NLD spoke to Manchester City legend and new Ilkeston manager Shaun Goater as he takes on the sizable task of keeping the Robins in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
It was a familiar sound that reverberated around Maine Road, the famous old home of Manchester City.
Usually it accompanied the rippling of a net as a City cult hero struck yet another goal in the iconic blue shirt.
The scorer would wheel away from goal with a beaming grin, arms out-stretched in a familiar manner to be immediately mobbed by his team mates.
In his wake he left the opposing goalkeeper and defenders wondering what had just happened.
Then it begins.
“Feed the Goat and he will score”
In a world where the word legend is banded around all too often, Manchester City’s Bermudan international forward Shaun Goater is worthy of that tag in his time as a player with the club.
The striker was a well-known goalscorer in the Football League during his time with Bristol City and Rotherham United.
But it was his transfer deadline day move to Manchester City in March 1998 when his career really took off.
These days the club are able to offer players £400,000 a week in wages. Back then, that was the sum they paid Bristol City for his signature.
Over the following five years Goater helped the club to three promotions, suffering two relegations in the same period.
In all but one of those seasons, the Bermudan finished as the club’s top striker.
It was only in his final season with the club, their last ever season at Maine Road, that Goater didn’t finish as the club’s top marksman.
Despite his game time being limited, Goater still managed seven goals, seven behind top scorer Nicolas Anelka.
He did hit a landmark goal, reaching a century of goals for the club with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
He was also given the honour of captaining the side in their last ever game at Maine Road.
After his departure from Manchester City, Goater played for the likes of Reading, Coventry City and Southend United, before returning to Bermuda in 2007.
His coaching career began with North Village Rams, working with his hometown club’s youth teams.
He returned to England in 2015, assisting Andy Fearn at Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division North club New Mills.
The duo lasted just over a month, resigning after nine defeats from nine games.
Now Goater has moved into his first full managerial role.
His appointment as manager of Evo-Stik NPL club Ilkeston came as a surprise to many, with the Robins firmly entranched in a seemingly unwinnable relegation battle.
Tuesday night’s home defeat against Hednesford Town left Goater’s new charges thirteen points from safety, with only fifteen games remaining.
There has been some positives in Goater’s short time at the club, with a 1-0 home win against Sutton Coldfield Town coming a day after his appointment was announced.
The fixture list has not been kind to him, with this weekend taking the Robins to promotion-challenging Buxton, a side that are sat in second position in the table.
Maybe a new chant should be created.
“Heed the Goat as he wants more”
Because the former City striker is adamant that only one thing will give them a chance of survival; hard work.
He said “I haven’t had a lot of time to work with the squad so far. We are in a busy period of the season so we have to make the most of the time that we do have together.
“Their response so far has been good, it has impressed me but we need to ensure that our work ethic is maintained throughout the rest of the season.
“Players have to give one hundred per cent for me.
“We basically have youth players in the first team and the way I see it, if they are good enough, they are old enough.
“We have a reputation for developing players and I want to continue that.
“Maybe physically we have struggled, we aren’t a physical side, and maybe we need to address that and try and bring in some bigger players.
“But we will keep working hard for the club and try and see if we can give some positive results.
If Ilkeston supporters are looking for positive then they can look at the fact that the man in charge of their side can rely on experience of working with some successful managers during his playing career.
During his time at Manchester City, Goater worked under the likes of Joe Royle and former England manager Kevin Keegan, while a two-year stay at Reading saw him working with Alan Pardew.
As he faces up to the challenge with the Robins, Goater admits that he has taken encouragement from his experience working under the “proven Premier League managers”.
“All players take little bits of knowledge and experience from managers they have worked with” explained Goater.
“I am not different to that and I like to think I have taken little bits from all of my managers.
“They have been experienced; they are proven Premier League managers.
“Kevin Keegan was enthusiastic and passionate, Joe Royle knew so much about the game and Alan Pardew was very detailed into his approach on the training pitch and in games.
“I have to make sure I take little bits from them and use that with my own style”
By Goater’s admission own style as a player was something that occasionally drew criticism.
Sometimes he was perceived as too laid back on the pitch, a criticism he believes has been levelled at a number of Bermudan players.
And in his new squad he possesses a number of players from his homeland.
Recent addition Dante Leverock is a Bermudan international, as is Robins’ goalkeeper Dale Eve.
And Goater believes that he knows how to get the best out of players that have played for the Gombey Warriors, just like he did on thirty six occasions during his playing career.
He said “I knew that Ilkeston had some Bermudan players in the squad but there was only Dale Eve that I knew from his time at Stoke City.
“I focused a bit of attention on him in training, to try and get to know the players and what they were like.
“We do have a few Bermudan players in the squad and I think they are good enough to do well here.
“I understand how they are perceived because I was seen as laid back during my time as a player.
“But that also means that I know when and how to give them a bit of a push in training and in matches, because I got that from managers that I worked with”
Following Saturday’s trip to Buxton, Ilkeston face a trio of sides sitting in mid-table in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Home games against Halesowen Town and Warrington Town are followed by a reverse fixture against Hednesford Town.
The club also face a number of play-off challengers in their remaining fixtures, a fact that leaves Goater to deliver an honest assessment of the challenge that lies ahead for his side.
“It is a monumental challenge to avoid relegation, we know the odds are against us” he says, before adding “but I can assure you we will give it a go”
This is one challenge that Goater won’t give up on, no matter how much hard work it takes.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters Media / www.craiglamontphotography.com