Worthington hoping to push Glossop to the North End of the table

Wed 23rd August 2023 | Glossop North End
By Jay Cooper

You can trust me more than most to tell you that, should you ever visit Deepdale Stadium, home of Preston North End on game day, you would hear the following chant - “we’re the one and only North End.” It’s a novelty chant that the Lilywhites fans’ sing because the name of their club is a rarity in the EFL. Preston are the one and only North End in the top 4 leagues in the country. Open the floor to the rest of the English Football pyramid, however, this is no longer the case.

As of the 2023/24 season, the NWCFL have their very own one and only North End, and that would be Glossop.

Glossop North End were founded in 1886 and reformed in 1992, and hail from their namesake town of 33,000 or so people just 15 miles east of Manchester. As a club, they have spent time in the NWCFL before, most recently when they won the Premier Division in the 2014/15 season. This league victory sparked a run of 8 years where they would ply their trade above the 9th tier of the pyramid.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the Hillmen had an underwhelming 2022/23, to put it lightly. By April, and the season’s end, they could only help themselves to an 18th place finish in the NPL Division One West, and they were only kept from the automatic relegation places by Colne and Ramsbottom United. Their fate was still in their own hands when Ashington came to visit for the inter-step play-off, but Glossop could only slump to a 3-0 defeat and were condemned to the drop, same as Colne and Rammy.

Immediately after the end of the season the club opted for a managerial change. After 2 years of Stuart Mellish-brand football, there would be a new man to captain, and hopefully steady, the ship at the Asgard Engineering Stadium. That man would be Michael Worthington, who most recently took charge of Clitheroe’s U23’s side. Interestingly, Clitheroe’s first team made the NPL Division One West promotion play-offs last season.

Speaking to Michael earlier this week, he described what it was about the Glossop job that made him take the plunge to apply for the manager’s role with a fully-fledged senior team. “Being a first team manager has always been a goal of mine. When the vacancy at Glossop came up, it was the perfect time from both a professional and personal level to go for it for me. I knew I was ready for the step up, and Glossop is 20 minutes away from where I live. My wife has recently returned to work after 14 months of maternity leave, so working for a club closer to me is really helpful for my home life. When I’ve been to Glossop previously, with Clitheroe and others, the club had a great feel around it, similar to what I’m used to and where I’ve worked before, and it was a club I knew I wanted to be involved with when I saw the opportunity.”

Up until this time, Michael has been exclusively a youth team manager at this level of the game, and his experience does go beyond Clitheroe. He’s also previously been involved at the likes of Padiham, Nelson and Darwen FC - staples of the NWCFL, all. It’s this experience that may well have helped to set him apart from the other candidates. “At Nelson I had a spell as first team analyst, so I was at all the games, and I always attended as many first team matches as I could at Padiham and Darwen. I’ve seen plenty of football at this level and above, and I understand what is required to compete. Alongside this, at Clitheroe, a lot of our lads in the U23s went out on dual registration to teams at this level, which gave me a great idea of what it takes for individuals to succeed as well as teams.”

Worthington officially took the reins at the club on May 18th, which allows for a good month and a half or so of prep before pre-season officially kicks off for clubs in July. Despite that fairly generous window, according to Worthington himself, “the schedule was already decided by the club, and probably wouldn’t have been the order of games I would have selected.” Still, it wasn’t all bad, with Michael going onto say that the predetermined fixture list led to a situation where “each week, the level of opponent changed. Instead of it being a gradual challenge, the constant changes allowed us to work on different aspects of what we want from our performances in different individual games. We had a good mix of 3 opponents from higher leagues, and 3 from lower leagues.”

This same 6-week window proved to have its distractions in terms of bringing new signings to the team, too. “It was quite a challenge getting a team together when I was first appointed – it was only 4 weeks after their season had finished, and, as is the world of non-league football, plenty of lads had received many transfer options. We spent a lot of the first few weeks convincing players to stay, and the fact that so many of them did shows how good of a place this club is to be. They want to help address the wrongs from last season, and that is a real credit to them. However, this did mean that we started our recruitment process slightly later than others, with having to address these situations.”

