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Story posted: Monday, 30th March 1992

Rovers axe Northwood
Story courtesy of Burton Mail
Veteran manager Frank Northwood was last night sensationally sacked as manager of Gresley Rovers.
A statement issued today by Rovers’ chairman Peter Hall said the 59-year-old Moat Ground boss had been dismissed for “gross misconduct”.

Hall claimed that he and fellow committee members had been verbally abused in public by Northwood “over a period of two or three weeks” resulting in another serious incident after Gresley’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of neighbours Stapenhill in the semi-final of the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Saturday.

But the man who steered Gresley to Wembley and the West Midlands League title last season claimed: “They simply couldn’t take losing to Stapenhill.”

Steve Dolby, Northwood’s right-hand man for much of his seven-year reign at the Moat Ground, has been asked to take over as caretaker manager as top-of-the-table Rovers attempt to retain their League title.

Events unfolded rapidly after the battle of Edge Hill had broken Rovers’ four-year grip on the Senior Cup.

The Gresley contingent returned to their own Social Club, where Northwood claims his players were criticised by Hall and other committee men for “not trying and going home for a few beers and a laugh.”

Northwood said: “That was not the case. My boys were as sick as anyone else about the result and I felt entitled to defend them. I did not abuse anyone but put my case in the way expected of Frank Northwood.

“I maintain that the football law of averages says we were going to lose in this competition sooner or later. If it had happened against any other team it wouldn’t have mattered.”

A Gresley committee meeting was called and last night a letter of dismissal was delivered by a club official to Northwood’s Wolverhampton home.

Hall denied that the sacking had come as a result of Gresley’s defeat against their neighbours and arch-rivals.

He said: “Of course it’s always disappointing to lose, but this situation has nothing to do with the Stapenhill result. If we are judging Frank on his record, then it has to be said he has done a truly fabulous job for Gresley Rovers.

“It’s a very sad day that it as all had to end like this, but the committee felt strongly that action had to be taken.

Dolby said that he was summoned to the Moat Ground yesterday. He continued: “I honestly though I was going to get the sack. I was totally shocked and stunned when I was told that Frank had been sacked.”

The Burton school teacher said that he had not yet accepted the invitation to take over as manager until the end of the season, but would take training as normal tomorrow night.

Northwood’s future as Gresley manager was, in any case, in doubt. He announced last year that he would be retiring from the end of the current season, and it is understood that Rovers had made moves to find a replacement, with interviews having taken place.

Among rumoured candidates were former Burton Albion manager Steve Powell and Ron Bradbury, the former Tamworth boss.

However, Northwood had recently confided that he was on the point of changing his decision and staying on.

Northwood said today: “There were a lot of criticisms being made at the team after the match on Saturday, both at Edge Hill and when I went back to Gresley. I spoke to the committee about buying from Tamworth. They’d had £1,000 after Phil Gee moved from Derby to Leicester and I said they shouldn’t be mean. I don’t feel that’s abuse. I also spoke to them about pictures from Wembley in the social club because if it hadn’t been for the generosity of the Mail you wouldn’t know we’d been there – all the Wembley pictures are up in the room where the hob knobs go.

“As soon as I mentioned the photographs Pete Hall walked out saying he was going to resign. I told him that was the best thing he could do because whenever anything goes wrong at Gresley there’s someone talking about quitting.

“When a new manager was coming he wanted to bring his own partner and I said if Steve Dolby was going to lose his job then I would stay to keep him in a job.

“They were going to give me another year but I didn’t accept that – after what I’ve done for Gresley I would expect to be given as long as I liked in the job. I will always have the memories – and a lot of them. But I would have liked to stay to pick up the championship trophy at the end of the season – I think I deserve that.

“I say every year at the club dinner that if I’ve insulted anyone during the year I apologise, if I haven’t then they’re bloody lucky. That’s Frank Northwood. I’ll never change. That’s the way I’ve got my success – by speaking the truth.

“At the moment I don’t know whether to turn my back on football or take on another challenge at a different club and have a go at Gresley next season.”
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Highgate United 29 -3 38
11 South Normanton Athletic 26 0 37
12 Worcester City 26 11 36
13 AFC Wulfunians 31 -6 36
14 Coventry Sphinx 25 -19 34
15 Tividale 23 -4 27
16 Haughmond 29 -29 26
17 Racing Club Warwick 24 -29 24
18 Lye Town 28 -31 18
19 Gresley 26 -22 16
20 Selston 25 -38 13

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