Altrincham have appointed a manager with an enviable list of contacts and proven record for winning promotion after announcing Neil Young as successor to Lee Sinnott at The J.Davidson Stadium.
A statement was initially scheduled for Monday, but following the body blow of relegation from the Vanarama National League, chairman Grahame Rowley stepped up the selection process and completed it within 24 hours of a bitterly-disappointing 3-0 defeat at Braintree Town.
Eager to draw a line under recent events and herald a new era in Alty’s fortunes, Rowley relayed his decision to the three unsuccessful candidates on a four-man shortlist, including caretaker-manager Neil Tolson, and confirmed ex-Chester boss Young as the new man in charge.
Young’s assistant will be former Tranmere Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Grimsby forward Gary Jones, and he made it clear he will waste no time shaping a squad capable of challenging for an instant return to non-League football’s top tier.
“The work starts today,” said Young, who steered Cammell Laird and Colwyn Bay to promotion before reeling off three successive championships with Chester. “The challenge is to find the right players to take this club forward, and coming into the position this early gives me the opportunity to recruit the ones we need.
“With FC Halifax Town going down and Salford City coming up, it’s going to be an incredibly tough league next season, particularly from the point of view of recruiting in the Manchester area. It will probably be the most competitive league for a long time, but I love a challenge and can’t wait to get stuck in.
“I played against Altrincham numerous times for Vauxhall Motors and it was always a ding-dong battle. They were always great games, as they were when I faced Alty as Chester manager. This is a special place, a special club with a fantastic fan base, and I feel really honoured to be placed in charge of the team.
“There are decisions that have to be made, and I want to get on with them, because we have to give ourselves the best chance of going into the season with a squad equipped to go straight back up. That has to be within the structure of the budget, and I want to make informed decisions about the players already here.
“All but four of them are out of contract, so I need to form opinions pretty quickly. I’ve seen several Altrincham games this season and I watched yesterday’s game on television, and while there was a lot of disappointment surrounding it, there are lads here with a lot of Conference North and Conference National experience who can form the basis of a good squad.
“Some people might expect me to come in and rip everything up, but I’ll look carefully at the budget and the players we’ve got over the next couple of days before deciding the way forward. Those decisions will be made, though. I’ve got good contacts in the game, both in the professional and semi-professional ranks, and I do think it’s important to have the right characters in the dressing room.
“We may find there are seven or eight clubs chasing those type of players, but I won’t be wasting any time trying to bring them to Altrincham. This is a really exciting opportunity for me and Gary, and we can’t wait to get started.”
Rowley reflected on a traumatic experience, on a personal level, at Braintree, following verbal attacks by some supporters, and outlined the qualities that gave Young the edge over the other three frontrunners for the job.
“It was an awful day for the club and for me personally,” he said. “Some of the things that were said were not on. My wife was in tears, because she thought I was going to lamp someone but I’ve gone past those days. Even so, it was hurtful, and my car was the quietest it has ever been on the way home.
“It was just a horrible day, one of the worst of my life. Neil Tolson suffered abuse that was totally out of order. We were all upset, and I can understand some anger, but perhaps it should have been vented on the players, not the manager. He was being pilloried over the line-up, but would anyone seriously have changed a team that had just won 5-0?
“It was such a dreadful day, I decided I may as well get all the bad stuff out of the way, so I saw Neil and Matt Doughty afterwards and told them they hadn’t got the job. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve had to do.
“But it was important to act decisively and quickly, and that’s why I’m announcing Neil Young as our new manager at the earliest opportunity. He came across as being very professional in his approach, and it soon became clear he was someone who could take us forward. His attention to detail shone through when he spoke about what he wanted from players and creating the right atmosphere in the dressing room. He stressed he wanted personalities in there, not just good players but characters.
“He wants players he can depend on, ones who will die for the club, and it was clear he does a lot of research into who fits the bill and who doesn’t. His record speaks for itself as well; five promotions in six years is no mean feat.
“It was the end of an era yesterday, but it’s the start of a new one today, with a new man at the helm. I feel positive about the future.”