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Waiting To Be Wanted


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“Call me crazy, Jon, but I think it’s finally time.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting to hear that today. Are you sure? You’ve swatted me away every time I’ve suggested it before.”

“I know, and that was the right decision then. Not now though – I think this is it.”

“As long as you’re sure. It’s not really something we can go back on, you know that?”

“Of course, I know. So, what do we do now?”

“Well, you start by finishing as strongly as you can. You’re a known quantity, but a late reminder of your qualities won’t hurt. In the meantime, I’ll keep my ear to the ground – find out what’s out there, who might be leaving, who might be interested, if your name generates a response. We go from there.”

“So nothing from me yet?”

“You can tell the board if you like, it depends on whether you’re expecting a send-off and how much you care about those particular bridges. No need for too much sentiment, but word does travel. There’s no hurry though – you’ve got time.”

“OK, thanks Jon. Let me know what the noises are, yeah?”

“I will, don’t worry. Speak soon.”


I took a deep breath after putting the phone down. It was time. I’d been at Buxton for almost eight years now, and I guess what they said about the itch was true. They’d given me a break after Boston gave me the boot – my first club in England after three seasons across the Irish Sea in Newry. And we’d had some good times together. But it was time to move on.

When I arrived it was with the remit to preserve their spot in the National League North, but within two years we were heading up, a glorious play-off win over Alfreton taking us to the top table of non-league football. David Hopkins and his board were happy just to be there, but we had bigger plans, and we didn’t even bother with the play-offs this time round, storming the league and earning a spot in the Football League for the first time in the club’s more than 150-year history.

But a town the size of Buxton struggles to sustain a League Two club – Silverlands only holds 4,000 and that’s 20% of the town, and the ‘highest ground in England’ hardly generates the same sort of advantage we’d have if we were playing our home games in La Paz.

No, the fact we’d stayed here was a minor miracle, and we’d punched above our weight to do so. 18th the year we came up, 15th the following season. A rare foray up the table into 9th, and back down to 14th last time round. With the budgets on offer, Buxton were never going to go any higher, and as we sat in a comfortable 15th place in February of my eighth season in the Peak District, I realised that the team was getting stagnant. In fact, I was getting stagnant.

In the past I’d politely but firmly turned down the few expressions of interest that had come to me via Jon Fuller, my good friend and agent. Buxton had made me a manager, and it would have been unfair to walk out on them. But now, with my latest two-year deal coming to an end and fatigue beginning to creep in, it was time for fresh pastures. I’d say it was nothing personal, but I’d be lying. It was personal, and that’s why I needed to leave.

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Thank you for the kind words guys, I really appreciate it! I've had a bit of an urge to tell some stories just lately, so hopefully they turn out OK!

A couple of days later, league leaders Bradford waltzed into Silverlands and took all three points back to West Yorkshire, a lone goal from fan favourite Scott Challinor the only bright spot in a comfortable 3-1 defeat. Afterwards I found a moment to speak to the chairman alone, and the deed was done.

“I understand, Chris, I do. And I should have expected it at some point. But it’s still disappointing, you know? Is there anything we can do to change your mind?”

“I’m afraid not Dave, you of all people should know I’m a stubborn sod when I need to be, and I think I need to be this time. I know we’re in a good spot at the minute, but we’re standing still and that’s as much my fault as anyone else’s. The club needs a change, and so do I.”

“You’re too humble, but I’ve told you that before. If you’re decided then my hands are tied, but if you change your mind the door is always open – until we appoint a successor, of course.”

“Of course. It’s nothing personal.”

“Exactly. Oh, and Chris, this is all at the end of the season right? You’re not going to disappear and leave us up the proverbial creek, are you?”

“Don’t worry about that, I’ll finish properly. You’ve got me ‘til the end of the season, guaranteed.”

Hopkins had taken it well enough, but the look of resignation in his face almost made me change my mind. From his point of view, I was the man who’d lifted his club to its highest ever point, so of course he’d be disappointed to see me go. But he was also a shrewd businessman, and was probably just as disappointed that he wouldn’t be getting any compensation for me, knowing him. Not that the new manager would have been able to spend it on the playing squad, if previous years are anything to go by.

It’s a silly point to be making after highlighting the relative size of the club, but in my entire time at Buxton I’d not spent so much as a penny on transfer fees, or even on a loan. I think the club had paid a handful of agents, but they weren’t asking for much at this level either. It was another reason I was feeling ready to move on – somewhere with a little more freedom in the market would be a welcome respite from the annual penny-pinching. Sometimes I was as much an accountant as I was a manager.

But money to spend and the clubs I was likely to wind up at did not exactly go hand in hand – unless a chairman was looking to take a real gamble, I wasn’t about to find myself taking the reins of a Premier League side after a lengthy spell in the Peaks. No, I’d likely be looking at a club with only marginally more resources, and either looking to recover from a managerial disaster or mourning the loss of a successful boss. Unless a new ownership wanted their own man, it was a rare thing indeed these days to do what I was about to do and create a vacancy where things were, on the whole, ticking along just fine.

So I needed to be careful of my next move. Another couple of weeks passed by – a 1-0 win over Morecambe and miserable stalemate in the driving Carlisle rain made for a soggy for successful double-header in the North West, and on returning to Buxton it was time to sit down with Jon and try and get a sense of what my options were.

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“The good news for you, Chris, is that there quite a few clubs that are at the very least considering making a change. There’ll definitely be something for you – you’re not on the dream list of anyone that would be a massive step up, but people like your work.

“However, people are playing their cards very close to their chest. There aren’t many clubs wanting to pay somebody off when they can let the clock run out on a contract, and those that are ready to pull the trigger aren’t going to want to sit and wait until May for you to swan in at the end of the season. It might be too late for them by then.

“It sounds like there are a handful of clubs who would rather not make a change, but could be forced to – take Huddersfield for example. If Dean Smith gets his second crack at the Villa job as is rumoured, they’ll be on the table. But they’d rather stick with their man.”

“Would I even get an interview at Huddersfield? That seems like a big jump?”

“It was only an example, but that depends. Dean Hoyle would probably look elsewhere in the Championship and you haven’t got the club links that he sometimes prefers, but he likes to appoint young and British, and you’ve got that in your favour.”

“I’m 44 Jon, hardly young anymore.”

“In this game it is, and you know it. But you’re right, it might be a bit of a stretch, but shy bairns get nowt, you know? It’d be worth throwing your hat in the ring if Smith moves on.”

“OK, so Huddersfield are probably as high as we’re aiming at the minute. What else is likely to be out there, anyone else in the Championship?

“I mean, you can probably think of the first one yourself…”

“I’m not going to Watford, even if they would have me. I’d only get 10 minutes. I feel sorry for Paul Clement – at least they usually back a manager before sacking him!”

“Indeed, I’d be advising you against that too. They won’t wait until the end of the season either. There are a couple of other interesting ones in there – Richard Wood is almost certainly out at Rotherham if they go down, and Neil Critchley isn’t too enamoured with life at Bolton, although you’ve probably got more money to work with here than there is over there.”

Rotherham interests me, which is a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself saying. Well-run club, nice stadium, the squad is probably too good for League One and I could probably get away with staying out here. That’s intriguing.”

“I mean it’d be two or three hours on the road every day so you might go mad, but otherwise you’re not far wrong. Do you want me to make some more direct enquiries?”

“Hang on, that’s only one division. I’m assuming there’s more?”

“Of course, of course. League One is an interesting scene. Lincoln aren’t convinced by Chris Powell, Lee Johnson has just about run out of time at Crewe, and I’ve heard from a good source that Ruben Albes is 99% certain to be moving back to Spain at the end of the season, so that opens up Charlton as well.”

