It is Dave Wild’s first season in sole charge at Mossley, having led the Lilywhites on a joint basis in 2018/19, and back-to-back wins have sprinkled some extra satisfaction on the opening few weeks of the campaign. Immensely glad for how management has helped reshape his life, the 31-year-old is a young gaffer with plenty to tell.
At these tender stages of the BetVictor Northern Premier North West Division campaign, it is difficult to form too much of a clear picture, with teams throughout the division having played anywhere from five to nine games so far. Nevertheless, for Mossley to find themselves well in touch with the leading places is undeniably encouraging for manager Dave Wild.
His side have been boosted by victories in the last two outings, with one in the league (2-0) against leaders Workington, followed up with a 1-0 success at City of Liverpool FC in the NPL League Cup. James Baillie was on target in that Workington win, while Adam Morgan continued his impressive start to life at the Greater Manchester club with another goal (and from ultra long-range again).
Simplistic it may seem, but the 40-yard effort over the visiting goalkeeper was a mark of the one-time Liverpool striker’s confidence. The 25-year-old, whose past battles during his time in the game have been well documented, spoke in detail on here recently and was full of positive words for his new manager.
He described Dave as ‘fantastic’, adding “I’ve got no doubt about it that he’ll be a top manager at a higher level in a few years.” For someone who had his footballing adolescence at a world-renowned institution like Liverpool, featuring for the Reds in European competition, it is no insignificant praise, so how has Dave approached working with the goal-getting Scouser?
“I treat him no different to anyone else, and I think that’s why he probably does like me. I’m not dumb enough to think that there aren’t players/managers out there that will look at me and think ‘he’s not experienced enough’ and so on.
“It’s like last year when I signed Adam Jones, people were saying ‘you’ll struggle with him being experienced and opinionated,’ and we’ve worked together beyond well. It’s very similar with Adam Morgan; he wants a home, he wants to play with a smile, he wants to be at a progressive club.
“He doesn’t get away with anything, he works as hard as anyone else, and he’s stepped up to the plate with it. What I really admire about him as a player is he holds himself accountable for everything he does, so if he’s had a bad game, he doesn’t need telling, because he’ll say it himself.
“If we’ve had a bad performance, I’ll always look at myself before I blame any players, and I would think that’s why we click.”
Dave tells how he has been advised by experienced people in the game that the first half-dozen matches of a season should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt, with freak results and various other factors to account for. Nevertheless, Mossley sit 6th at present, with a 100% home record.
Speaking prior to the aforementioned Workington win, Dave explained how he was neither too high nor too low with regard to the way they have started.
“To be honest, I’ve not been particularly happy yet. I’m a very positive manager, as much as I can be; I’ve lost my rag in one game this season, against Droylsden, because the work rate wasn’t even below par, and they were let known.
“It’s been a stop-start kind of start. We took a really good point at Ossett, then we beat Runcorn Linnets.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries, we’ve got Astley Mulholland who’s still not kicked a ball, because he broke his leg, I’ve got Godwin Abadaki who’s sort of getting 10/15 minutes here and there. If you look at last season, Godwin was probably our most important player in terms of the way that I want to play.
“I’ve had one or two sort of build-ups of fitness with the new players as well, and I think that is playing a part. We got Paul Marshall and Si Lenighan to the club quite late in pre-season, so they’re sort of bedding in, and I think it’s just coming together slowly.
“We got beat last night at Pickering and it wasn’t acceptable, but we were the better team; on another day we could have won that 5-0, but we lost 3-2. That’s sort of where we’re at, at the minute, but we’ve got a very good squad, we’ve got real depth in it.
“I’m not overly pleased; I’m also not massively disappointed.”
More than ‘just’ results, there is no shortage of people who take enjoyment, belonging and release from being part of the club, and Dave is no different. Denton-based but Stockport-born, he spent time growing up in Woodsmoor with his mother and grandmother, and his start in management came at nearby Stockport Town at the beginning of 2017.
Coaching for him, though, holds that bit more significance than merely being a hobby, for the much-needed path and outlet it has helped provide. Via a relative of his partner, he started coaching junior football at Hattersley in his mid-20s, which later led him to (Manchester) City in the Community, before non-league called.
