Date: 10-01-24 Five in the frame for the Harriers job By Harriershane

10-01-24 - Opinion - Five in the frame for the Harriers job

For Russ Penn the curse of January 7th struck again. As he did for all of us, he created so many memories that will last a lifetime and for that, he remains a club legend. To read a fuller tribute, here’s Harry’s excellent piece.

The sad reality is that football isn’t a popularity contest, but a results driven business. Who could be tasked with driving those results upwards? In no particular order, here are five names that could be worthy of consideration.

John AskeyJohn Askey: Seemingly the overwhelming favourite with the supporters, Askey seems to perfectly fit the bill. The Stoke born 59 year old is currently out of work having recently left Hartlepool United and has plenty of experience at this level. A promotion winner with Macclesfield Town at this level, he also knows what it takes to get out of the National League North.

Appointed by struggling York City in the 2021/22 season, Askey led The Minstermen on an incredible run that saw them win the play offs. He was dismissed with York sat 12th in the National League the next season, with the chairman citing “rising tensions”.

Pros: EFL, National League and National League North experience. Proven winner. Unattached.

Cons: Recently sacked after just 3 wins in his last 17 games. Will he want to risk taking us down, instead preferring to hold out for another job at this level with less risk attached?


Liam MacdonaldLiam McDonald: First, a declaration. The Rushall Olympic manager has been on my radar for some time now and as such, is my preferred candidate. Just 38 years old, he has been managing for 9 years having started at just 27.

Formerly of Redditch United, Hednesford Town and Solihull Moors, it was with Moors that he gained experience of this level when he guided them to safety in the 2016/17 season before being relieved of his duties in October 2017, around the time of their takeover.

A seemingly popular departure at the time, we also have to consider that it was some time ago and his work at Rushall is evidence of his evolution as a coach. Preferring an attractive style of play in a 4-3-1-2 formation when I have seen them, McDonald likes to get his full backs forward and this style of play should prove a hit with the fans. Likewise, his personable manner should see him translate well to those on the terraces.

Getting The Pics up to Step 2 for the first time is one hell of an achievement, bettered only by keeping them there, something which he is on course to do as they sit 19th, four points clear of the drop zone at the time of writing.

Pros – Young manager but experienced. Philosophy will align with the club’s vision. Compensation shouldn’t be excessive. Attractive style of play. Used to tight budgets. Local.

Cons – It’s been a number of years since managing at this level. Has never managed full time. Will he be able to handle a bigger budget than he is used to? Can we prise him away from Rushall?

Andy PeaksAndy Peaks: Sticking to National League North managers, Tamworth’s Peaks is a surefire candidate. Pipping Coalville Town to the Southern League Central title last season on goal difference, Peaks’ side have stepped up a gear on their Step 2 return, currently sitting top of the pile by four points, albeit having played a game more than closest rival Scunthorpe United.

A mix of youth and experience, even the most ardent of Lambs fans couldn’t have expected a promotion push. However, after 27 games they have conceded just 19 goals, scoring 52, with winger Kyle Finn weighing in with 12.

I was fortunate enough to see them dismantle Peterborough Sports at the start of the season and my main takeaway was just how front-footed his sides are. Pacy inverted wingers with full backs bombing on, plenty of crosses into the box and always a threat on the break. Tamworth on that day were simply irresistible. If that is the norm, then this could be a very popular appointment indeed.

Pros – Attacking football. Local. Compensation shouldn’t be prohibitive.

Cons – This is his first season at the highest level he has managed at, aged 53. In the event of a return to the NLN, does this season represent the often seen one hit wonder from a newly promoted outfit? Has never managed a full time outfit.

James CollinsJames Collins: This fourth name is a recent name that popped into my head and, without knowing whether it is credible or not, I have opted to include it anyway ahead of Stratford Town’s Gavin Hurren.

Given the Harriers’ recent penchant for young and unproven managers could an Under 21 manager for one of our larger neighbours be in the frame? With that in mind, James Collins of Wolves is my final name here.

A former professional with Crewe Alexandra from 1997-2001, the midfielder also had a brief loan spell at Aggborough in 1999. A UEFA Pro Licence and UEFA A licence holder, Collins certainly has the pedigree on paper.

A former Crewe U23’s manager, he was also the assistant manager to the first team before joining Wolves in 2020. With nigh on 10 years of age group management experience could this be the time for the 45 year old Liverpudlian to start branching out on his own?

Pros: Already works locally. Knows Aggborough and has some kind of working relationship with the club. Well versed in youth development.

Cons: Does he even want the job? Has never managed at senior level. Will Wolves let him go?

Dean Holdsworth & Jimmy O’Connor: Unpopular as this decision may be, it would be remiss of me to not consider a dual management role undertaken by Holdsworth and O’Connor. It has been confirmed that Russ Penn’s former assistant will take charge on an interim basis and it has to be assumed that he will be supported by our newly appointed Technical Director and former manager in his own right, Holdsworth.

Pros: Jimmy knows the club and has an already established relationship with the players and fans.

Cons: Nothing much will change. Unambitious, cheap option to promote from within. Waving the white flag on relegation.

Men’s football is a different game to age group football – just ask Jimmy Shan.