Harrogate Town AFC

Long-serving Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver is the latest to feature in The Bosses’ Lounge. If you missed the first half of his interview, you can find it here.

In the second half, Simon takes on the regular Q&A that goes with this feature, blending managerial and coaching outlooks, inspirations and lighter moments. So let’s get started…

 

When did you want to start coaching/managing?

It was whilst I was on loan at Macclesfield, 25/26, where I seriously thought of it. I had a chat with my brother actually, who’s also my best pal, talking about how Brian Horton was as a manager and it just got me thinking. He said ‘you know what? I think you might be a better manager than a player,’ and I didn’t know how to take it at the time! ‘You saying I’m rubbish?’ It just made me think more and more, and I realised I’d always been thinking about it, because at school and when I used to play Sunday league, ten and 11, I used to write down systems and who I’d play and what I’d do, and just keep it to myself. I think I was always wanting to do it.

Which training sessions do you enjoy leading the most?

As we’ve gone full-time, I’ve more and more liked to look at the characteristics of players and their behaviours. With my assistant (Paul Thirlwell), we met each other at 15/16 at Sheffield Wednesday, and we had an unbelievable coach before then in the Centre of Excellence. He was all about passing drills and making sure you can pass five/ten yards sharply and the technique of it. If I had a session it would be passing drills followed by possession-based games, and then a small-sided game where it’s all sharp and lively. These days I like to focus more and more as the week finishes on set plays.

Will you ever take part in training (in terms of actually being in the sessions as an active part, like an extra player)?

No chance, not now! Last game I played was a charity game and I struggled to walk for two days, with my glass ankles. You realise ‘I’m good for walking across to the dugout from the tunnel and vice versa, rather than actually covering all the grass these days.’ I still warm up with the back four (as a former defender), because I just love that involvement.

Favourite ground that you’ve visited or would like to visit

When I was a big Wednesday fan I used to go to Anfield, and I’ve seen Wednesday get absolutely mauled in the late-80s and early-90s there. The singing from the Kop before they walk out, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ it was just like ‘you’d love to one day go there and sample that atmosphere.’

Favourite player to watch (past or present)

At Sheffield Wednesday, there were a few. Roland Nilsson, he was always a family favourite and personal favourite, because he was just so silky and such a good player, so I would go for him. John Sheridan’s actually managing now at our level (at Chesterfield), and I’d never seen football like it when John Sheridan, Roland Nilsson and David Hirst were all together in the same team.

And how would you sell the club to let’s say Nilsson, if you were trying to sign him for Harrogate (in his prime)?!

(laughs) Oh, that’s a hard one. I think you can help all of our Player Development Centre kids. I think you can put a lot of bottoms on seats, and maybe we can broadcast live in Sweden. We can have a Swedish supporters’ group. That’d be great.

Pre-season tour anywhere in the world

I’d still keep it in Europe. You could have a European tour of all the greats and do Italy, Germany, Spain in a week; San Siro to the Nou Camp and then to Bayern. Maybe train in the Alps in between.

Most challenging/frustrating part of your job

I think it’s the momentum changers, that’s the most challenging moments. When uncontrollables come into play, it’s holding it and dealing with people. That’s the challenge, and it can be a frustration, where actually, we did alright, if you just look at the performance, and you can’t control everything. I’ve tried to teach myself that, to say ‘look, you can’t control everything, look at the performance, look after that.’ It’s frustrating at times because the momentum’s lost with that, and it’s then the biggest challenge starting the cogs turning again in terms of preventing a momentum slide backwards, to then going ‘right, we’re in it together.’ Then that’s like the relieving of a bad migraine, when you’ve got a last-minute winner from scrapping, now we’re back on it, and you see people laughing and joking walking into training with a different attitude. It is that; when you’ve got to have belief to hold your nerve and stay at it.

