WHILE their old club battles against relegation, former York City duo Iain Dunn and Darren Dunning will be looking to lift silverware next week.

The pair will be the respective rival managers of North Riding FA Saturday County Cup opponents Huntington Rovers and Old Malton St Mary’s at Pickering Town’s Mill Lane ground on Wednesday night.

Dunn and Dunning are now flag bearers, with the number of ex-Minstermen involved in local parks football having diminished in recent years.

The likes of City legends Tommy Forgan, Chris Topping and Andy McMillan are just prime examples of the countless professionals who once donned their boots in the York & District League after retiring from the full-time game.

Dunning, at 36, is still taking to the field as Old Malton’s player-boss, while Dunn has been involved in coaching Huntington for more than a decade, having seen out his days as a striker with the North Lane outfit.

Both have York Minster Engineering League titles on their CVs and, as they compete for county honours, admit it would be great to see more make the transition from Bootham Crescent to the grassroots scene.

Dunn, who scored 11 goals in 89 games for his home-town club between 1988 and 1991, said: “The turnaround in players over the last few years at City doesn’t really lend itself to local lads going on to play and coach in the local leagues.

“They’ve come from all over the place and often move on very quickly. It would be nice if some did get involved and maybe somebody like Simon Heslop, who is a Huntington lad, might do if he stays in York after finishing professionally.”

On the benefits presented by the passing on of professional knowledge, Dunning added: “When ex-players get involved at this level, it can only help.

“You can share what you’ve learned from the clubs you’ve been at and raise the standard by, hopefully, getting the lads to be a bit more professional, rather than going out on a Friday night and turning up drunk for games.”

For any local teams looking to acquire the services of an ex-pro, the best advice would seemingly be just ask.

Dunn was approached by then Huntington manager Matty Ward during a chance meeting at Woolworth’s after he had finished playing part-time, while Dunning answered the phone call of an old school pal after his semi-pro career had been finished by a snapped cruciate ligament.

On the subsequent lure of the amateur game, Dunn explained: “I enjoy playing football and very quickly started helping out on the coaching side. Me and Matty did it together for quite a few years and we won the league twice – the second time when I was 37.

“He then wanted to step aside and I’ve been manager for the last four years and I just enjoy seeing the lads together as mates and enjoying the club.

“We’ve got a great atmosphere there and while, don’t get me wrong, I love winning football matches, it’s more important for me to see the lads going for a beer and attending social events with each other. It’s a really well-run club and our secretary Eric Dower organises everything, which helps me as manager.”

On the appeal of his voluntary role, Dunning pointed out: “I’m from Malton, so a few of my old mates were playing for the team. When I was asked to become manager, I thought it was a good way of getting back involved in the game a little bit and, after getting over my injury, I’ve enjoyed playing with my friends and brother, which I hadn’t done since our days at Blackburn when we were kids.

“Whatever level you are playing at, you can’t beat the banter of a dressing room. I’m 36 and I still look forward to match days and can’t wait to get to games.

“I’m not as fit as I was by any stretch of the imagination, but my appetite for playing is the same as it was 15 years ago. I also like the fact that the lads here have been given some good memories now.”

Despite their local success, though, neither Dunn nor Dunning have been tempted to test their coaching talents at a higher level.

Both work full-time with the former an environment and community officer for the City of York council and the latter a plumber with his own business.

“Trying to go a bit higher crossed my mind a few years ago,” Dunn revealed. “But I wasn’t one of those lads who could afford not to work and take that route, so it was never really a serious option, even though I enjoy coaching and was doing it from the age of 18 when I managed Woodthorpe Greens’ kids whilst I was a player at City.”

Dunning, meanwhile, reasoned that he would not welcome the demands coaching even a couple more rungs up the ladder would pose, saying: “I’m really busy with work and, when summer comes around, I also enjoy my golf, so I’m quite happy with what I’m doing now.

“The higher you go in coaching, the more time you have to put into it. I’ve also been out of semi-pro football for a while and you lose track of players, so it’s not something I want to pursue.”

Dunn and Dunning are not laden with a cluster of fashionable coaching qualifications either, but believe they can pass on their experiences working under two former Premier League managers, whose longevity in the role can be measured by decades.

Having been named as Huddersfield’s all-time cult hero during his spell as a forward under Neil Warnock, Dunn enthused: “He always knew who to rollick and who to put an arm around and his man-management was outstanding. He was very clever in the way he went about his work and I think I probably have adopted some of his methods.

“I don’t like to over-complicate training like a lot of coaches do and he was the same. We did a lot of shadow work and positional stuff but, otherwise, like me now, he just liked to get players fit and strong and play a lot of football.

“At York, I mainly played under John Bird but, to be brutally honest and without sounding disrespectful, I was only 18 and he was under pressure, because we were struggling and he was more focussed on bringing people in and putting a team out than developing me as a player.”

Dunning, who had five different loan spells at Football League clubs from Blackburn before making more than a century of appearances for City from 2003 to 2006, added: “I only worked with Danny Wilson for a short time but he gave me my debut at 19 for Bristol City and he made you feel so confident in yourself and that’s what you try and do as a manager because, if you can get 13 of 14 players feeling like that, you’ll be successful.

“When I was at York, Billy McEwan was also a thorough coach in his attention to detail. Everyone didn’t always see eye-to-eye with him but he was a good manager and we worked a lot of technique and all the things you enjoy as players.”

Shying away from predictions for Wednesday, both bosses are confident about their team’s prospects, while respectful of the opposition.

“They are the league champions and we will be underdogs even though the league doesn’t suggest that at the moment,” Dunn argued. “They’re a very strong outfit and Daz is still a hell of a player at this level, but I have 16 lads who will be up for it and I don’t want to underplay our chances.”

Dunning added: “There’s always been a rivalry, because we’ve both been chasing league titles and cups down the years. They’re having a better season and have some good players, but we’re looking forward to the night.”