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Liam Manning: Creating a Legacy

Started on 13 December 2018 by ScottT
Latest Reply on 19 December 2018 by Justice
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2 yearsEdited

A Brief Introduction

Like many, I once had dreams of making it as a professional footballer. A keen full-back, yes, I was a full-back... and Jamie Carragher is adamant that nobody grew up wanting to be a Gary Neville? Well, I didn't want to be Gary Neville, very few did, but I aspired to play in a similar role to him. I digress...

I would turn out for my local Sunday League side to simply play the game I loved. Football was more than a game to me. It seems to be the new trend to say as such, but I did breath football. If I wasn't playing it, I was supporting my club and racking up the miles on the supporters coach, every Saturday; without fail. Football simply became my life as a kid and I feel that is still synonymous with me today - even as a grown adult. My love for football has never faltered.

I lived in the North-East, in the city of Newcastle - a city that is known for its love for the beautiful game. I grew up a Geordie and I'm proud to be. Everyone was passionate for football. Most dreamed of pulling on the jersey of Newcastle or Sunderland, with most kids idolising Alan Shearer and announcing how they were going to be on that pitch one day and making a name for themselves like he did.

My passion for the game allowed me to have a deep understanding at a young age of what football truly was. I tried to perfect my position with every game that I played. I studied the movement of players during games and would spend hours improving my craft. Nobody was stopping me from achieving those dreams, not even my mum who screamed at me to "come and eat my tea" for the sixth time on a daily basis.

Years passed and I only grew as a player. At the age of 11, I was handed trials by Newcastle and given the opportunity that so many wanted, but so many failed to get. I counted myself lucky - that was one thing I never lost touch with. I was a humble kid, as I brought up well by my parents who taught me to be thankful for the opportunities I received and take them with both hands.

Coaches admitted I had a bright future, but as a shy kid, I never quite believed in my abilities. My confidence was lacking, but I never let it show on the pitch. I was honest and hard-working. The sort of player that coaches loved and therefore I think that's why I soon became a well-liked teenager within the setup. I had all the tools to make it as a professional footballer.

You may be wondering why I sit and write this now, why you are not familiar with the name Liam Manning... let me explain further.

The whole day repeats itself over and over in my mind, often. We were travelling to face our rivals, Sunderland. Like the derby in the men's game, it was as fierce at this level - even as young fifteen year old's. We led 2-0 at half-time and were very much in control. Tackles had been flying in from both sets of players for the entirety of the game and it certainly wasn't a friendly game.

Approximately, with half an hour to go and we still remained two-up. I received the ball on the left-hand flank and looked to push up with the ball. I wasn't exactly a conservative defender and would often look to push-up the pitch, however understood when and when not to do so. This had been carefully distilled in me by the coaches throughout the years I spent with the Toon.

I looked to come inside with the ball, as there were no real options ahead of me, as I did so; I saw a Sunderland shirt come flying towards me. Quickly looking to adjust to avoid the challenge, I was unable to do so as my studs became caught in the surface. The opposing player proceeded to clatter into my right leg, which had been planted firmly into the turf and consequently shattered it.

I remember the pain that seeped through my body. I had never experienced anything like it before and a crowd of boys came rushing over, with several scraping on the pitch; in true derby-day like scenes. Soon enough, the physio arrived and a stretcher followed in pursuit - it was clear that the injury I had sustained was horrific, but nobody knew the consequence it would have.

The game would finish 3-1 at the full-time whistle, I would later be told. However, the result came secondary to everyone in the end. I was taken to hospital where X-rays were carried out. I would later be told that I had sustained a broken leg and the injury was so serious, that my chances of playing professional football were highly unlikely. As a young child who's dream was to become a footballer, my whole world was, as you could imagine, shattered (like my leg, coincidentally)

However, I was a determined child and that meant I wouldn't take "no" for an answer. The chances were minimal, they told me, so not unlikely... that was my fuel to push on and look to get back on the pitch and resume my dreams.

A year past and my injuries had healed, I had slowly began to regain my fitness and sought to make a return to the pitch. The coaches at the club were fully supportive during my injury absence and understood the extent of the injury. But, welcomed me back as I announced my desire to want to return. My mother wasn't exactly supportive of the decision, but didn't want to stand in my way on something she understood had deep importance to me.

Therefore, I was handed the opportunity to make a return as a substitute in a fixture against Carlisle United. I was brought on in the closing ten minutes of the game and began to show the pace and desire I had previously shown prior to my injury. Yet, my whole career would soon be ruined in an instant.

The Carlisle attacker began to limit the amount of space and time I had on the ball, with limited time left as he set to look for a winning goal for his team. In a completely fair challenge to win possession, he took my balance out from underneath him and my leg once again suffered. It was in that moment, I knew my whole career was over.

