Paul Cox: Mansfield memories, coaching and looking to the future with Kettering Town

You are currently manager of Kettering Town having also played for the club during your playing career. How are you enjoying managing the club and what do you view as the challenges of managing Kettering Town?

First and foremost managing the club fills me with immense pride because when I first dropped out of the league it was the first club I joined as a player and I quickly realized what a sleeping giant of a football club it was. The fan base at the time was phenomenal at the old Rockingham Road and to come back and manage a club with such a history in Non League was something I did not need to think twice about.

Since I have been here it has probably been the toughest job that I have taken on and I think it is well documented the problems that club have had in the past with being demoted and building from scratch which the owner and Chairman have done a great job to take the club to the level that they have. When I arrived the club were quite a few points adrift of the National League North and it seemed like the club would slip back into tier three of Non League and it has been tough.

I have received great support from the supporters and everyone at the club. They all know what a big club it is to put an infrastructure into the club and build a real base so that the club can be competitive at this level first and foremost and then our five year plan is to try and get this club promoted into the National League North and to push on from there.

There is so much positivity around the club at the moment and everybody is aware of the hard work in place especially in the fact that I am yet to complete a full season at the club. We have had two seasons that have been cut short and the owner is still telling me that we are still at stage one of the five year plan because we have not had a chance to gain any momentum and to build much. The positive thing about this club is the support from the fans which has been immense and I think they understood me as a player and the support they now give me as a manager has been fantastic for me.

You managed three seasons at Mansfield Town. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bluewheelofficial/8689971732/

It was a whirlwind I went into Mansfield Town who were at the time were a mid table National League club and the fans from an early point told me what was expected and they were on a real downer because Mansfield Town are a huge club and I loved working with the Chairman John Radford and probably the biggest regret of my career was resigning as manager of Mansfield Town.

The Chairman gave me three years to get the club promoted and in our first year we got knocked out in the semifinals of the play-offs and the second year was in particular great memories we did not just win the league we had a great FA Cup run which culminated in us playing Liverpool FC live on Sky Sports and we also went on to break records in the later stage of the season to gain promotion.

We had a good first season in League Two and in our second season in League Two it is well documented that our budget was cut massively and we were still holding our own in League Two but my biggest regret was resigning I got tremendous support from the Chairman and at the time I felt like I needed a break from football and I have dedicated my whole life and I had not seen my girls grow up really because you have to live and breath the job and it becomes intense.

I resigned from a post one at a club I enjoyed managing and two I was working for a guy in John Radford who was fantastic for me and supported me as a human being and he was always there to give me advice and support me when things were not going so well. I have now gained experience at managing and different levels and I understand how important that mentor role that a Chairman does and the relationship that you have with a Chairman is so important to the success of a football club.

You came through the youth setup and debuted for Notts County during your playing career. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?

I did my apprenticeship at Notts County and I started off under manager John Barnwell and we had some fabulous players in the dressing room such as Willie McStay who captained Scotland, Geoff Pike, Gary Mills, Gary Birtles and our first team was a star studded team at the that stage and Neil Warnock came in and totally transformed the club we had such a great experience and it was a tremendous time to be at the club and Neil had a certain way of doing things and it was a very successful way of doing things and I took a lot of Neil’s management style with me as I have progressed and he gave me in the old First Division away to Manchester City at Maine Road and I was lucky enough to play at the highest level of English football but it was not until later in my career that I got the chance to play regularly in the Championship.

I have some fantastic memories playing at the likes of Newcastle United, West Ham United and what hampered me in my career is that I had two cruciate knee operations and sometimes I look at my player career and think if only I had stayed injury free what could I have achieved without the two injuries that kep me out for ten months per injury but I enjoyed it. Notts County is a fabulous club. I am a Nottingham boy and I am a Nottingham supporter so I still look at Notts County with a sense of pride and look for their results and I hope they can get themselves out of the National League.