Perhaps roadblocks like this might excuse a poor start to a new competitive season, and, being honest, it has been that and then some for GNE. And despite the aforementioned pre-season hiccups, which might make for an easy get out of jail free card, Michael Worthington himself was quick to say that “it has been an awful start, there is no hiding it and there are no excuses for it. We are currently conceding too many goals and not scoring enough.” As of writing, the Hillmen have played 6 NWCFL Prem matches this season, and have a mere point to show for it from their 2-2 draw away at Longridge Town. They had the unenviable task of being the first away side to visit Gigg Lane this season, in a 5-1 defeat to Bury FC that saw the NWCFL attendance record set to a new height of 5,414 people. This isn’t Glossop’s all-time attendance record though – in a nice bit of full circle storytelling from the introduction, that honour goes to an FA Cup match from the 1913/14 campaign, against fellow North Enders, Preston, for which 10,736 people were in the stands.

Back to the present, the rest of their results from 2023/24 so far read as follows: a narrow 3-2 loss to Irlam; back-to-back 2-1 defeats to Colne in both the FA Cup EP round and the league, a 4-0 humbling by FC isle of Man; and, most recently, a 3-1 loss to AFC Liverpool. A barren run if there ever was one, but it has allowed the gaffer to start to see some of the issues in his team. “We have been the cause of our own downfall in our games. Against Bury FC, we made two mistakes inside 10 minutes and then had to chase the game in front of a huge crowd. Against Irlam, we threw away a two-goal lead, and then in other games we have been playing really well, conceded the first goal and then struggled to get back into the contest. To improve, it is simple - we need to be more solid without the ball.” It’s a fix that sounds so simple on paper but has to be the key if Glossop are to get their season off the ground ASAP, which they will know they need to do.

Of course, being a manager at a football club doesn’t just mean writing down 11 names every week and sitting on the bench for 90 minutes – you are a part of a community that goes back longer than you, in a lot of cases. When it comes to this side of the job, Michael said that, “I told the board that I didn’t want to be a manager who focused on just the first team - I wanted to help the club grow both on and off the pitch. We want to engage with the fans and the community as much as we can. We did a fans forum during pre-season with myself and our club captain Nathan Valentine, which was challenging but also a fantastic opportunity to put over our vision to the fans that attended.

“Part of our culture is that players are expected to stay behind post-game for a certain amount of time – this is something that should just happen, but, for whatever reason, last year it didn’t. We have also engaged with the junior club and we’ve had two lads - Harry Venard and Callum Manley - sign forms to be part of our first-team squad, which shows there is a progression route for young players who play for Glossop North End. The club now has a commercial manager and we have started to offer a variety of opportunities to local businesses through this role. A lot of the things we’ve been doing sometimes go unnoticed, but I hope in the long term it puts the club in a better position off the field than it is now.”

Improvement both on and off the pitch is pivotal for clubs at all levels, but it’s fair to say that one side of that coin gets more press than the other. In terms of goals for the season, Michael said that, “the short-term target is to climb the form table. It is done on six games, so at the minute we are bottom, which isn’t acceptable. Six games from now, I want us to climb that form table and if we can stay near the top of that throughout the year then we are more likely to achieve our goals. The season is a slog - we still have 40 league games left to play, we are only three weeks in, and the amount of games we have also makes things seem a lot worse than they are. Plenty of sides this year will have a slump in form, and unfortunately, we are the first to do that. We know that we have problems that we need to address and right now we are just looking at the next few games to solve those issues. Then we can start to properly look forward.

“The irony of me saying this next bit is not lost on me, given the start we have had, but our aims at the start of the season was to be challenging for the play-offs. Like a lot of sides in this league will understand, you get a totally different feel of things compared to previous years, because you can be within touching distance, go on a good run and really achieve something, whereas in previous years, the top two being the only ones with a chance of promotion has meant a lot of sides are left with nothing to play for. Do I think our aims are still realistic? Yes, I do. I appreciate our start has been awful, but we are only six games in. With just a couple of wins, we can make the jump right into mid-table and then you can look forward. That is the long-term target.”

At surface level, a newly-relegated club with 5 losses from 6 games in the league doesn’t make for pretty viewing. But there’s always more going on. A growing community club with an ambitious young manager and both short-term and long-term plans as to how to get out this rut that they’re in? Now that sounds much more palatable. Hopefully this can all be put into practise as soon as possible, and can bring some good form to Glossop North End in the near future.

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