I received no serious injury from the tackle, instead only a minor knock - however, reoccurring injuries as a result of the injury sustained in the Sunderland game meant that I was unable to achieve the career I aspired to have. So, my whole life changed as a result.

Instead, I turned my attention to management. If I couldn't play football, I wanted to be involved in some capacity. So, upon leaving school, I took the necessary steps into taking coaching badges and gaining experience with some of the true professionals of the game; such as Sir Bobby Robson, a true hero in these parts.

He would become a true inspiration in my quest into management and would give me some key advice and information. I will never forget the words he said to me - he truly believed I had the ability to make a name for yourself. "One day, everyone will know the name Liam Manning," he told me. Those words have deep meaning and importance even today.

And that, is how it all began...
God, you've only been gone from story-writing for a few days and I already missed this. What an intro. Humbleness and ambition are two great qualities to have straight off the bat for a football manager and I am most interested in where Manning will be heading to! I'm hoping somewhere local up north, maybe a Darlington? Carlisle? Whatever it is, I'm so excited.
This is you right now:

Will be following, as you know I will :P

A Path into Management

Fast-forward eleven years later and it's fair to say I am rather pleased with my progress. Okay, perhaps I've not become the next Sir Bobby Robson, but I have worked extremely hard to forge a path into management and that path has guided me into an opportunity I never thought would arise.

Growing up in Newcastle - you're either black and white or red and white. Toon or Mackem. Newcastle or Sunderland. I decided that the team for me was those that wore the black and white shirt with pride. However, not the black and white stripes of Newcastle, no.

Instead, I donned the kit of Darlington Football Club, a team located just 36 miles away from the city and a simple bus journey away. My father was an avid supporter of the club, since he came from the area and therefore was proud to support his local side. His admiration for the club drove me to want to witness them play and from my first visit to the Darlington Arena, I fell in love.

The ground was modern and impressive for the level at the time. Darlington were playing in League Two and had moved into the ground at the start of the 2002/03 season, five years prior. The club had a modest history, having been playing in the fourth tier for fifteen years, after relegation from third tier in 1992.

So, myself and my Dad would go to every game together - home and away. I was a season ticket holder every year, without fail. It was something that would only strengthen our bond as father and son. This club would soon be my whole life. Everything revolved around Darlington. I was hooked.

As a fan, I have witnessed first-hand the struggles of the club and the demise down the divisions - which included having to start all over again from the Northern League Division One. However, I have also been a part of the meteoric rise through the divisions to be in the position we are today.

Upon our demotion to the lower depths of Non-League, I was granted the opportunity to become, firstly, a coach with the club and, later, the reserve manager when we reached the Vanarama National North in 2016.

To be given that opportunity was something that I could never believe. I was now involved with the club that I loved from such a young age and doing something that I saw as my future. My two worlds combined into one and it is simply an experience I have loved since the very moment it began.

I am still at the club today, currently as the reserve team manager. Whilst it's not the glittering heights of the Premier League, where my lofty ambitions may truly lie, it is work that I enjoy. Being a part of the project of guiding the club to the Football League, where it truly belongs.

Now 28 years old, I continue to prosper with a club with real ambitions. We gear up for another season in the Vanarama National North and look to make an impact. What the future holds, I don't know as such - however I can guarantee that my heart will always be with Darlington Football Club and that the words Sir Bobby echoed to me all those years ago will continue to be put into practice.

Just you watch...


Jack: You're too kind. I guess we'll have to see if your guess of Darlington becomes correct. ;)

Justice: Fairly accurate depiction. :P Glad to have you on board, again.

Jim: Happy to hear it mate!
YES IT'S DARLO! Bring back Dean Windass as assistant manager and we are in business :P
All hall of famers start from somewhere ;)
Every journey has to start somewhere...
Putting a £40 bet on Manning becoming the new Real Madrid manager. You heard it here first.

The Next Step

Still a number of weeks to go until the players returned for pre-season training. World Cup fever was running rampant throughout the country as Gareth Southgate's England side continued to put faith into the nation once again, with promising performances from a young side. The future looked brighter than ever.

Preparations were still ongoing behind the scenes at Darlington however, we wanted to be in a position to get to work immediately. Last campaign, we finished in mid-table obscurity as we finished 12th - the aim this season was to look for a top-half finish, but seek to challenge the play-offs in doing so.

Throughout the summer, myself and the board would remain in contact. The club was ran by the Darlington Supporters Society, a fan owned club since our demise. They would keep in contact with every member of the staff to run through any news over the course of the week.

I received a phone-call from them, expecting another routine run through of preparation checks ahead of the new season. However, this would not be the case. "Morning Liam, I have some important news to discuss with you," said David Johnson, the managing director. "Tommy has decided that he is to resign from the club with immediate effect."