“It was actually my 29th birthday when I got the Stockport Town job. I was in London for (Manchester) City versus West Ham in the FA Cup, my girlfriend had took me down – before my birthday I went to Harry Potter World over that weekend!
“We went Thursday/Friday and I got the phone call Friday night to say I’d been successful in the interview. Between about 18 and 23, I’d come off the right path, let’s say.
“I met my girlfriend and she’s probably been the saving grace in my life, to be honest, and without her, God knows where I’d be. She put me on to one of her family members who runs Hattersley Juniors, and I coached the Under-10s for about six months when I was about 25.
“From there, I just went on to City in the Community – I started there voluntary – and I met Ste Everall, who was John Flanagan’s goalkeeper coach at Curzon. Ste’s still to this day one of my closest friends, and he introduced me to John, because I wanted to do a bit of opposition scouting, as a way to get into that side of the game.
“I went in with Curzon and that’s really where it all started off for my life in non-league.”
He was announced as joint-manager at Mossley with Terry Hincks in late-March 2018, as previous incumbents Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison departed after almost five seasons at Seel Park. The more seasoned of the two, former Cheadle Town boss Hincks offered invaluable experience as Dave took another sizeable step in his burgeoning journey as a number one.
Hincks left at the end of last season, with the pair having presided over an 8th-place finish in the Evo-Stik Division One West, and Dave details how he has found assuming sole charge.
“I had a really good 12 months working with Terry; we got on really well, we were a good duo. I didn’t think it was ever going to last long.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as short-term as it was, but the aim was always for me to be able to kick on again for myself. I just thought I needed a bit of experience around when we took over at Mossley.
“Terry was in agreement this year that I’m good to go on my own, and the opportunity came for him to go to Abbey Hey, for him to be sole manager again. I still speak to him regularly, last year was brilliant and I’ll cherish that year for as long as I live.
“In terms of this year, it’s not a massive shift, to be honest, because I’ve done it before. If anything, it’s a little bit easier, because when I did it at Stockport, the players are a lot less paid, so the commitment levels are perhaps understandably not the same as this level.
“It’s important to me that that’s no disrespect to the North West Counties (League), because it’s been a really good grounding for me, and some of the stuff I learned along the way at Stockport Town has greatly helped me as manager of Mossley.”
Few are as well equipped to lend a hand as the Lilywhites’ assistant manager John Flanagan, a former Mossley boss himself. He was also a simply pivotal figure in nearby Curzon Ashton’s ascent up the divisions during the earlier part of the current decade, delivering two promotions and very surprisingly let go last November with the Nash 14th in the National League North.
For both Mossley and Curzon, the Tameside outfits are in a footballing hotbed, with bundles of North West clubs and playing talent around, though it naturally means consistently fighting for a slice of that same pie, so to speak, when it comes to supporter base. Highlighting the incoming board members and their respective backgrounds and input, Dave assesses both the potential of Mossley and the challenges the club faces.
“In terms of local competition, there’s a lot. You look around and you’ve got Ashton United who’ve got themselves new owners, Stalybridge, Curzon Ashton, even teams like Abbey Hey and Trafford, Maine Road, there’s loads.
“It can be a good thing and a bad thing, because there’s a lot of really good talent in the area, and you can build up relationships with other clubs, with loans and picking up players along the way etc. A lot of managers locally will help each other out in terms of scout reports and stuff.
“The only negative is fanbase-related, because when myself and Terry came in, Mossley were picking up gates of about 150. Luckily for us, we started really well and that sort of got the ground-hoppers in, the Tameside football fans, and we actually got our crowds up to around 500 at the back-end of last season.
“I think every club in the area feels the pressure of being the exciting, enjoyable, welcoming football club in the community, because it can help swell numbers of supporters. There was a report went out last season and we were the most supported club in what was the Evo-Stik, in terms of capita per town, the percentage of people in the town that go to games, so it was a really proud thing for me to see that turnaround in such a short time.”