Nottingham Forest are world renowned and I tell people that I used to support Nottingham Forest as a kid and I would go to the Trent End to watch Brian Clough’s teams which were brilliant. I am lucky enough to have played for Notts County and managed Mansfield Town so being a Nottingham boy I have a sense of pride in my city and my surroundings and I look at my hometown clubs and really wish all three of them the best.

Before embarking on management did you seek any advice or did you receive any encouragement from managers that you played under and did you always harbour ambitions to want to become a manager?

No, I kind of fell into management. When I finished playing I stood in to become a teacher and I saw myself more as a coach as I love being on the training ground with the players on a day to day basis and I still get that buzz now.

I never saw myself going into management and I took on a few roles as assistant manager and it was one of these scenarios where I was assistant manager and the manager of Eastwood Town at the time Brian Chambers resigned and he told me that he was putting me forward and it was a baptism of fire because when I took over the team were bottom of the league at time and I did not win any of my first five games and I can always remember the Chairman having a few talks with me and having that soul searching talk with myself to say that I need to do something different.

I can remember losing a game on a Tuesday night and going home and knowing I had to make big decisions with the squad that I had and I made them and we ended up continuously winning towards the end of the season and we finished up just outside the play-offs in my first season and I can always remember the Chairman approaching me after 15 games in charge and telling me that in those first five, six games I did not think you were ready and I can’t speak highly enough of some of the good people that I have worked with and the Chairman I have worked with. People look at managers and sort of pigeon hole them and say results are going well. It’s the manager and if the team is performing badly it’s the manager and it isn’t.

What I have tried to do at every football club I have gone into is to create an environment where everybody is on the same page and everybody has an understanding of what we want to achieve whether it is achievable or not we stick to the plan. The places where I have had success during my career winning trophies and promotions has been at a club where the people that own the club and at board level have an understanding and a belief in what I have tried to build and football is ok and brilliant when you are winning every week but the people in football who I have always respected and I still have a friendship now are the people who have supported not just me but the plan when things have not been going so well and in football you can’t do it overnight and any football club now needs a medium to long term plan and that needs sticking to.

I think there are too many clubs now that chop manager every three to four games and then they wonder why there is no consistency in results because a new manager comes in and changes his playing staff and style and the clubs that I have been really successful with are the ones where the Chairman and the board have a belief in you as a person and back you when things are not going so well.

Credit: Pexels

Finally Paul, You are still young and you have accrued a lot of experience as a football manager. Looking ahead to the future is there anything in particular that you would ideally like to achieve ambition or dream wise during the remainder of your managerial career?

Yes, I took 18 months out of the game because I got a bit disillusioned with the game at that stage when people look at my win ratio , trophies won and promotions that I had achieved. For some reason I got disillusioned with football and in those 18 months were fantastic for me and it gave me time to reflect and time to sit down and look at the game in a different light. It gave me time to become a bit current again and to have an understanding and you seem to become blinkered on a day to day basis when you are in there consistently.

When I was at Mansfield Town during my first season we drew at Accrington Stanley FC which really killed our chances of getting in the play-offs and I had the chance to talk to two Championship clubs at the time and my loyalty was to Mansfield Town and I have this unfinished business with the Football League and I would like to get back to the Football League and pit my wits against the people in and around it. The game is very competitive now and there are a lot of good coaches and managers out there, there are five times as many managers as there are jobs and there is an absolute queue.

I believe I have unfinished business with the Football League and I have confidence in my ability at that level and I still have an inner belief that I can get a club out of League Two and manage at a high level in the English game but I believe you have to earn the right to do so. I am at Kettering Town at the minute and my focus is totally on Kettering Town and building this football club and working really hard with the supporters and the board to try and get this club who is a sleeping giant back to where it should be and I am not looking beyond that at the moment.

You have got to have ambition in a respectful manner and time frame and if I could take Kettering Town to the Football League that the crowd and this fan base would be huge. Football is a futile business one minute you are not next minute people want your head on a plate and I understand the hardness and the political side of the game.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPH: Kettering Town Football Club

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