“No imminent sackings there?”

Micky Mellon is hanging on at Rochdale, but I’m assuming you’re not looking to stick around in League Two if you can help it?”

“That’s fair. OK, so now what? I make that eight possibilities, six if we discount Watford and Rochdale.”

“And you’d be happy with any of the others?”

“I mean, Huddersfield sounds ideal but may be a step too far, but Rotherham is probably the next best option. Bolton would tempt me just because of the size of the club, Charlton is similar. Lincoln is probably bottom of the pile, and I just don’t fancy Crewe. They don’t seem particularly well run, and even the youth system has dried up these days. They only seem to be heading one way.”

“OK, that gives me something to work with. Bear in mind though that this could change at any minute –I don’t know everything, and it only takes one surprise sacking to trigger a massive chain reaction. Equally, the moment a club goes outside the pyramid, the fun stops, so no guarantees.”

“What do I need to be doing in the meantime?”

“You’ve told the chairman, do the players know?”

“Not yet. I didn’t want to distract them while we weren’t definitely safe.”

“That’s admirable and all, but there’s no way you’re going down and you’ve got to look after yourself. Next time you win a game, let them know – do it while spirits are high. Once that’s done, let me know and I’ll set you up an interview where you can casually drop it in – maybe the BBC, maybe the EFL website, somewhere people will see it. Say the right things, don’t mention specific clubs, you’ll know what to do. In short, get your name out there and let people know you’re available.”

“Got it. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do this, remember?”

“I know, it’s not easy. We’ll get you there though. You’re a good manager – remember that, remember your value, remember what you can bring to a club. But we’ll deal with that when you start getting interviews.”

"No problem, cheers Jon."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Our next fixture was at home to high-flying Newport County, and my interview with the Beeb would have to wait. We got off to a good start with Kai Dennis earning and then converting a penalty in the opening 10 minutes, but we were clearly second best. The offside flag saved us once but no longer, and after the break we succumbed to two goals which pushed the visitors back into the automatic promotion places. It was no more than they deserved, and we stayed 14th.

A point on the road at Mansfield saw a much improved performance, even if we managed a grand total of no goals. The stalemate was probably a fair result, although in my entirely biased opinion we probably created the better of the chances. Olly Naylor came closest when his header came back off the post and into the grateful arms of their keeper, but we couldn’t force the winner. What it did mean was that three more points, or results going our way, would secure our League Two safety before March was out. We’d been realistically safe for a long while, but having it confirmed mathematically was always a nice milestone.

One of the reasons that we’d never been in much trouble was that Scunthorpe were having an utterly miserable campaign, and were still yet to reach the 20-point mark on their return to the division. We welcomed them to Silverfields, sent them back to North Lincolnshire with no points and a two-goal hit to their already terrible goal difference, and our survival was secured with considerable ease. All of which meant I needed to have a certain conversation with my players and staff.

To have it after a win, and specifically the win which guaranteed our safety, was definitely the right move. Footballers are a lot more mobile than chairmen, and are used both to their managers moving on, and they themselves changing clubs on a regular basis. What I delivered was hardly Shakespearean, but the reception was good and there was a sense of celebration and goodwill rather than betrayal. Some of the homegrown lads, the likes of Scott Challinor and Jay Peacock, players I’d brought into the first team straight from the youth set-up, showed a little more emotion than most of their journeyman peers, but even they understood.

So too did my staff, although they were understandably a little more concerned about their own futures given that I’d appointed each and every one of the coaching, scouting and physio teams – some just this season, some way back in the mists of time at the start of my tenure. Often a new broom sweeps clean in times of managerial change as the new boss brings in their team, and that was the question on their minds, even if they daren’t ask it just yet – were they on my team? Would I take them with me? Where was I even going? Or would they get left behind, only to be cast aside by my eventual replacement? I was the manager, the one people took notice of. But nobody knows who the Buxton fitness coaches are – if they’re a casualty of regime change, what happens to them?

Even if they had plucked up the courage to ask me directly, I didn’t know I could answer them at this point – it wasn’t like I had a new job lined up right away. But if were to give a brutally honest assessment of the team, there were probably only two that would cut it at a higher level. The one man definitely on the ‘team’ was assistant Pete Crofts, who had been invaluable as my right-hand man and was an excellent coach in his own right. Otherwise, the options were limited – Naomi Hubbard was a superb physiotherapist and had more than proven herself capable of taking the ‘banter’ that comes with being a woman in a very masculine sphere, but that’d be about it. Sadly, with bigger budgets there’d simply be better options.

But I was getting ahead of myself. There were two steps to the next part of the plan. First, a signal from the club’s press officer that the official announcement of my end-of-season departure was live on the website. It only seemed fair to go there first, and it was a pretty eulogical piece which had some nice words from the chairman, summed up my achievements nicely, and wished me well in my future endeavours. Elliott Daniels had done a fine job of it, and I made a mental note to thank him personally for his efforts.

Second was a radio interview with BBC Radio Derby, who were the first outlet outside the club to find out about my plans. They’d been good to me for a number of years, I’d grown friendly with their football reporter Jen Hales, and it was nice to be able to give her the ‘scoop.’ My interview would form the basis of the article that would then appear on the BBC Sport website, and once that was out there, it was largely down to Jon Fuller’s silver tongue and network of contacts. Plus, you know, the small manner of finishing the season here in Buxton.

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Thanks Mark... I think! :D Fortunately for you Buxton aren't really the main event here, so hopefully it isn't too painful to read!--



from the BBC Sport website

Buxton boss Bradshaw to leave League Two side

By Jennifer Hales and Adam Bailey

Buxton FC manager Chris Bradshaw is to step down at the end of the current League Two season after almost eight years in charge of the Derbyshire side.

Following Buxton’s 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe United, a result which secures their mathematically safety in the Football League, the long-serving manager announced that he would be leaving the Peak District outfit to ‘explore other opportunities in football.’

Buxton were a National League North club when Bradshaw was appointed in December 2025 after a brief spell at Boston United, but less than three years later guided them into the Football League for the first time after winning back-to-back promotions. Since then, the Bucks have established themselves firmly in the middle of the League Two pack, with relegation remaining comfortably at arms' length.

“It’s been a wonderful eight years here in Buxton, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Bradshaw, 44. “I’m hugely grateful to David Hopkins and the club for the opportunity and support they’ve given me, and for the environment they’ve created. It’s a real community club, the fans are brilliant, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together.

“But sometimes I think it’s wise to step back and take a broader view, and I feel like now is the right moment to step aside. Together we’ve brought this club a long way, but I’ve no doubt that someone else will come in and continue that journey. There’s a brilliant group of lads here, a great staff and an amazing group of supporters, and I know I’m leaving Buxton in a good place.

With seven games of the season remaining, 13th place Buxton could yet finish in the top half for just the second time in League Two, and Bradshaw assured the fans that he’ll be fully focused on the remaining fixtures.

“We’ve got Cheltenham away in a few days, and now we’re safe and this is in the open, we can focus fully on that game and the games to follow. We’ve only made the top half once and that’s obviously a big aim, so we’ll be looking to pick up as many points as possible between now and the end of the season.

“I’m certainly not going to let any speculation distract me from the task at hand. I’m not talking to any clubs at the moment, and while I’ll obviously consider any approaches that may or may not be made, I’ve given the chairman and the players my word that I’ll give Buxton everything I’ve got until the final whistle on the final day. Finishing well and strong is the least I can do.”

