Graham Fenton: Villa, Leicester, O’Neill and South Shields

By James Rowe – @JamesRoweNL – Chief Football Writer

Credit: Kev Wilson

You are currently joint manager of South Shields FC. How are you enjoying your joint managerial role at the club and how would describe a club such as South Shields FC?

I am absolutely loving it. Lee Picton and I took over almost four years ago now and we have had a lot of success in that short period of time.Football can be a very competitive industry especially when you are winning games and when you are winning football matches it is enjoyable.We have been set a target from the Chairman and the Owner of getting to the Football League.

There is no set target in terms of timescale but that is the ambition of the football club. We have had three promotions in the last fours years and we need another three to get to the Football League. We are a hugely ambitious football club and also a very progressive football club too.There are lot of things going on behind the scenes to develop the infrastructure of the football club and put things in place to make sure that if we do get to the Football League that South Shields will become a sustainable football club.

You came through the youth setup and debuted for Aston Villa. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?

The whole experience of my time at Aston Villa was magnificent.I went down to the club when I was 14 years old and before that I had been to six or seven clubs before and soon as I walked through the door I knew that Aston Villa were the club for me.I managed to progress through the youth team, reserves and then the first team.

I debuted for the club at the age of 19 years old against Manchester City having previously spent one month on loan at West Bromwich Albion.The obvious highlight was beating Manchester United at Wembley in the 1994 League Cup Final. That was just a hugely enjoyable experience.We were massive underdogs due to the fact that Manchester United were so strong and then went on to do the domestic double that season winning the Premier League and FA Cup but we just performed exceptionally well on the day and we throughly deserved to win. My whole time at Aston Villa was really enjoyable.

You went on to have a three season spell at Leicester City. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or memories?

I had a frustrating time during my three season’s at Leicester City. I did not get play nowhere near as many games as I would have liked to when I signed for the club.It was probably the lowest point of my career.What make up for it was the group of players that we had in the dressing room.

We had a fantastic bunch of people who were really good footballers as well. We had real experience in the dressing room with the likes of Steve Walsh ( Club Captain) Matty Elliott, Neil Lennon, Muzzy Izzet, Steve Guppy and Frank Sinclair. You could not look in that dressing room and say that there was one bad person in it.The atmosphere was really good and healthy.It was just personally frustrating for myself because I did not get to play anywhere near I would have liked to for Leicester City. I did not have a healthy relationship with Martin O’Neil and my three seasons at Leicester City were frustrating to say the least.

Credit: Ronnie MacDonald

You played under some very good managers during your career in England and Scotland. Did you speak to any managers upon entering football management and did you receive any advice or encouragement?

It is funny how it all happened. I did not seek the management root out James. I kind of stumbled across it if you like. I played at Blyth Spartans as a player and then within a year the then manager Paul Baker offered me the assistant managers job so he obviously saw some leadership skills within my first year of playing for the club and then it kind of took off from there gaining experience under managers such as Paul Baker and Harry Dunn.

I managed to get the love of the game back within that time period as I had lost it for seven years from my time at Leicester City onwards and I was not enjoying football. So I started to get the love back at Blyth Spartans and managed to get the hunger to get better on the managerial and coaching side and things have developed from there really.

Finally Graham, You are currently doing very well as a joint manager. could you describe your coaching and managerial philosophy and is there anything you would ideally like to achieve during your managerial career?

Credit: Kev Wilson

Here at South Shields FC Lee Picton and I pride ourselves on trying to play what we class as football the right way.Sometimes within the level that we are at the surfaces and the pitches don’t allow you to play what we class as through the third and get the ball down and move the ball around and try and open up gaps in the opposition so we have to be adaptable as well.When we do play on good surfaces we do like to play out from the back and try and create opportunities from there.

Like I touched on earlier on in this interview the one standout goal is to try and get South Shields FC into the Football League and I don’t like to look too far in advance in terms of personal ambitions and goals but certainly the one that has been put in front of us by the Owner and Chairman of getting in the Football League is the goal that we are all fully focused on at the minute.

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