Funniest player/coach you’ve worked with, or just one of the funniest

Keith Alexander was funny, the late Keith Alexander. He just had a way about him, and a slight lisp as well which made him even more endearing and funny, and he used that to the maximum when he needed to lift the players. He didn’t say too much, he just had a talent for getting people on his side. Sorely miss him, and he was great in my first year of management. Whilst he did release me, Ron Atkinson, just what he did in his first spell at Wednesday opened my eyes really. He just brought a different brand of football; before, it was all kick and rush, 100 percent energy but not much guile. He had an aura about him, which made you want to do it for him. He wouldn’t coach, he just had a magnetic sort of character. I guess a mixture of both of them (Alexander and Atkinson), although the extra care probably wasn’t there with Ron as it was with Keith.

Most embarrassing moment as a manager

I remember having woolly gloves on in my first year, I was only 31, and I’d given a real rollocking away in the West Riding County Cup. Horrible performance, but after five minutes you’ve got it all out and you’re like ‘right, I need to get out of the room now,’ but with my woolly gloves on I just couldn’t open this door. The door knob was just rotating in my hand and I end up saying to one of the lads ‘could you help me out here please?’ Apparently there were a few giggles when I exited the room. It was frustrating but I look back now and smile.

Your routine on a match day

I do have a routine, and normally for home games, because I say it’s not far away, I always think of 12 o’clock as the cut-off. I’ve put my shift in at home, but then I have to clear my head at the ground, try and find a space and just get my mind on it. Before home games I love to spend time with the kids, normally cook a few pancakes and just have a bit of fun. There’s a bit of that nervous, playful adrenaline going. Away game is to the minute really with the preparation, where we’ll get up and have breakfast, do the video analysis meetings, defence, midfield and attack, take it through the opposition analysis and then have the pre-match meal. We’ll set off at a certain point, so we’re very regimented with that.

One singer/band or song you would sneak on to the team playlist

I’m a fan of George Ezra. I think ‘Shotgun’ or ‘Budapest’. I’m not as good with song names now but I like George Ezra, because he’s upbeat and you can do a bit with it, can’t you? You can actually act happy; half the songs I hear now, how can you have a night out on that? It just makes you look sulky in a bar…brilliant, you’re really letting your hair down!

Advice you remember getting that’s stuck with you

Always honest but don’t let anyone change the way you are as a person. Be true to yourself.

If you could have some time with any manager, past or present

You’ve got to look at Alex Ferguson, haven’t you? How many years he spent (at Manchester United) and all his achievements, how he reinvented the team multiple times, so you’d have to say him you’d get greatest value from.

Any misconceptions about you as a manager/personality, myths you’d like to dispel, or something you wish people could understand a bit more?

I think there’s always been an idea that because it’s family-run, father/son, there may be some who don’t realise how passionate I am. Because of that they’ll think it’s life up easy street, but probably if they saw how much strain I can put on myself and how pumped up I am, you don’t see that when you see someone walking from the changing room to the dugout and back again. Certainly when I go home I don’t like to pour it all out and discuss it. So maybe people don’t know you to the full extent. I used to be the lad at the back of the bus in some teams, having a laugh and practical jokes, and I’m at the front of the bus now being sensible, but it’s still in you when you go back to your old pals. So people don’t see the full thing, because there’s times when and when not to disclose that. It’s not that I’m a closed book, but 41, manager of a club, there are times when it’s ‘business face’.

And finally, what’s the best thing about having this life around football? When you wake up and football’s your focus for the day, do you still get that same buzz as you always did?

Yeah, I think it’s the fact that at least once every week, my heart will be beating faster in this job than probably any other job could satisfy me. I have adrenaline in my body every single week of my life, apart from in the summer, where after a few weeks I’m thinking ‘where is it?’ So I’ve got this constant drug pumped in that I design myself! It gets me high sometimes, a bit low from it if you don’t win or you don’t perform, but at least I’m in the ring. I’m there to be shot at, and as a result of that, you get that injection of adrenaline.

Interview by @chris_brookes

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