Buxton chairman David Hopkins was quick to pay tribute to the manager who led the Silverfields side to the Football League for the first time in their history.

“Chris has been brilliant for this club, and we certainly didn’t expect to be in this position when he came to us all those years ago. He’s been the perfect professional, has really immersed himself in the community as well as the club, and done everything we’ve asked of him with no complaints.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the best manager Buxton have had since I’ve been here, and probably ever. We’ll miss him, that’s for sure, and I’m sure he’ll make a success of whatever he does next. Our focus now is on finishing the season well and finding the right person to lead the team forward next season, but Chris will always be welcome back at Silverfields.”

Buxton’s next fixture is away to Cheltenham on Saturday. Chris Bradshaw’s final game in charge will be at home to Hartlepool on Saturday, 7 May. 


That was it – my news was out there. Jen had been kind with her words, and it was good of David to say what he did. Whether it made any difference to how other clubs thought about me would remain to be seen, but with five weeks left of the season there were sure to be plenty of shifts in the managerial market. Over to you, Jon.

Edited by EvilDave
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Chris, get Sky Sports News on now.”

“What’s going? Give me a minute.”

Crossing along Sky’s yellow ‘Breaking News’ ticker was a single sentence. ‘Hibernian sack manager Gordon Lewis after 2-0 derby defeat to Hearts.’ The SPL table flashed up in the right sidebar, showing the Edinburgh side down in 10th place, perilously close to relegation with just four games of the season remaining.

Hibs are hardly going to be interested in me, are they? Even if they go down – and I’m not sure the Scottish Championship is the best place to be going anyway.”

“No, they’re not interested in you – sorry to be blunt. But think about it a minute. Hibs always go Scottish these days, no exceptions. With so little time left, they can’t gamble on someone from lower down the leagues, so they’ll go for a big name. I’m told the two men in the frame are Alex Neil and David Marshall. I’ll save you the recollection – that’s Middlesbrough and Wigan.

“Would Neil see that as a step up though? I can’t imagine they’d be able to pay him anything like he’s on at the Riverside.”

“I suspect you’re right, but you never know. Marshall on the other hand – former player, he’s been treading water for a couple of seasons, Wigan aren’t going up any time soon. I’m not saying it’s nailed on, but there’s a good chance. What do you make of Wigan as an option?”

“I can’t say I’d given them much thought. Let me think – good facilities, they’ve been willing to go for less established managers. Squad could probably do with an overhaul, but you’d have the backing. I’d definitely consider it.”

“If Marshall goes north, do you want me to put your name forward?”

“Yes, go for it. I’d still prefer Huddersfield, but that’s gone quiet anyway. Yes, if it comes up then I’m in.”

“Good stuff. I’ll let you know if anything else comes up. The ball is well and truly rolling now Chris, I need you to be ready.”

“I’m ready Jon, don’t you worry. I’ll talk to you soon.”

Before the end of the next day, the door that had only hypothetically opened was firmly shut. Jon’s sources had been wide of the mark, and rather than taking Marshall from Wigan, Hibs had instead moved swiftly to poach Gary Irvine from second-tier Dunfermline. It smacked of a deal done behind the scenes before the sacking had been confirmed, and so all thoughts of a move to Lancashire were cast firmly aside.

Still, it was an indication of how quickly things could happen, and how unpredictable the managerial landscape could be. I wouldn’t have imagined a sacking at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership would have much of an impact on my situation, and yet it had got me looking into Wigan, considering how I might approach a theoretical interview and what changes I might make to their squad. Perhaps when I said I’d be fully focussed on Buxton, I hadn’t been telling the whole truth. But David Hopkins was bound to know that.

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The following week was quiet. We split the points in a 3-3 draw at Cheltenham before going down narrowly to playoff-bound Tranmere at home, losing to the odd goal in three in the weekend’s early kick-off. We stayed 13th, three points off the elusive top half finish, but with a tricky final few fixtures. Of the remaining quartet – Yeovil, Doncaster, Notts County and Hartlepool – only the latter were behind us in the standings, while the Nottingham side were still in the hunt for the playoffs. Of course, there’s very little difference between the midtable positions in terms of financial reward, but one final winning streak wouldn’t do my reputation any harm.

After the Tranmere result, Aston Villa finally got rid of Gareth Southgate. Their Premier League status was secured after Bournemouth suffered another defeat, but it had been a poor season for the former England manager and the writing appeared to have been on the wall for some time. The plan was for Villa to bring in a new man at this stage to give them as much opportunity to evaluate the squad before the summer, and so the door was open for Dean Smith to leave Huddersfield and return to the club he supported. Which, in turn, would open up my preferred vacancy.

But the Villa board saw things differently, and again there was a quick reveal of their new man. This time, Smith was gazumped by a club legend – Olaf Mellberg, after a managerial career taking in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, joined the club five months after being dismissed by Eintracht Frankfurt. It was a romantic appointment and an exciting one for the fans, but it meant there would be no knock-on effect opening doors further down the pyramid. After the Wigan disappointment, it was another one to cross off the mental list of opportunities. But it wasn’t long before Jon was back on the phone.

Did you see the Rotherham score?”

“Not yet. What happened?”

“They lost again, 2-0 at Preston. They’re as good as gone now – they need nine points from 12 to have any chance, as well as a couple of results going their way. Wood will go at the end of the season. They’re sounding out replacements already, and they want to talk to you.”

“That’s quick. When do they want me?”

“Can you get to the New York Stadium for 2pm on Tuesday? They’ve asked for an informal chat, but consider it an interview. Suited, booted, the works. Greg Wharncliffe is old school when it comes to business, so be on your best behaviour. He’ll want you to look after his pennies. Darren Beresford is the Director of Football, so anything about tactics and approach will come from him. Be impressed by the stadium – they’re very proud of it. But it’s not sponsored by AESSEAL anymore, remember – Beatson Clark. Any questions?”

“Who else am I up against, do you know? Where do I stand?”

“As far as I can make out, there are four you. I know two of the others – Richard Smallwood at Doncaster, he used to play there so that might give him an edge. Then there’s Kjetil Knudsen, which is an interesting shout.”

“The old Hull boss? What’s he been doing for the past two years?”

“That’s why it’s interesting. Officially, nothing. Unofficially, advising his old side Bodo/Glimt. But it’s very much a left-field choice, especially as he’s in his 60s now. I suspect the fourth man is from overseas, so it’s hard to pick a pattern. You and Smallwood would be young and local, the others foreign and experienced. It sounds to me like they’re not sure what they want. Something to be wary of.”

“Thanks. And I assume I promotion is a non-negotiable?”

“Absolutely. They consider themselves a Championship club, even if they do yo-yo a bit. Anything else?”

“I don’t think so, but I’ll let you know if I think of anything. Thanks for getting me in, Jon.”

“No worries, just doing my job. Take care Chris.”

Just like that, I had my first interview. In eight years. Frankly, I was terrified.

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“Welcome, Christopher, welcome. Do take a seat.”

Greg Wharncliffe had the manner of a man very much at home in his surroundings, a simple but spacious office deep within Rotherham United’s New York Stadium. Without having to lavish false praise on it as Jon had indicated, it was a fine stadium for what was soon to be a League One club, and I’d made a mental note to tell him as much. The first half, anyway.

What was more surprising was that we appeared to be alone. No sign of Director of Football Darren Beresford, nor any other board members. Perhaps Jon had overthought this one – it was, after all, billed as an informal meeting rather than an interview. The chairman spoke again.