Tommy Wright had been the manager of club since October after leaving Nuneaton to take the job. I had formed a good friendship with him during his time at the club and admired his work. He had a strong approach to management and I learnt a lot from his work. To hear of his departure was ultimately a big loss to both the club, but also to me, as I would be losing somebody I classed as a good friend.

"Obviously we are disappointed to hear of this, but he has decided to take a step back from football," David continued.

"So, what is the plan now then - when does recruitment for the next manager begin?" I replied.

"Well, that's why I wanted to speak to you... You have been with the club for a number of years now and have been a vital part to it. Without your work, I don't believe the club would have achieved the success it has done." He told me.

"Thank you," I said, "I have really enjoyed my time here. Obviously as a supporter of the club myself, I have the club's best interests at heart in everything I do."

"And that's why you're perfect. I want to offer you the role as first-team manager. The work you have done, both as a coach and reserve team manager has been excellent. I feel the club is in a good place with you in charge. I understand how ambitious you are and how much you want to get into management, first-team management, this is your opportunity."

I was in disbelief. It was a huge opportunity for me, indeed, to take my first step into first-team management with not only the club I support, but the club that handed me my first job in football.

"I don't know what to say, David."

"Say yes?" He laughed.

"I would be honoured to take the job." I replied. "I am so thankful for your belief in me."

David paused briefly, "How could I not have the belief in you? You have been a servant to the club and the role was always going to be available to you at some point in the future. This is the perfect time. You have the chance to make the club yours. I know you won't let me down. I'll see you tomorrow where we can iron over things in person, yeah?"

"I'll be there. Cheers boss." I laughed.

It was time to make a name for myself...


Jack: I'm not having Dean Windass at the club. :P

Jim: Let's take it one step at a time, shall we. ;)

Griffin: Definitely, looking forward to what the future holds.

Justice: It appears you've lost £40. :(
Prove that you're the right choice mate!
Guaranteed success! :P
Damn, can I get a refund?

Manning appointed new Quakers boss

Darlington Football Club are delighted to announce Liam Manning as the new first-team manager.

Liam, 28, has been with the club since its rise from the lower reaches of the English pyramid - serving as both a coach and most recently, reserve team manager.

Club president David Johnson said: "Liam was the first person I approached after we learnt of Tommy's wish to leave the club. He has been a real servant and worked tirelessly to help the club in its rise through the divisions since 2012."

"As a result, his commitment to the club cannot be questioned. We wanted a young manager who had the tools to implement something fresh at the club and we believe he can do that. He has a great wealth of knowledge to call upon."

"I was involved in the process to bring him to the club to begin with. I am a great admirer of his and have great faith in him."

Manning himself said, "This is a massive opportunity for me and I cannot thank the club enough. As a supporter and now manager, I have the club's best interests at heart and promise to deliver a style of football that seeks to entertain, as well as get the results needed to help us in our vision."

"Myself and David held extensive talks over the role and I am clear in what is expected. I have sought to get involved in management for a number of years and the expectation is there for myself too. I cannot wait to get started."

"The town has a committed fan-base and I have become very familiar with a large proportion of it. I want to help build on that further and seek to deliver a football club that the town is immensely proud of."


Jim: Hopefully we can do with the results on the pitch!

Griffin: The pressure is on now. :P

Justice: I'm afraid that isn't how betting works x

Darlington announce staff appointments

New Darlington boss Liam Manning has completed a trio of staff appointments this afternoon.

Alongside the departure of previous manager Tommy Wright, the club released a number of the coaching staff at the end of last season.

Club director David Johnson stated it would be "beneficial" for Manning to bring in his staff, as he prepares for his first senior year in management upon taking the role.

The 28-year-old confirmed that Wright's assistant Alan White would remain at the club and become his assistant, as the club seeks to continue its rise back up through the divisions after a two year stay in the National League North.

Stephen Warnock, John Doyle and Steph Wells have all joined the club on one-year-deals.

Warnock joins as a coach at Blackwell Meadows, as well as taking Manning's previous role as manager of the reserve side. The 36-year-old retired this summer after leaving Bradford City, ending a 20 year playing career - where he would feature for ten different clubs.

The defender was also capped twice by England.

Manning said, "Stephen's experience will be a massive boost to the club. He has played at the highest level and can offer so much to the players. His influence and insight will be massively appreciated and welcomed."

Meanwhile, Wells joins as the Quakers' new head physio and Doyle as a scout.

"I am looking forward to working alongside both Steph and John," said Manning.

Pre-season preparations begin on 1st July, with the Quakers' hosting East Fife on Saturday 7th July in their first pre-season friendly.

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