four Priory Academies in the Lincoln area will be writing it up and hopefully putting out a publication in the summer, covering not just the interviews but many aspects of the recent Imps success.

In the meantime, I had to include a couple of the finished short interview pieces about me last week. It’s amazing what these talented individuals will pick up on to develop and remember, they had just ten minutes to chat to me and another ten minutes to write a paragraph or two.

“Gary’s first introduction to football was in 1986 at the Mexico World Cup. After that he got himself into football and was rubbish but, he kept playing because his Dad was the manager. He played as a striker for his club and smashed in a whopping 2 goals a season. He said that he was that bad he had to drop down and play for the year below!” – Kian

“When interviewing Gary, we questioned him about why he got into supporting Lincoln. After telling us about his Grandad supporting Lincoln, we found out about his Lincoln City punishment. He was going to watch a Division One game with his family when his brother started crying meaning that they didn’t go. The next day when he was caught swearing, he was told to watch the Imps as punishment. From then there has been, a 1987 relegation, all the way through to promotion to League 1 with the Cowley brothers and treble trophy joy. He then went on to tell us about his opinion on the toughest home and away opponents this season. For home: Tranmere Rovers and for away: Bury which ended 3-3 on a cold Tuesday night.” – Libby

Also, Mr Willshaw of the Priory was a subject and, given his side’s recent disappointment, I thought I’d include an excellent summary of his football background too.

“We spoke to Mr Willshaw about is current football views and watching football, his position in the footballing world and why he is so passionate about the sport. Mr Willshaw is an avid Leeds fan, who thoroughly enjoys going to matches and watching the games. He fondly remembers a day when it was Leeds vs Derby (he has 3 sons who are Derby fans) and so he consequently ‘joined their side’ just before Leeds won. He remembers the smile seeping onto his face as Leeds were victorious yet cowardly burying it deep inside, concealing himself from the tearful – yet seething – Derby fans.

“Since he is a Leeds fan, he unfortunately remembers the recent Leeds play-off games against Derby… Which Derby won 4-2 on aggregate. This then lead to a conversation about why he enjoys them. He said ‘Normally said by League One Millwall, no-one likes us… We don’t care’ a rather humorous, yet ever so true, quote.” – Zara

Huge thanks to Trevor, Phil and Danny for coming along to the session, and to Warren Ward and Gavin Gordon who were waylaid at last minute. These guys are giving up their time at their own expense to help bring Lincoln City into the community. They were wonderful yesterday, connecting with the students and really bringing the course alive.