“Now then, I won’t keep you any longer than is necessary so I’ll get straight to business. Mr Bradshaw, in the past 24 hours we have received trustworthy information that a Premier League club is prepared to offer up to £8m for Ryan Oates. What should I do with this offer?”

It wasn’t a standard line of questioning by any means, and I took a moment. Oates was the club’s prize asset and a fine player, but that amount of money would carry out the rebuild needed at Rotherham twice over and with change to boot. Still, I needed to measure my words carefully.

“Well, Mr Wharncliffe…”

Greg, please.”

“Well, Greg, while Oates is an excellent footballer and someone I’d love to work with, my advice to you would be, assuming the terms of payment are reasonable and not too heavily performance-based, to accept the offer. With the club’s facilities in excellent shape, I believe you could invest some of that amount back into the playing squad – not to replace Oates directly, but to improve the overall level of the squad and renegotiate any key contracts to ensure that promotion is achieved next season. Although I don’t know the contract situation of every first-team player and so can’t be certain, I’m confident it would be possible without spending the whole amount.”

“If you don’t mind me asking Chris, how? Walk me through your signings.”

It was a brilliant question. It put me on the spot, tested my knowledge, and even if Rotherham appointed someone else, they would now have my insight on how to spend a windfall. They’d potentially get the jump on me if I ended up elsewhere, assuming I answered well enough.

“I’d start by looking at what Oates brings to the team. He’s a pacey winger, so his goals outweigh his assists – that’s unusual. So you could look to replace him like-for-like, but you’d be looking at a very small number of players, all of whom would be expensive. More economical would be to find a more effective striker who can replace his goals, and a wide player who can play to his strengths. I’d be looking at Mark van Leeuwen at Huddersfield as the forward – he was prolific in his home country but hasn’t been used properly here, and would cost less than a million. For his partner on the wing, Dylan Colfer at Peterborough. I think he’s a better technical player than Oates if a little slower, but he’s only 22 and will improve with age. The two of them would make a brilliant pair.

“I would imagine that still leaves around £5m of the Oates fee, so I’d look at areas of weakness and I think the statistics show that it’s defence that needs some help. I know the fans would be sceptical, but Curtis Tynan is going to be leaving Sheffield United on a free, and that’s an excellent skillset at centre-back that would only cost a signing-on fee. Adama Coulibaly would be the last and probably most important deal – he’d be hard to take from Oxford, but I think you could convince him and he’s one of the best defensive midfielders outside the Premier League. He’s a real difference maker, and even if he decided to move on you’d double your money comfortably. Without pouring over squad lists, that’s what I’d do.”

The rest of the conversation was a little more predictable – he asked me about my lack of experience outside of Buxton, quizzed me on my preferred style of play, whether or not I felt comfortable working in a Director of Football system. I made a point of highlighting the community club feel of Buxton and how I’d enjoyed that, knowing that he wanted Rotherham to be a pillar of the town.

And then we were done. Greg Wharncliffe was an odd mix of laid-back and intense, and while I’d enjoyed discussing the game with him, I left with no idea of whether or not he had any intention of employing me – or even if there would be a formal interview to follow whatever this had been. I told Jon as much on my drive home through the Peaks, and he just laughed. We were both in the dark.

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“Good evening, Chris Bradshaw speaking.”

Christopher, it’s Greg Wharncliffe here from Rotherham United. I thought I’d call you personally.”

My heart began to race. A personal call from the chairman of another club, just days after speaking with him? This boded well.

“I won’t keep you any longer than necessary, but I wanted to let you know. We’re going with Smallwood – Richard Smallwood, I’m sure you knew he was in the running. I had some interesting conversations with my board, and let’s say they were convinced by his club connections. I wanted to thank you for your time, and let you know before you see it in the papers.”

“That’s very kind of you Greg, I appreciate the call. I’m sure Richard will be a great fit for you, from what I know of him he’s a good man and a good manager. You’ll be back in the Championship in no time.”

“And that’s kind of you, Christopher, you don’t have to say so. You’ll have a new club soon enough, and I shan’t be looking forward to coming up against you, I’ll tell you that for nothing. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

“Thanks for letting me know Greg, I really do appreciate it.”

I did, but I was also deeply frustrated. I’d obviously done enough to impress the chairman – it didn’t take a genius to read as much into his comments, unless he was a master of diplomacy – but he’d been outvoted by his board. I’d lost out to Richard Smallwood, who had done a decent job with Doncaster, but if he weren’t a former Miller, his CV wouldn’t particularly be standing out.

Jon seemed less bothered by it, but then it wasn’t his career at stake. On the one hand I was pleased to have done well enough to impress the chairman – the one person I assume all the candidates had actually spoken with – but on the other I was annoyed at somehow not being given the job despite this. I was doing the right thing, but the result was the wrong one.

Speaking of which, a couple of days later we had the unfortunate task of a trip all the way to Yeovil, in which we conceded a late equaliser and had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Results elsewhere meant that it neither hurt nor hindered our chances of breaking into the top half of League Two, but after the week’s events I was particularly looking forward to our next fixture – at home to Richard Smallwood’s Doncaster, where I would be pitting my wits against the man who had beaten me to the Rotherham job. I was determined to give him a kicking.

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There was silence for a week – there were rumours that Aberdeen might be looking to get rid of Andrew Considine that came to nothing, and so the expected chain reaction never followed. Instead, I had a full week to prepare my squad for Doncaster, which was becoming an increasingly important game for the sake of my own sanity. To beat Smallwood would at least prove to me that I should have been the man going to Rotherham.

And beat him I did – perhaps fired up by a surprisingly aggressive team talk, perhaps just outright better than our visitors, we put in one of the best performances of the season in an emphatic 3-0 win. Scott Challinor grabbed two of his own and forced an own goal for the third, but it was a complete team display. We were half a yard sharper, first to every loose ball, keener in the tackle. Not only that, but the win lifted us into 12th place, level with Carlisle on points but four goals better off, and if we could win our remaining two games against Notts County and Hartlepool we’d probably stay there. It would be a fitting way to end things at Silverfields.

“Well played Chris, we had no answers for you today.”

“Thanks Richard, it was a good game. Good luck at Rotherham next season.”

Smallwood gave me a quizzical look for a second, and then realised how I must have come to know.

“Thanks Chris, and sorry. You won’t be waiting long, I’m sure.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything, but it did no harm to let him know I’d been in the running. Had Doncaster beaten us, I doubt I’d have bothered, but it was a little boost to my ego having missed out on the job. I suspected our paths would be crossing again next season, and to have the psychological upper hand was a welcome bonus.

With two games to go, the shape of tables up and down the divisions was beginning to come clear, although there were still a handful of key positions to play for across the country. In most cases, they were the ones that could yet result in a managerial opening. Otherwise, I was waiting for the men who were leaving at the end of the season to get on with moving – or more accurately, for any of their employers to notice me.

At least, I thought I was waiting. The day after we’d dismissed Doncaster, Jon called with a piece of news which on first hearing was entirely unrelated to my situation.

“Bear with me on this one Chris, but Sporting have got rid of Sergio Vieira.

Jon, I don’t even know who Sergio Vieira is. And I very much doubt Sporting know who I am. Where are you going with this?”

Cedric Soares is where I’m going.”

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In the penultimate game of the season, we were far from our best. Notts County were a good side, especially at home, and had an outside chance of a playoff spot. On the other hand, our own goal of a top half finish was largely inconsequential, and the performance was a little lethargic. It had been a long season after all. Luckily for us, we were helped by an early penalty decision which allowed Challinor to fire us ahead, and then held on for dear life. Aaron Findlay equalised just shy of the hour mark, but we survived to claim a point which we didn’t really deserve.