There is a lot more still to discover about Dave in the regular Q&A that concludes this feature, though what can be said without hesitation is how much he is relishing life in the dugout. He has undergone a marked personal turnaround in recent years, and away from plotting Lilywhites success, he explains how he has just embarked upon another new beginning, and certainly no less challenging.
“Before starting with coaching, I used to work in call centres. It sort of matched the lifestyle I was living; out on the booze Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
“I worked on BTEC programmes up until this September, but I’ve actually just started a new job last week, so I’m working in a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) school. It’s kids that are excluded from mainstream schools, so I just try to prevent as many people as I can from going down the path I did.”
Each manager in The Bosses’ Lounge also takes on a unique Q&A…
Which training sessions do you enjoy leading the most?
I’ve spent five years being a coach, so I’m very possession-based in training. I’m all about tempo and high work rate in sessions and creating an enjoyable environment. I’m not the most professional person in the world, and I don’t mean that as in I’m unprofessional, but you see some managers and coaches and it’s all got to be bang on the money and there’s never any chaos or mayhem. I wanna see people have fun, as long as they’re working hard. I’m not a runner, I’m not an old-school manager.
Will you ever take part in training (in terms of actually being in the sessions as an active part, like an extra player)?
No (laughs) – and all my players will understand why I’ve said it!
Favourite ground (other than your own) that you’ve visited or would like to visit
I’ll give you two. My favourite non-league ground’s Harrogate Town – before the 3G. When I used to do opposition scouting for John (Flanagan), Harrogate was one of the earlier grounds I went to. I just loved it. They do an unbelievable cheeseburger, which I still bang on about to this day. I just like it there, so that’s my non-league one. In terms of pro, I like travelling, so I go all over the world watching footy games. I went to the Maracanã in Rio to watch Corinthians versus Flamengo for my 30th. I like Eastern European games, so I went and watched Gdańsk, I’ve seen Steaua Bucharest, I went to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Favourite player to watch (past or present)
Brazilian Ronaldo is like my God; no one would star-strike me other than that man. In terms of City, because I’m a massive Man City fan, Shaun Wright-Phillips. David Silva as well. Love David Beckham.
And how would you sell the club to Ronaldo, if you were trying to sign him for Mossley (in his prime)?!
(Brief pause) I don’t think he’d come! The way we do it, and I think it’s why we’ve ended up with some ‘names’, if you wanna call them, I just try to offer enjoyment. I demand work rate and if it’s not being done I will call anybody out. Everyone is held accountable, but I just thrive off a happy, enjoyable, close-knit environment. If I bring a player to the club, they have to fit in with the mechanisms of the dressing room. We don’t have a house of moody players, if that’s how you want to say it. We play attractive football, we want an attacking mindset, and if you can get Ronaldo on board, I’d be thrilled!
Pre-season tour anywhere in the world
Faroe Islands, or somewhere in Africa. I’m fascinated with Africa as a continent and small nations. I was actually offered to go to Mongolia, but that’s a story for another day!
Most challenging/frustrating part of your job
Time with players. It’s very hard, especially with the way that I want to play; I want to play attacking, fast-paced football and it’s very difficult to get your passing patterns nailed in when you only have Tuesdays and Thursdays. When you look at this part of the season, you’ve only got Thursdays, because Tuesdays are games. Commitments as well, and it’s no one’s fault, but every week you’ll get a text message an hour-and-a-half before – ‘I can’t get out of work’ – and it just scuppers your plans. I’m experienced enough to be able to tweak it and flip stuff around, but I’d love nothing more than to be planned and be able to see them every day, but that’s for me to keep working hard and try to push on towards.
Funniest player/coach you’ve worked with, or just one of the funniest
Phil Carratt, my assistant right up until this summer. He’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met in my life.
Most embarrassing moment as a manager/coach/player
I’ll tell you what was embarrassing – last week against Widnes. We scored in the 95th minute with nine men to make it 2-2 and I’ve over-celebrated, but it’s emotion. They took the kick-off, launched it forward and scored. I think the more embarrassing ones are when I was younger, arguing with officials; looking back, it’s a bit cringey, but again, it’s a learning curve.
