Antony Kay relishing Runcorn Linnets challenge as new manager offers verdict on managerial pressure

Antony Kay named Runcorn Linnets manager

New Runcorn Linnets manager Antony Kay says he is relishing the challenge of his first steps in football management.

The 41-year-old was named as Billy Paynter’s successor following his resignation, in light of their Northern Premier League West semi-final defeat to City of Liverpool.

Kay arrived at the APEC Taxis Stadium last summer after ending his three-year spell with Welsh Premier League outfit Bala Town. The defender established himself in the heart of the Linnets back four as they earned their highest-ever league position in the Northern Premier League West.

The Barnsley-born centre-back counts the likes of the Tykes, MK Dons, and Huddersfield Town on his CV after a successful playing career. Kay made over 700 league appearances – including promotion with Tranmere Rovers and the Dons.

He will be the fourth manager in the Linnets dugout in three years following in the footsteps of Calum McIntyre, Dave Wild and Paynter. With aspirations of enjoying a managerial career as successful as his one on the pitch, Kay is determined to make the plunge into management work.

“I’m nearly 42 now and I’ve been looking to possibly manage, looking down that route since I was about 30. It’s not just a random thought, I’ve been planning for a while, I’ve got a lot of friends in management that I speak to regularly and get advice from,” he said speaking to Off The Park.

“This was one of the where I’ve got a chance, so why not? Now I have, I’m going to take it with both hands, I’ve got my coaching business in the evening, for me this is going to be a 24-hour role, I want to succeed because I’m under pressure – with it being my first job – but I thrive under pressure. I’m looking forward to it.

“First job, under pressure yeah. But this is what I want to do as a living going forward so I have to handle the pressure and it has to work. I’m going to give it every single thing possible, I’m going to demand every single thing from the players and staff to make it happen.”

Off The Park understands Olly Molloy is among the players departing Linnets this summer. Defender Sean O’Mahony, who partnered Kay at the back, will also leave.

Linnets have finished in the playoffs each of the last three seasons, being beaten finalists on two occasions before their defeat last month. The ambitions and motivation in Halton are very much to continue the hard work that has been previously put in place, the new manager believes the focus is continuing the clubs growth.

Kay continued: “When I spoke to the lads I wanted to keep, I rang them up, I think they respect me aswell. They could’ve went to other clubs for more money but they decided to stay, they know what I’m going to want from them and they’re looking forward to working with me.

“Even if you’re successful in the season, you have to build and have to keep building up. We know in the playoff semi-final, we let ourselves down badly and that’s one of the main reasons why the lads stayed on as well – to prove a point.

“The core of the team is there, not that much needs changing, we just want to have a bit more direction, a bit more involvement with the ball, move the ball a bit quicker and demand a lot more on and off the ball.”

Despite turning 42 in October, retirement isn’t entirely on the cards as Kay may still lace up his boots should the defence need a helping hand.

And he will be looking to lean on the experiences that his 20-year professional career provided. Question marks emerged over Kay’s suitability for the role but he will look to combine the playing philosophies of some of the managers he has played under including Karl Robinson, Lee Clark and Ronnie Moore to name a few.

His endless contacts list with some of his former coaches and teammates offering their support and guidance in light of his unveiling last Friday. Kay is determined for his managerial career to be a success with his backroom staff and the retained list still to be released.

“I’m going to be wanting and demanding effort, I’m going to demand bravery on the ball and make it entertaining for the fans as well,” said the 41-year-old.

“At the end of the day, you can do what you want and it’s about winning football matches – simple as that – hopefully we’re going to do that and do it in style.

“I’ve had quite a lot of good messages, managers wanting to help – who I’ve played with – I’ve had players wanting to come in and the lads who are here giving me backing. I’ve been on the phone 24/7 trying to get things sorted, I’m a believer that if things are right off the pitch, it’ll show on it and the board know what I want.”

Kay called for the fans to return in their numbers after another record-breaking season for attendance in Runcorn. While a minority come under fire for their social media reaction to performances and results, the former Tranmere defender understands their frustration as he looks to guide the club to their first promotion since 2018.

“Keep doing what they did last year, I was surprised by the attendance’s home and away they’re one of the best in the league, they’ll cheer the lads on and even after the semi-final, they showed their frustration which is normal, they care,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s hard at this level because some players can’t handle that pressure. I’ve been used to playing in front of thousands of fans and if you don’t play well, they pay a lot of money – it’s their right to have a go at you.

“That’s what they’re there for, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and that’s what football is, if you want to be successful you have to handle pressure, that’s part and parcel.

“Keep supporting us and come back in numbers.”

[Featured Image: Runcorn Linnets]

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