That point dropped us into 13th as Carlisle grabbed the win they needed to leapfrog us, and it would all come down to the final game of the season. I didn’t quite know how that final day against Hartlepool would go – they were a poor team at the wrong end of the table, but they were also safe and had little to play for. David Hopkins had let me know that the club were planning to mark my departure in some way on the final day, and I hoped the emotion of the occasion would not get in the way of our performance.

With all going quiet on the job front, we had a solid week of preparations. I was informed that the proposed farewell would take place after the final whistle, and so I didn’t have to worry about being emotionally ambushed before the start of the game. We were expecting a full house at Silverfields – although in fairness, we were there or thereabouts at every home game – and it was going to be a special occasion in a whole host of ways.

Hartlepool travelled to the Peaks looking not to lose, and after a rallying cry in the dressing room, we blew then apart. Challinor headed in within 10 minutes of the kick-off, Noah Cutler got the crowd on their feet with a fine drive from 25 yards out, and before the interval we were three goals to the good, Perry Lynness scrambling the ball home after a penalty area melee.

The news at the break was that Carlisle were behind in Newport, which meant we were well on course for a top half finish. As long as they didn’t win and we did, we’d finish ahead on goal difference. And my men made sure we finished the job in style, rounding off a dominant performance with a fourth goal, Cutler getting his second of the game with a composed side-foot finish to sign off a quick passing move. The roar which announced the final scores from elsewhere confirmed what we’d all suspected too – while Carlisle had fought back, they’d only managed a 1-1 draw, and so 12th place was ours.

At the final whistle, David Hopkins and Tanya McLoughlin, the head of the Supporters’ Trust, came out onto the pitch with microphones in hand, which left me in no doubt as to what was coming. The two of them waxed lyrical about me and my reign, pausing every so often for cheers from stands – most of the fans had stuck around for my send – and then, to a roar of Silverfields approval, Tanya passed one of the microphones my way. Fortunately, I’d expected that I might be called upon for a few words.

“Well, what can I say? It’s been a wild few years, hasn’t it? I don’t think I ever dreamed that when David here offered me the job all those years ago that I’d be leaving an established Football League team, but here we are. It’s been quite the journey.

“There have been a handful of lows, plenty of highs, and I couldn’t have done without a whole host of wonderful people. David here for having the faith in me in the first place, the backroom staff that does so much of the unseen work, everybody that works in the club in their own personal capacity – there are some fantastic people here in Buxton. There’s every one of the players that has played for me over the years, from the guys you’ve just cheered to a top half finish, to those that left us in the National League North – they’ve all played their part, and I’m hugely grateful for their efforts. And, of course, I wouldn’t be here today without the incredible support from you, the Buxton fans. Some managers get called all sorts of abuse from the stands, jeered in the streets, threats posted online – I’ve only ever felt your love, support and kindness, and for that I am truly grateful.

“I don’t know what’s next for me, but while this particular good thing comes to an end for me, I’ve no doubt there are more good times ahead for Buxton. The next man in will be joining a fantastic football club with a great group of players and the best fans around, and if you get behind him even half as much as you have me, this team will be flying up the leagues in no time.

“For the past eight years, it has been a pleasure to be the manager of this football team, and I leave it now as a fan. Buxton will forever have a place in my heart, and that is thanks to each and every one of you. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.”

The standing ovation that followed was genuinely emotional, and while there was no practical use for the club pendant that Tanya presented me with, I would genuinely cherish it as a symbol of eight brilliant years. No longer an employee of the club, I didn’t need to worry too much about being on my best behaviour in the local pubs that evening, and when I woke up the following morning I’ll admit to being a little worse for wear.

So of course, I woke to a missed call and a voicemail message from Jon. What fresh news just a day after the season had ended?

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“What sort of state are you in today Chris?

“I’ve been better, but I’m fine. Why?”

“Are you in a position to get an application ready for Barnsley?

Barnsley? What’s going on there? But, yes, I can have something ready. Are they one for a more formal approach then?”

“Yes, and the job isn’t technically available yet, so I need you to hold fire. But they lost yesterday and missed the playoffs. At some point between the final whistle and this morning, West Brom have jumped in, and Mehmet Ali is very likely to be on his way to The Hawthorns in the next couple of days. That leaves a job at League One club that is very much in with a promotion shout – worth a go, I’m sure you’ll agree?”

“Absolutely, and not too far away again. What are my chances?”

“Good, although they aren’t exactly fast movers when it comes to this sort of thing. When the application goes in it’ll be a few days before they call you for interview, and they may well leave you hanging for a little while. Don’t expect a three-day turnaround is all I’m saying.”

Two days later, with the only Football League business left being the playoffs – the Premier League had one more round left to play – Jon’s intelligence was proved to be good. Ali moved to West Brom, leaving the position at Oakwell vacant. As per my agent’s instruction, my official application went in, and I waited for the response.

On Sunday, there was yet another twist. Despite finishing safely in 16th place in the top flight, Danny Cowley and Fulham parted ways ‘mutual consent.’ The statements from both parties gave very little away, but the word on the grapevine was that Cowley was less than impressed with the budgets proposed for the coming season. He wanted to push on up the table, whereas it seemed his employers were happy just surviving. Cowley would no doubt put himself at the front of the queue for any lower midtable Premier League job next season, but it left a scramble for that rarest of beasts – an unexpected vacancy in the ‘best league in the world.’

There was no way Fulham were going to have any interest in the Buxton manager – sorry, former Buxton manager – but there was always the chance of that fabled chain reaction. Historically, the Craven Cottage outfit were keen on grabbing well-known managers before they gained too much top flight experience, and so the entire Championship was probably on high alert. Had Ali waited a few more eyes, he’d have probably had a shot at the big gig. Instead, the bookmakers surged into overdrive as they tried to figure out who was most likely to jump into the hotseat.

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James Cryne was the man who held the keys to the Oakwell position, and he was quite the owner. Just 40 years old, he’d already inherited the club from his mother Jean, who in turn had been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over the ownership shortly before the death of his husband Patrick. The club had briefly been in the hands of a consortium which strived to follow a Moneyball-style investment structure but alienated a significant portion of the fanbase in doing so. Now, Barnsley FC was once again a Cryne family business, but James was understandably cautious when it came to trusting others with his beloved club.

It had taken until the Wednesday for me to be called in, and even the chairman’s demeanour suggested he wasn’t 100% confident in making the decisions, which may well have been Barnsley were a League One side rather than Championship outfit. However, given what I’d achieved at Buxton, I felt confident I could be the man to change that.

Not only that, but I felt like my relatively low-key status played into my hands. Cryne would not have to deal with a manager with ideas above his station and an oversized ego, would perhaps not to pay the premium that came with a higher-profile appointment, and would have an easy fall guy if things didn’t work out. Not that I planning to get sacked, or that I was going to point that particular aspect of things out, but it was a good card to have in my psychological pocket.

Unlike the Rotherham interview, where I was effectively asked to dictate the club’s summer transfer policy with little to no preparation, this one was a lot more conventional. Cryne had done his homework – I’d be surprised if he hadn’t been in contact with my old boss David Hopkins – and had all the questions you might expect. What did I believe the club was capable of? How would I ensure a connection between the playing squad and the fans? What was my approach to training, tactics, transfers? Was there anyone I’d be looking to bring in as part of my backroom staff?

I wouldn’t say there a particularly strong rapport with the Barnsley owner, but there was nothing he asked me that I couldn’t answer with detailed examples and reasonable confidence. He was a tough man to read, so there was no real way of knowing of how things had gone, but I was pleased with how I’d responded. Jon didn’t have a sense of who I was up against, so all I could do was wait this one out.