Your routine on a match day
Up until last season, I used to be painfully superstitious, to the point that it controlled my life. Do you know magpies, ‘one for sorrow’ (two for joy)? If I saw one magpie, I’d have to drive around until I saw two. I once pulled up at Stockport Town and there was one magpie on the top of the stand, and I ended up near City’s ground trying to find another. Now I’ve got a bit of a ritual that I do: before every game in Mossley I drive to a certain spot, where the big cross is in Mossley. I just have five minutes there on my own before all the chaos. I am 100 miles an hour at all times, my brain doesn’t stop, so I go to bed at midnight and get up at 4 in the morning every day. So I try and go and have five minutes on my own and a coffee and just try my best not to think about anything. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does the complete opposite. I’ll then always try and be first at the ground, just because I want to be out and at it. I love it that much I wake up on a Saturday and I’m happy to have a shower and leave. There’s always stuff to do at non-league grounds, whether it’s tidying up, helping the kitman, brushing the stand, getting rid of weeds. John Flanagan’s sort of instilled it in me down the years, ‘standards, standards, standards.’ We’re not blessed with wads and wads of cash in Mossley, so for us to impress and bring a player in, our opportunity is when they see the ground, so I like to keep things tidy.
One singer/band or song you would sneak on to the team playlist, assuming that you don’t run it already…
I listen to hip-hop. In fact, that’s my embarrassing moment! We played Tadcaster the last game of the season, when I first got the job, and it was a case of ‘it’s been a crazy season, I’m gonna have a few,’ but I’m teetotal now; I’ve not had a drink for 14 months. I had a few anyway and there’s videos of me rapping on a microphone.
The best track I’ve ever had in a changing room, though, was Enrique Iglesias ‘Hero’. Out of nowhere, it just became our song. We were at Chasetown first game of the season, we won, and it just came on. All the players started singing it, like word for word all the way through it. I’d put that back in.
Advice you remember getting that’s stuck with you
I went to like a seminar at Hotel Football about six months ago and Gary Neville was the key speaker. He was talking about his time at Valencia and he said if he could go back he’d get rid of all the bad eggs. He said he tried to work with them and ultimately they were the core that rotted his apple. He said even if you’re wrong in the long run, if you sense a rat, whether it’s changing room, life, whatever, it has to go. It is a little bit harder in non-league, because there’s some people you have to try and put up with! I try to live off that now, though.
If you could have some time with any manager, past or present
(Pep) Guardiola. The only other one, maybe Sir Bobby Robson. Guardiola, the man is a genius, and I’m not trying to be him, I’m not trying to recreate his sides, because it’s never gonna happen, but just how he handles stuff and how he deals with people, it’s unbelievable, and I’ve felt that way from when he was at Barcelona B, let alone at City.
Any misconceptions about you, myths you’d like to dispel, or something you wish people could understand a bit more?
I’m quite a positive person, I’m loud, and I tend to be voice of the party, if that makes sense. It might come across as a bit brash and it’s not; if anything, I’m probably masking a bit of insecurity. I could be totally wrong and I hope I am; people might not think that. I’m very family-based, that’s all I really care about, other than my football. It probably stemmed from how I was with referees when I was a bit younger, and you’ve got to remember, when you’re 27/28, you are up against it every time you’re in the dugout, because people look down on you. People think ‘oh, who’s this? You’ve never played, who are you?’ Anyone who knows me well knows I’m respectful. I hang on everybody’s word when it comes to football, and I try to be helpful where I can. My phone is open for any player, any manager who wants a chat.
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?
What it is for me is I’ve lived another life; a bit wild, I’ve been the black sheep, sort of thing. I know I’m making people who I care about proud, I know I’ve turned certainly my local area’s opinion of me around massively. I know that people respect me for turning my life around and it gives me stability in my life. I’m a workaholic, as long as it’s something that I care about, and I’ll give it everything until I can’t breathe. It’s that for me with football; it gives me the opportunity to continue to push and progress my life. I probably don’t say it enough but I’ve done quite well over the last five years or so, and I just love footy. I’ve spent many a year down and I’ve put myself into something I’ve always loved and I’m giving it everything I’ve humanly got, so it’s that for me.
Interview/article by @chris_brookes