Michael Clegg has expressed his delight after being unveiled as the new Warrington Rylands manager.
The former Ashton United boss was named Jody Banim’s successor after the former Blues manager stepped down. He became the third manager in the dugout at Gorsey Lane after David McNabb left his role after leading them to promotions and FA Vase success.
It’s the first managerial role for Clegg since he departed Hurst Cross in January. In between his time in the respective hot seats, he enjoyed a spell in recruitment with Altrincham. Former Bolton defender Nicky Hunt also arrives as his assistant.
Off The Park understands that Clegg was picked after a shortlist was drawn up by the Rylands hierarchy which featured experienced managers who’ve been in charge at Northern Premier League clubs as well as a National League North manager who recently stepped down from his role.
A trip to Whitby Town faces the new Rylands boss as he takes charge of their final 11 games. They sit seven points off the playoff contenders Radcliffe.
“I’m mega-excited, it’s a club that’s been on an upward trajectory for quite a while now, it’s similar to the route and the way it went when I was at Atherton Collieries,” he told Off The Park describing his feelings after taking charge. “I think there comes a point where you have to take stock and have a look around then go again, I think they’re at that point now.
“They’ve come into the league this season, seen what it’s all about and realised it’s not as easy as they thought, there’s a lot of big clubs with good budgets and it’s not just as easy to win a game of football at this level.”
Despite being happy in his previous role with the National League club, after talks with those at the Moss Lane club and the Blues, he said taking the role was a “no brainer”.
He added: “To be honest I was really happy. I resigned from Ashton United in early January then I went into Altrincham doing a lot of recruitment, really heavily involved with some League Two stuff because they’re Conference based, it was good making a lot of new contacts, taking in a lot of games and solely focusing on what the manager absolutely needed.
“I really enjoyed that. At the same time, I based myself up at their training ground on a daily basis and I learned a lot in a short space of time from some amazing people, I was happy, had no intention of leaving until the summer/next year and re-energising myself.
“Obviously, Rylands give me a call then things escalated quickly from there, I had the support of the people of Altrincham who thought I had a bit too much to be doing recruitment at this stage of my managerial career, how young I am and they really encouraged me. That combined with what Rylands had to say and offer was a no brainer.
“I’m a better version of myself than I was four weeks ago at Ashton United,” Clegg added on his time away from management. “We had a topsy-turvy time, we had two seasons done by COVID, won a trophy last season, this year started off, had a point deduction and it was a wild season.
“I always felt at Ashton this year that we were a couple of defeats away from a crisis, stability was what I needed, I think Rylands have come for me and given me confidence that I am what they believe in, where they want to go is pretty clear, the objectives are there.
“I think this season we’re going to be finishing as high as we can and next season solidifying our places as a Northern Premier League club and doing everything around what that looks like – engaging with the community, having a real say in the youth system, U18s, U21s and really trying to bring us together as one club.
“When you move as fast as Rylands, as I did with Atherton Collieries, you’re just winning games and mopping up behind yourself all the time so now we take stock, lets go and do things the right way, enrage with the community, the youth team, get this one club mentality and move it forward,” he continued.
“That’s what a club at this level has to do. Next year is a massive year, Telford could be in the league, it’s going to be as strong as ever for us as a club, it’s getting the fundamentals, the pitch, the infrastructure, the bridge to the first-team, get those things right and stabilise as a club.”
Although they’re in touching distance of being in contention for another promotion, the new manager wasn’t keen to discuss ambitions for this season as they look to simply pick up “as many wins” as they can.
Meanwhile, work off the pitch will be well underway in ensuring there is stability moving forward. He said: “They want to enjoy the football, it’s a real close-knit group who put their energy and time into Rylands because they enjoy their Saturday’s and Tuesday night’s, it’s about getting that back.
“I think this year so far has been up and down more than ever, they’ve lost more games than they’re used to – which was always going to whoever is in charge – the message is pretty clear.
“They want to play a good brand of football, win as many games as possible, get the lads on the pitch working as they were under Dave [McNabb] and Jody [Banim] so they want to cement that and carry on with the football, win as many games, stay in the division and challenge late for the playoffs.
“For us, it’s a game at a time, there’s 11 games left, it’s going to be difficult to bring anyone in or change anything massively. The rest of the season for us will be getting the best out the group – which is very good – and trying to get as many wins as we can.”
Dean Furman and Sam Egerton took temporary control of the squad during their time without a manager, beating Hyde United before a penalty edged them out against South Shields.
In recent months, Rylands have lost key members of the squad, in particular in attacking areas as Kane Drummond and Callum Dolan scored moves to Macclesfield and Fleetwood Town respectively. Meanwhile, a host of names departed Gorsey Lane in a reshuffle including Kevin Ellison and Jak McCourt.
Ahead of this weekend’s trip to relegation-threatened Whitby, there are still some concerns within the squad after injuries as incomings remain unlikely.
He revealed: “Dave done a fantastic job in assembling the squad, he was so unlucky in losing Aaron Morris and Josh Langley so early when he chased them so hard, they’d had been a solid foundation for that team.
“Defensively they’ve been pretty strong, Jody came in and trimmed the budget, move a few people around and did unbelievable in difficult circumstances, I feel like I’ve got the calmer side of that now. Dave and Jody probably went through the mill than I will so I can only thank them, it’s for me to build on that now.
“It’s going to be difficult to bring anyone in, on paper the team is very strong. Yet to know the extent of the injury list, I’ve had a call with the physio, there’s people touch-and-go for the weekend, a couple two weeks ago, one three weeks away and a couple could be right for Saturday, that’s a little bit all over. After training, we can really move forward and then plan for each game as they come.
“I’m just delighted to be here,” Clegg continued adding his thoughts. He was quick to joke about uniting with players he’s managed against and those who had previously turned him down. “I know a lot of the lads here, managed against them, chased them as transfer targets, there will be a few getting harsh words for the times they rejected me,” he said.
“I’m excited to be here, we’re not going to reinvent the wheel in the 11 games we’ve got left but we can kind of put our stamp on the team, get a few wins and get ideas of what we want to do in pre-season together early doors. It’s been good to meet so many nice people as there is in non-league, it’s always humbling to see the work from volunteers, I’m going to be giving my all for the club because everyone here deserves it.”