That was Wednesday. On Thursday, Fulham made their move. Not for me – I would be so lucky – but for Michael Carrick, the former West Ham, Spurs, Manchester United and England midfielder leaving second-tier Derby County to take over at Craven Cottage. He’d done well for his old club, stabilising them in the Championship after a couple of years when relegation looked a real possibility, and he’d long been tipped as a Premier League manager. Perhaps a club with more ambition than Fulham would have been ideal, but getting there in the first place was arguably the hard part.

For my part, Derby were a little bit like West Brom – probably a little bit too big for me to stand any realistic chance of landing the job. However, it would be an absolute dream – a massive side stepped in history, a solid foundation on which to build, a realistic chance of eventually challenging for promotion, and only an hour away from my Buxton base of operations. I’d never considered applying for West Brom, but this was another matter entirely. I gave Jon a call. He promised to make some enquiries, and get straight back to me.

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Derby are done already, not taking new applications – it sounds like they’ve lined up someone behind the scenes before letting Carrick go. I'd expect somebody to be announced in the next couple of days, so we’ll need to be ready in case there’s another vacancy somewhere. I assume there will be – we’d have been told if it was an internal appointment.

“Before you get too disappointed, I need you to get yourself down to London. I’ve landed you a spot on the panel for the League Two playoff final tomorrow, so get your best suit out and try and use it to put yourself out there. If nothing else, it might speed Barnsley up a bit.”

“Who else is on? Am I going to be fighting to get a word in edgeways?”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Lucy Bronze is very good and won’t let you get talked over. You’ll be on with Joss Labadie – he played for both sides which is why he's there, but hasn’t done a whole lot of media work so might be quiet – and Tyrone Mings, who might do his occasional outrageous statement shtick, but shouldn’t give you any issues. Let Lucy guide you if you get in a jam, she’s a real pro. Better not to get there in the first place though”

“Of course, I’m not planning on making a fool out of myself. Safe but insightful is the plan, unless either Tranmere and Newport give us a real incident to talk about. Back to Barnsley for a second – any news on that front?”

“Nothing, and still no idea who you’re up against. James Cryne likes to take his take, frustratingly. How are you feeling about it?”

“They’re in a similar position to Rotherham – similar size club, both should really be looking for promotion, not too far away from each other. It’s a great opportunity, and I’d take it. That said, I’d have preferred Rotherham every day of the week – Cryne didn’t seem comfortable in his own skin, and I think he might be overly cautious with his backing. I understand, but I couldn’t imagine spending eight years there. Rotherham gave me the impression that would be possible.”

“Remember, you don’t have to take the first job you’re offered. Nor do you have to give people a decision straight away. You’re not desperate, you’re a proven Football League manager. Back yourself Chris, you’ve earned that right.”

“Cheers Jon. Right, I’m going to get myself down to London and sort myself out for tomorrow. Thanks again.”

The next day in the Sky Sports studio was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Newport edged out Tranmere 3-1 after extra time to move up into League One, and with the 2-1 goal being a controversial penalty, there was plenty for the four of us to discuss in the studio. Lucy Bronze was as brilliant as Jon told me she’d be – all that media training and experience being one of the perks of being at the peak of her sport, no doubt – and leant on me, rather than Mings, to analyse Newport’s defensive strategy.

Labadie seemed a little nervous at first, but he came out of his shell as the afternoon went on, and by the end of the 90 minutes he was acting as if he’d been in front of the cameras for years. He even took it upon himself to toss me a softball question on my future plans and whether or not I was looking for work. Lucy latched on to the lead, and I ended up with two or three minutes to describe the project I was looking for. That had no doubt been Jon’s intention, but it seemed to come about quite organically.

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I’d barely got back to my hotel room, when my phone buzzed. Jon had clearly been hard at work once again.

“Have you got access to a computer?”

“I’ve got my laptop with me, of course. What’s going on?”

“Fire up the Sky Sports website, and open the top article.”

I did, and above the news of Newport County’s playoff victory, was a photograph of Ian Evatt proudly holding a Derby Country scarf above his head. Until a few hours previous, he’d been the manager of fellow Championship side Blackpool, but had obviously had his head turned by the prospect of a bigger club. I’d have done the same – his old side were regular features in lower midtable, more likely to be involved in a relegation scrap than fight up the table. His new side, on the other hand, were full of potential.

The most interesting part of the article however, was the final paragraph, which Jon directed me towards. Before the usual advert for SkyBet, it simply read: ‘Blackpool have not yet announced who will replace Evatt at Bloomfield Road. Early indications suggest that former Buxton manager Chris Bradshaw and ex-Rotherham boss Richard Wood are among the early favourites.’

“Is it true? Have they been in touch?”

“They have, and they want to talk to you in Blackpool tomorrow. You’ll have the train tickets in your inbox in a minute, assuming you’re interested.”

“Yes, thank you. Any idea if there’s anyone else in the mix?”

Jon Brady is third favourite, which is an odd one because he’s been out of the game for a full year. So either the bookies have thrown a curveball, or they know something I don’t. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t between you and Wood though.”

“Great. I’ll get on with my research, and get on the train in the morning. Let me know if you hear anything from Barnsley in the meantime.”

“Will do. Good luck Chris.

And with that, Jon hung up and I got looking into Blackpool. The Tangerines were owned by Simon Sadler, a local hedge fund owner, and I’d be interviewing with both him and Ian Hartley, their Director of Footballing Operations. They’d bounced between the second and third tiers before enjoying four years of Championship safety. Bloomfield Road held a maximum of 16,616 spectators and been renovated as recently as 2011 when they briefly graced the Premier League.

It looked like a good club to be at. Sadler had been there a while now, he had a record of giving his managers plenty of time – Evatt had been there five years and then departed on his own terms – and while they weren’t the richest club in the Championship, nor were they packing out their stadium every week, so there was definitely room for the club to grow. There was an outside chance that the right man could take them to the Premier League, but it was also a good shop window for the next step. Importantly for me, it looked from the outside like it was a place I could spend the next few years of my life.

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We weren’t interviewing in Simon Sadler’s office, but rather in Bloomfield Road’s largest executive suite, looking out over the luscious green turf and with a fine view of the tangerine seats which adorned the ground. It was a nice touch, and placed the whole interview in context. It was the owner who got the ball rolling.

“Thank you for joining us at such short notice today Chris, I know you were on media duties down south yesterday and so appreciate you coming up. We are looking to make an appointment quickly so that the new manager has all of pre-season to work with. Ian and I have got a few questions for you, and I’ll hand over to him to get things started.”

“Thanks Simon. Chris, obviously we’re familiar with your work at Buxton, but we’d love to hear it from you directly. How would you describe your management style?”

That was a nice broad question to open with, and one I could comfortably speak on for a long time. I opted instead for a three-pronged approach.

First of all, thank you having me – I appreciate the opportunity. To answer your question Ian, I’ll answer it in three parts. First of all, there’s the tactical approach, the part that most people see on a week-by-week basis. I’m a firm believer in positive, possession football, and if the opposition can’t get hold of the ball then they can’t score, so it works as a defensive strategy too. If given a blank canvas, I’ll always look to start with a solid defensive foundation, and work to become more efficient in the final third once that is established. I’m a big believer in a variety of attack, so ideally I’d be looking for wingers that can go inside and outside, midfielders capable of progressing the ball with carries or passes, and forwards comfortable in the air and on the ground. However, it’s up to me to both coach that versatility, and adapt to the players available to me. I won’t be coming back cap in hand every time I want to adjust the system.

