FORMER York City captain Darren Edmondson returned to Bootham Crescent for the first time in eight-and-a-half years this week.
Edmondson, now 41, found himself in the unusual position of being the visiting manager in a Blue Square Bet North clash against Harrogate Town who, on Tuesday, were City’s tenants for the night due to their Wetherby Road pitch being out of action.
Now manager of Workington, Edmondson was on the wrong end of an unlucky 3-1 defeat but confessed it was great to revisit his old stamping ground.
Edmondson’s four-year career with the Minstermen might have ended in regrettable circumstances with relegation to the Conference back in 2004, but the Coniston-born right-back also recalled better times, including an FA Cup tie against a Fulham team featuring the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Louis Saha and Steed Malbranque.
“It was great to be back at the old ground even if the circumstances were a little strange,” Edmondson admitted.
“The last season was obviously an unfortunate one when we got relegated with a young manager in charge but, from a personal point of view, I’ve got some great memories of some great matches.”
Close to a decade might have passed since his last trip to his old base but Edmondson, who played 147 times for the Minstermen, added that everything was pretty much as he remembered.
“It’s the same old, excellent little ground,” he said. “Maybe a few signs here and there are different but the showers were still freezing.
“The pitch was very good though considering the weather we’ve had this winter. It was always good and one for the purists when I was at the club so it’s good to see it’s still in good nick.”
Edmondson also declared his happiness that former team-mate Chris Smith captained the team back into the Football League last season.
Centre-back Smith was released along with Edmondson when the club lost their League status but climbed the Wembley steps twice at the end of last season to lift the FA Trophy and the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final cup.
“It must have been great for him to come back and do what he did,” Edmondson said.
“He will have led by example as captain and will have enjoyed lifting those trophies at Wembley.
“He had to drop down to get back to where he was and he will have done that through hard work and determination because I know the kind of lad he is. He was a natural leader when he was a young player and he will be taking great pride in leading York out every week.”
Edmondson also praised the work of the McGill family.
Chairman Jason McGill and his sister – communications and community director Sophie Hicks – were both on the board during Edmondson’s final season at City and he said: “The chairman and his family still seem to be doing a great job. It’s a difficult climate everywhere, not just football, and all the chairmen and directors involved in football deserve credit for keeping clubs ticking over.”
Edmondson is now well into his sixth year in charge of Workington and he explained that witnessing how managerial rookie Chris Brass struggled at times during that ill-starred 2003/4 campaign, in which the Minstermen failed to win any of their last 20 fixtures, has helped shape his approach to the job.
“It was difficult for Chris,” the former Carlisle, Huddersfield and Plymouth full-back recalled. “He was shoved in and, up until Christmas, things were going well.
“But, when it started going in the wrong direction, you could see it and feel it in the changing room. I’ve learned from that because players know if things aren’t right.
“Chris and Lee (Nogan, assistant manager) probably knew that and, looking back, they would possibly say they separated themselves too much but who am I to say what was right and wrong? They had an unbelievable job to do with Brassy 27 and Lee 34.
“I take my hat off to them because Chris must have had a lot of sleepless nights. I was the captain and tried to shoulder some responsibility but, looking back, we could feel it falling to pieces as players to be honest.”
Edmondson also picked up managerial tips during three seasons as a player under Brass’ predecessor Terry Dolan, saying: “There were good and bad things about Terry as well and he would agree you are never the finished article as a manager.
“Terry’s man-management was his greatest strength though. He had that ability to know when somebody needed a kick up the backside or an arm around their shoulder and that comes with experience.”
Edmondson benefitted from the wisdom of Viv Busby, meanwhile, during the first four years of his tenure at Workington.
The former City coach and manager was Edmondson’s assistant until he emigrated for the Costa del Sol in October 2011 with the latter adding: “Viv was fantastic and people like him are legends in football.
“When he spoke, everybody listened and I was sad to see him leave but he’s done his time. I’m still in contact with him because he’s a great guy and a real gent.”
Edmondson has also combined his part-time position at Workington with a full-time post as a sports tutor at the nearby Lakes College since 2009.
He said: “You take every game home with you at night and analyse it, whether you have won or lost.
“I’m also always busy making phone calls at break-time in college but I still love having the buzz of being in changing rooms and having a young squad of players that I am trying to create something with. We’ve got one of the lowest budgets in the league but, in most games, we are competing and, as long as we keep progressing, we will be fine.”
Workington were Football League members between 1955 and 1977 but the defeat to Harrogate left them 15th in the Blue Square Bet North standings.
Edmondson guided the club to the play-off semi-finals in 2010 and, while enjoying his current role, admitted he would like to further his career one day.
“You always want to work at the highest level you can but you just go about your job every week and think about whether that opportunity will come,” he confessed. “At the moment, I am manager of Workington and I am trying to improve them.
“It’s a club steeped in history and I am proud to be in charge of them but I am ambitious as well. I think due to the lack of money around, clubs tend to go for people who are tried and tested.
“Maybe, sometimes, the more experienced managers interview better as well.”
On the possibility of, perhaps, one day swapping the away dugout he occupied this week for the home one, Edmondson added: “Any job that becomes available in the pro game would be great but to go back to manage one of your old clubs would be brilliant.
“If the opportunity came around at York, I would be in a long queue because it’s a great little football club, but who knows what will happen?”
Kerr takes command of February points quest
SCOTT Kerr moved up to ninth place on The Press Player of the Year leaderboard after taking our man-of-the-match honours during last weekend’s 4-1 home defeat to Morecambe.
That accolade saw the former Lincoln City midfielder pick up three points with debutant Curtis Obeng (two) and Jason Walker (one) also rewarded as our second and third-highest rated players respectively.
Kerr is also the early leader of The Press Player of the Month contest, although Dan Parslow won the two bonus points on offer in that competition after polling the most man-of-the-match votes from visitors to our website.
To be in with a shot of presenting February’s Player of the Month with their award – a framed photograph – before a City home game, send us your man-of-the-match choice for today’s game at Wycombe or Tuesday’s home match with Gillingham.
Alternatively, you can tweet your choice to @daveflettpress
The Press Player of the Year latest standings (not including Player of the Month bonus points): C Smith 25 points, Parslow 21, Ingham 19, Blair 17, Walker 16, Chambers 14, Fyfield 14, Kearns 12, Kerr 11, McGurk 9, Coulson 7, Oyebanjo 7, McLaughlin 6, Potts 6, Carlisle 5, J Smith 5, Doig 3, Reed 3, Blanchett 2, Obeng 2, O’Connell 2, Taylor 2, Challinor 1, Johnson 1.
The Press Player of the Month for February standings: Kerr 3, Obeng 2, Parslow 2, Walker 1.
Goals: Walker 9, Chambers 8, Blair 5, Coulson 5, McLaughlin 4, Reed 4, Potts 3, own goals 2, Parslow 1, Rodman 1, C Smith 1.
Assists: Walker 7, Chambers 5, J Smith 5, Blair 4, C Smith 4, Kearns 3, McLaughlin 3, Carlisle 2, Coulson 2, Parslow 2, Rodman 2, Challinor 1, Fyfield 1, Kerr 1, Reed 1.
Bad boys: Chambers, C Smith both 4 yellow cards; Kerr 1 red, 2 yellow; Fyfield 3 yellow; Ingham, McLaughlin, Parslow, Potts all 2 yellow; Carlisle, Challinor, Coulson, Doig, Johnson, McGurk, Oyebanjo, J Smith, Walker all 1 yellow.