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Story posted: Thursday, 6th May 2004

Gary looks back
Gary Norton

Gary Norton

Manager Gary Norton, in conversation with Dave Rider, reviews last season and shares his thoughts on next season.
What is your assessment of your first season in management?

I'm a little disappointed based on the last two or three months. After the poor start we had we changed things around and we did really well for a period of time.

Looking back the highlights for me were September when I won the Dr Martens League Western Division manager-of-the-month award, which was a massive honour especially after the start we'd had.

We then seemed to consolidate and going into November/December we were doing well picking points up here and there and doing reasonably well in the cups. The Trophy run stands out, especially the Hinckley game. We were two-nil down and without key players in defence and we came back to win three-two. That is one of the highlights of the season.

The turning point, for me, was probably Shaun Harrad going back to Notts County. When we picked him up he was playing in their Youth side and doing very, very well. He came here and I'd like to think that in the fifteen or sixteen games he had at Gresley he built on things and left us a much better player, a lot stronger and more aware.

Shaun was a regular supplier of goals for us and we've not really replaced that since. Since Christmas, the second half of the season we've had good runs and particularly the last couple of months, we've had bad ones.

Does that, then, make it a priority during the summer to find someone who can get us 20 goals a season?

Yes definitely. It is a priority but I'm sure it's the priority of most managers in my position! Those who already have the strikers it will be their priority to hang on to them and those who don't, like ourselves, the priority is to identify one or two to bring into the club on the budget that we have.

They are often the players that demand more money!

That's right. The chairman Mark Evans and I have sat down and looked at how we set the budget up and we've changed things around a little bit to try and get players like that to come to the club. We've spoken to a lot strikers this season and the reason we've had to go for loan signings is because good strikers demand lots and lots of money and we haven't got that.
But, I don't want someone who comes here just for the money. I want someone who likes and enjoys the club.

What discussions have you had with the chairman about next season?

We started discussions probably three or four months ago. After just one season in charge we've finished mid-table and in comparison to last year is a very similar place. We've done better in most cups and I've done that on half the budget my predecessors had. If anyone here thinks it's been an unsuccessful season then we have to be realistic and think again.

Yes, I would have liked to have finished higher in the table and up until the last couple of months we could have quite possibly sneaked a top seven and a place in the Dr Martens Premier.

But, having said that, I still think it's been a good foot on the ladder in my development and I said to all the players after the last game, 'thanks everybody. I've made mistakes this year and I hope to learn from those mistakes and take those lessons into next season.'

What happens from now? Because players are not on contracts were you release or retain them. Have you made it clear to the players you want to keep for next season?

In a club like ours it's slightly different to clubs that have contracted players. I've invited most of the players back for pre-season. Those that haven't come up to scratch we've spoken about inviting them back and see if they can get their heads down and kick on a little bit from the level of performance they've been putting in. So, it's an open house really.

We've a number of players identified who we are inviting down to pre-season training, but it's a bit of a merry-go-round.

I did it last year when I took over as caretaker manager and you get guys who come down and will probably go to two or three clubs as well. So, until someone puts pen to paper we will continue to talk and talk about and to different players.

How do you think things will differ in the UniBond Division One because it's well known that there is less finance in that particular league? Do you think that will affect things?

Possibly, it may have a bearing on things. I've watched a lot of UniBond football over the last couple of months and we've played three sides from the UniBond and managed to come away with wins in those games.

I'm not sure the finance will play a massive part in it. Certainly the football seems a little more physical and direct and I have concerns for one or two players in my squad. They possibly need to strengthen up a bit during the summer doing a little work with weights. We will be talking to those players and helping them along with that.

The sort of player we've identified to try and bring in for next season has also changed slightly. We are in dialogue with a UniBond manager who has invited us up to spend a day with him so that we can chat about the different clubs, the travelling and players. We are also trying to set up a scouting network in that area as well.

From a practical point of view do you think some of the West Midlands based players will want to travel to say Goole, for example, because it will be an additional hours travel from here.

We have already started talking with those players in terms of the travelling next season. One or two do have concerns and we are talking about setting up the best network of pickup points to make things easier for them to get to games.

One of the forwards we are in talks with, who has scored a lot of goals where he is at present, has concerns about the travelling especially for midweek games and we need to sit down and discuss that.

I believe you have an envelope behind your clock on the mantle piece!

I wondered if someone would mention that! I said that I'd put my predictions for the season in a sealed envelope when I was appointed but we've fallen a little short of that.
I would have liked to have finished in 9th place which was equal to last seasons finish. I felt that in my first season in charge and with the budget situation that if we finished 9th or above that would have marked a successful season. On reflection it's a disappointment that we didn't achieve that.

I've learnt a great deal this season and I will take that into next season.

You can hear the full audio interview by clicking here (RealOne Player required).
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Lincoln United 25 -4 33
11 Marske United 22 8 31
12 Cleethorpes Town 22 3 30
13 Frickley Athletic 23 -11 28
14 Wisbech Town 22 -5 24
15 Pickering Town 21 -9 24
16 Carlton Town 23 -8 22
17 AFC Mansfield 22 -15 21
18 Spalding United 24 -19 21
19 Gresley 23 -30 21
20 Stocksbridge Park Steels 23 -19 20

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Forthcoming Fixtures
Cleethorpes Town
Sat, 19th Jan 2019, 3.00pm (Away)
Ossett United
Sat, 26th Jan 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
Pickering Town
Sat, 2nd Feb 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
Ossett United
Sat, 9th Feb 2019, 3.00pm (Away)
Morpeth Town Action
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