“That leads me on to the second aspect of management, which is in squad-building and the transfer market. As you’ll be aware, I operated for several years at Buxton without a transfer budget, and am comfortable in the loan and free agent markets. That said, I’d much rather bring through a young player from the academy than loan someone in temporarily – I think it’s important that aspect of the club’s identity is grown and given chance to develop. My outlook on the transfer market is a simple one – if a good offer comes in and a player wants to move on, I won’t stand in their way. Equally, if there is a player available who would improve the squad and is available at a reasonable price, I wouldn’t hold back providing I’m still within budget. I haven’t worked with a Director of Football before, but I’d welcome to opportunity to work with you on recruitment and sales, Ian.

“Finally, the broader philosophy. At Buxton I worked hard to ensure the club remained central to the community – living locally and being approachable, getting the players out in public and engaging with the fans and various projects, supporting good causes where appropriate. That extends to bringing through young players and investing in youth, but also in making sure we assess a player’s personality as well as technical ability when weighing up a possible transfer. I want the fans to feel that Blackpool is their club, and not a distant entity. I also expect a lot from my players and staff – I wouldn’t consider myself a disciplinarian, but I will be the first person in on a morning and the last out at night, and expect them to show a similar work ethic. In return, my door is open – if anyone has any issues, be they professional or personal, I am available. That’s how I seek to manage – I consider it a simple but demanding approach, and so far I’ve seen success.”

“Thank you Chris. Simon?”

Chris, to this point you’ve never managed above League Two, and obviously the spotlight of the media and the intensity of life in the Championship is obviously very different. How do you envisage dealing with this change?”

“I think a significant part of that relates to what I was describing earlier in terms of keeping Blackpool at the heart of the community and the town. By ensuring people feel connected to the club and have that feeling of ownership, I feel having the local population onside, and of course keeping communication open with the two, will allow me to ensure a smooth step up into a club of this size. When it comes to living in the spotlight, I’ve prepared myself for this. I’ve sought out media opportunities both while at Buxton and since, have always looked to build good relationships within the press, and am someone who keeps my emotions under control. I’ve never been one to make a scene on the touchline or criticise my players in public, and I’d hope that we aren’t recruiting players prone to leaking sensitive information – if that were to happen, I’d be looking to move them on. With more than 10 years of management under my belt, I’m very experienced in man management, and a lot of this transfers to dealing with those outside the club.”

“Thank you. Can I ask what your expectations would be for the club? Where do you see Blackpool in a year, in three, in five?”

“In one year, I’d like to see progress. Ian Evatt has done a good job re-establishing the club in the Championship, but I believe the foundations and facilities are here to push on up the table. As a minimum, I’d like to avoid finishing in the bottom third of the table. Progress isn’t always linear, but on that same basis, there’s no reason that in three years’ time the club shouldn’t be pushing for the playoffs, and in five I honestly believe Blackpool could be in the Premier League, or the very least genuine contenders for promotion. At the top end of leagues it becomes harder to find those small changes you can make that make a big difference and obviously you find yourself competing against bigger and better-resourced clubs, so it can take more time to take the final step, but there’s no reason Blackpool wouldn’t be capable of taking it.”

“Thank you. Ian?”

“This might sound like a defensive question Chris, but it isn’t intended as such. Obviously recruiting a new manager can be a difficult and expensive process, as well as a time of upheaval for players, staff and fans. You’re an ambitious manager, looking to grow in the game. If we were to appoint you, could we be sure you wouldn’t look to move on at the earliest opportunity?”

“Absolutely. While I’m aware I’ve just left a club, I brought my time at Buxton to an end because I felt I’d taken the club as far as I could – two divisions higher than I found it. I was there for eight years, and turned down other proposals during that time. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe Blackpool was a project I could contribute to and invest in, and I’m not a man to walk away from those projects. If an approach were to come in I’d obviously discuss that with you first, but for the duration of the first contract it’d take something remarkable for me to consider leaving.”

We spoke for a little while longer, but it felt as if those opening questions were the key ones, the questions and answers that would establish my vision for Blackpool. If it was straight shoot-out between me and Richard Wood, I felt that while he had more experience at a higher level, I had the advantage in having shown commitment to a project and building a club. If Jon Brady really was in the mix as a wildcard, it’d be interesting to see what they thought he had to offer. He’d last been in management some 15 months ago before being sacked by League One side Oxford, so wasn’t immediately an obvious choice for the job.

Once I’d left Bloomfield Road – with the promise of an answer within 24 hours – I spent a couple of hours wandering around the town of Blackpool itself. Once one of the jewels of England’s North West coast, over the years it had become something of an easy target – the rise of the package holiday, social problems brought about by a town dominated by seasonal work, and a slowly decaying fairground aesthetic leading to increasing deprivation and a reputation as a spot to avoid. While I wasn’t convinced that it was fully deserving of its ridicule, it was definitely the sort of place – much like Barnsley – that would benefit hugely from a successful local football club.

Walking back to my hotel for the evening, my phone rang. Jon.

Chris, you’re a wanted man. Next time you get to your emails, you should have an offer from James Cryne.

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Looking at the offer in black and white was slightly surreal. Barnsley wanted me to be their new manager, and were offering just over £5,000 per week to tempt me into the taking the position. To put things into, that represented a 400% increase on my final salary at Buxton, and without having all details, would probably put me in the top quarter of all League One managers. That made sense for a club with aspirations of reaching the Championship, but it was still a lot of money.

However, as Jon highlighted, it was only slightly more than the highest paid players at the club, and with the promotion clauses present in their contracts and yet conspicuously absent in my own proposed deal, that would no longer be the case if we were to go up. I wasn’t in football for the money, nice though it was, but I did get the impression that James Cryne was trying to bring me in on the cheap.

Jon, this is definitely a negotiable deal, right?”

“If it isn’t then I’d have some serious questions. Every offer should be negotiable, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that at the very least your bonuses and clauses should match those considered as standard by every player in the squad. If I were you I’d be sending me back to Barnsley and demanding some changes.”

“I don’t know about demanding, but make it happen. If the base salary goes up, so be it, but that isn’t the most important thing here. If I’m taking the team up, it’s only fair I’m rewarded in the same way as everybody else, and that doesn’t seem like too much of an ask. Would it hurt for Mr Cryne to know that I’ve been interviewing elsewhere?”

“He probably suspects it, to be fair, but I wouldn’t go shouting it form the rooftops. If you’re selling yourself as someone carefully selecting a project, suggesting that you’ve selected several at once might not necessarily work in your favour.”

“That’s why you’re doing the negotiating and not me. I’m probably going to get an early night after the last couple of days, so just drop me a message if they come back with anything other than a firm offer.”

“Will do, look after yourself Chris.

After a bite to eat, I was done. The novelty and excitement of the playoff final on Friday, the travelling to London and Blackpool, the interview at old club and contract offer from another – it all had me wiped out. Day-to-day management was a lot less stressful than this. I flicked on the wall-mounted TV in the hotel room, and found the Sky Sports highlights package covering the day’s playoff final, this time Oxford taking on Peterborough for the place in the second tier. Before they’d even got to Peterborough’s winning goal, I was out cold.

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I didn’t receive Jon’s text message until the following morning, but it was no more than a couple of sentences – Barnsley had heard my concerns about the contract, and would get back to me with a revised offer in due course. I was pleased, on the one hand to have stood my ground and on the other not to have spooked my prospective employer. I’d be interested to see what they came back with.

