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Story posted: Friday, 3rd April 1992

Farewell to Frank
Story courtesy of
Frank Northwood’s reign at Gresley Rovers came to an end this week in a manner perfectly in keeping with the way he has run the club for the best seven years – controversially.
Northwood never let worrying what other might think cloud his soccer judgement, or people’s feelings to stand in the way. He hired, fired, praised, damned, produced the unexpected when it was least expected and wheeled players – and, to a lesser but no less significant extent, coaches – in and out of the Moat Ground in a seemingly never-ending stream.

His quest was the West Midlands League title and promotion, and it was a cruel turn of events that, when he finally achieved the championship – having filled Rovers’ trophy cabinet to bursting with other prizes along the way – technicalities denied him a crack at Southern League football.

Perhaps that disappointment prompted Northwood to go back on his decision to quit at the end of last season. It would have been a good time to go, with the league championship trophy and the Derbyshire Senior Cup won and a slice of Wembley glory to reflect on. But, while his critics could call him a string of names and with some justification, Northwood was no quitter. He gave it another go, and was poised for a league and cup double when the axe fell last week.

Since arriving as Roger Davies’s assistant from Malvern in January 1985 – and 12 months later assuming total control – the Wolverhampton lorry driver always insisted success should not be achieved at the expense of good football.

Because of his dogged insistence that Rovers’ sides should do things “the proper way”, Moat Ground regulars were treated to a veritable feast of good football during the Northwood era.

Indeed Northwood may have felt they had been given too much of a good thing when he listened to his “moaners” and would frequently defend his team from critical supporters. In the end, it seems, he defended his ideals and “his boys” too strongly, and that was the end of that.

In his first full season in charge, Gresley lifted the West Midlands League runners-up trophy, setting off on an unbeaten 34-match run in the process – the third best in Rovers’ history. In 1987-88, Rovers won the Derbyshire Senior Cup for the first time and went on to retain the trophy for three more seasons – another record. They won the league cup in 1988-89 before finally lifting the title last season by a massive 16 points, an achievement that was almost overshadowed by Rovers’ heroics in reaching Wembley.

All that has passed into history and now Northwood has gone with them. But if I were a betting man I’d stake my next week’s wages that it won’t be long before someone, somewhere on the Moat Ground terraces turns round and says: “If only Northwood was still here….”
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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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