At 11am, as I was catching up on the highlights I’d dozed off to the night before, my phone rang once more. Jon again, but with a sense of urgency in his voice.

Chris, I’ve got Simon Sadler on the phone. We’ve already a chat, and he’d like to speak to you directly. It’s obviously up to you, but I’ve got no concerns.”

I straightened up in my chair as I heard the Blackpool owner’s name. He’d promised a quick decision, and it sounded like I’d got one.

“I’m still in town if he wants to meet in person, but otherwise put him through.”

I heard a brief tone as my agent transferred the call over the me, and then the voice of Simon Sadler came through the speaker.

“Good morning Chris, and my apologies for the early call. I promised I’d get back to you quickly, and I intend to be a man of my word.

“Anyway, what I’m calling to say is that Ian and I were very impressed by your manner and your ideas yesterday, and we’re both of the opinion that you’re the right man to lead our club forward. Your agent has already seen the proposed contract, and I understand you’ve stayed in the area. Would you be able to get to Bloomfield Road in in an hour’s time? I’ve had the contract drawn up already and we can sign it there and then, as long as you’re still interested?”

Mr Sadler, I’d be delighted to. I’ll have a word with Jon to make sure everything is as we’re expecting with the terms, but I’ll be at the stadium at 12pm. Will the club press officer be with us or does that come later?”

“That’ll come later, we don’t ask everybody to work Sundays out of season. If you’re happy to stay in town another night, we can have the announcement and press pieces sorted tomorrow. I’ll pass you back to your agent.”

“Thank you Mr Sadler, very much indeed. I’ll see you shortly.”

The same tone played on the phone before I was once again met with Jon’s rather excited voice.

“Congratulations Chris. I told you it wouldn’t take long! I take it you’re in?”

“Unless the contract is particularly awful then yes, I’m in. What are the details?”

“Two years at £8,500 per week with a 5% annual increase and a 25% pay rise on promotion to the Premier League, break clause in the event of relegation to League One, and incremental bonuses for progression beyond the Fourth Round in FA Cup and third in the League Cup. The club will provide accommodation or expenses for up to 12 months while you move into the area, you’ll have a personal assistant, are able to recruit your own staff team – honestly Chris, it’s all in here. Your objectives are to avoid relegation in the first season and finish midtable in the second, to instil a possession-based style of play and make use of academy graduates where this isn’t detrimental to the team. Budgets are up for negotiation, but it sounds like you’ll have in the region of £2m to spend and enough room in the wage budget to bring in four or five first team players. It sounds pretty close to perfect Chris. Congratulations.”

“Thanks Jon, I haven’t quite got my head around it yet. A third year would have been ideal, but otherwise I couldn’t ask for more. A Championship club eh, who would have thought? What do we need to do with Barnsley, by the way?”

“Leave it with me. You get yourself over to Bloomfield Road and sign what needs to be signed. You’ve earned this one mate, well done.”

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 from the BBC Sport website



Blackpool unveil Bradshaw as new boss
By Martins Obasele

Championship Blackpool have unveiled former Buxton boss Chris Bradshaw as their new manager, just days after Ian Evatt departed the club to take over at Derby County.

Bradshaw, 44, who left League Two Buxton at the end of the season after eight years and two promotions, has penned a two-year deal at Bloomfield Road, and brings with him assistant manager Pete Crofts and head physio Naomi Hubbard from the Peak District club.

Announcing Bradshaw’s appointment, Tangerines owner Simon Sadler expressed his delight at securing the services of ‘one of the best young managers in England.’

“Chris is a brilliant young manager, as he’s proved by bringing Buxton into the Football League for the first time in their history. He’s shown he’s someone who is willing to commit long-term to a project, understands the role that football clubs play in their community, and has the tactical and man-management skills to be a great fit here at Blackpool.”

Bradshaw himself expressed his excitement at joining the Championship side.

“Blackpool are a great club with a rich history, wonderful fans, great facilities and a good squad. I’m thrilled to be here, and am hugely grateful to the owner for the opportunity. I’m well aware that the Championship is a very different animal when compared to League Two, but I’m confident I can adapt quickly. We’ll be looking to play attractive, possession football, to keep the fans entertained, and to push as high up the table as we can.”

With the Blackpool players currently on their holidays after the conclusion of the Championship season, Bradshaw will meet his new charges for the first time at the start of pre-season in July.

Analysis – ‘Bradshaw appointment an exciting gamble’
BBC Radio Lancashire sports editor Rebecca Shepherd

Chris Bradshaw may not be the household name that some Blackpool fans were hoping for when the news broke of Ian Evatt’s departure for Derby, but the appointment of the former Buxton manager presents a bold and exciting gamble for the club’s ownership.

Although he was quickly named as favourite for the role alongside former Rotherham boss Richard Wood, Bradshaw remains untested outside of League Two. However, while at Buxton he developed a reputation as an expert man manager, able to bring the best out of players and ensure squad harmony.

Crucially for Blackpool, he has a track record of success. Before leading Buxton into the Football League, a solitary disappointing season with Boston United was preceded by three seasons with Northern Irish side Newry City, where he guided them back into the top flight. He is also a shrewd operator in the transfer market, having built his squads without spending any money on fees. For Blackpool, a side lacking the resources of the larger sides in the division, his ability to spot potential and find value could prove key.

While he may lack the experience and contacts of higher profile candidates, Bradshaw seems like a good fit for Blackpool. He has been looking for a club he can build and take to the next level, where he can mould to squad to fit his attractive style, and where immediate expectations are not prohibitive. If he can find his feet on the Lancastrian coast, the future could prove bright for the Tangerines. 



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Epilogue – One year later

I walked into the Bloomfield Road boardroom with a spring in my step, a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday providing the ideal ending to the season. I was hopeful that the victory would colour the meeting I was about to have with my employer – a more formal would take place later in the week, but he’d insisted on a brief catch-up on the final day itself.

“Come in Chris, and congratulations on today’s win. That was a good performance out there.”

Simon Sadler was smiling, and his handshake was warm. He motioned for me to sit, and I did so, reclining slightly in the chair as I did so. I was at ease.

“Obviously we’re have the official review on Wednesday, but I just wanted a few minutes of your time to thank you for your work this season. Everyone at the club is really happy with what you’ve been doing – 10th place is a better finish than we were expecting, and the atmosphere around the club is overwhelmingly positive. So on behalf of everyone at Blackpool, thank you.”

“I can hardly take all the credit for that Simon – you know as well as I do how many people have to work together to make this happen – but thank you. It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do next season.”

“As am I, Chris, it’s an exciting time to be a Blackpool fan. Are you planning to make many changes to the squad over the summer?”

“I’ll need to sit down with the scouts, but I don’t expect anything dramatic. We have targets, and no doubt they’ll find new ones, but I’ll only make changes if they’re going to improve us. I don’t want to make changes for the sake of it.”

“Well, you know what the budgets are – as long as you’re within them, I’ll happily sign off anything you and Ian agree on.

That’s great to know, thank you. I’ll make sure the two of us keep you posted.”

“Before you go Chris, there is one more thing I’d like to discuss with you, if you’ve got a moment?”

“Of course, go ahead.”

“We’ll obviously run things by your agent before we settle on anything, but would you be interested in extending your contract?”

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On 23/11/2022 at 18:21, EvilDave said:

That concludes this particular story - I wanted to try something a little different and focus on a shorter period of time, and hopefully it's been enjoyable. Thanks for reading, and see you in the next one!

Really enjoyed that one ED. I think anyone who has played a long term save can relate to this story when a change of job is coming. Nice one!

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