FWA student member lands dream job at Fulham

FWA Student member’s remarkable story – by Brendan McLoughlin

Adam Micklewright, an FWA student member, has landed his dream job at Fulham – less than a year after being in a coma fighting for his life.

The University of Gloucestershire BA Sports Journalism graduate recently landed the role of academy communications executive with the Cottagers – just weeks after securing a first-class degree on his course.

It is an all the more remarkable achievement given the serious medical condition he found himself in only last autumn.

While socialising with friends, he suffered a blackout, collapsed and cracked his head on the corner of a pavement. It left him with a triple fracture to his skull and a severe bleed to the brain.

Medical staff put him into an induced coma for two weeks and, miraculously, he was discharged from from hospital just four days after waking up.

After a period of rehabilitation, Adam resumed his studies four months later and went on to pass his course with flying colours.

He is now pinching himself after beating off fierce competition for a job with Premier League Fulham – the club he has supported since he was a boy.

Adam said: “My first few months at Fulham have been fantastic. I’m learning a lot about the industry. There is always a new challenge to take on every day which suits me perfectly. I’m learning something new most days whether that’s technically or personally – I’m loving the job.

“I have several match days under my belt now, which filled me with a lot more confidence with new systems and styles. The hotels we stay in at away games aren’t bad either!

“The accident did hit me hard, although I didn’t really know too much of what was going on, it’s like being trapped in your own brain. The hospital staff in Bristol were great with me and I can’t thank them enough from getting me through a potentially life-threatening injury.

“The only side-effect I’m having is slight concentration issues, which considering the extent of my injury is something I’ll take every time.”

Adam was selected to represent his course at the Midlands FWA Lunch last spring and was among students invited to attend an FWA Live event in London in May. He has also received mentoring from FWA chairman Paddy Barclay.

“Paddy and the FWA have been more than accommodating with me,” Adam added. “Whenever there have been events or guidance opportunities they have offered them up to me.

“My time at uni has put me in fantastic stead to fit in seamlessly through video, interview, reports etc. The lecturers have been great in easing me back into studying as well as guiding me through industry practices.

“It seems surreal when you’re walking around the training ground, saying hello to Tom Cairney and Aleksandar Mitrovic, but it’s something you get used to and certainly with the U23s, they become your colleagues.

“As a first job out of uni, it is demanding. To be in charge of the academy coverage alone is a big task, but very rewarding which is something I’ve picked up even as early as now.”

Follow Adam on Twitter: @AMMicklewright


Vanarama column – Dagenham & Redbridge

October 10: Dagenham & Redbridge – By Glenn Moore

The cavalry are coming, the only question is whether they have arrived at Victoria Road in time. A fourth successive Vanarama National League defeat on Saturday, by 2-0 at Gateshead, left Dagenham & Redbridge 22nd, already four points from safety.

Relegated from League Two in 2016 the Daggers have had a tumultuous period back in non-League, twice facing financial difficulties and now twice rescued. Local car dealer Glyn Hopkin kept them afloat for a year, during which John Still’s team missed out on an instant return when they lost to Forest Green Rovers in the play-offs. However, amid disputes with supporters Hopkins ceased covering the losses midway through last season prompting a firesale of players and the dissipation of a promotion bid.

At the end of the campaign the veteran Still, having said it was his hardest season in management, quit to join Barnet. The peripatetic Peter Taylor, once an England manager, five times a Football League promotion winner, took over.

The popular Taylor has had some tough jobs but few like this. The budget was cut by a third meaning fixtures like Saturday’s 560-mile round-trip to Gateshead are done without an overnight stay and the players packing their own lunch. For the next away game, at Dover, players will be driving themselves.

“People think I am mad doing this at my age,” said Taylor, now 65. “but I love the challenge. The only frustrating part is matchdays. We have a very young team – we did not have the budget to bring in players with experience at this level – and this is a tough league. They are getting better but they make mistakes.”

However, there is hope on the horizon. Somewhat improbably the Daggers have been acquired by an American consortium fronted by Tim Howard, the former Everton, Manchester United and United States goalkeeper. While the focus is on Howard the key figures are Peter B Freund and Craig Unger. Each have a record of investing in sports franchises with both involved with Memphis 901, a new club in the US second-tier United Soccer League, and minor league baseball team Memphis Redbirds. Freund has become executive chairman with Unger also on the board.

The pair flew over for a meet-and-greet with fans this week and have promised Taylor they will back him. There will not, however, be a quick fix. Taylor said: “They are serious and want to help but as I told the meeting, it is a shame they did not come in in June, then we could have recruited differently. The experienced players we need are either not available – or available for a reason.”

Taylor, a well-regarded coach, will thus focus on improving the youngsters he has, and adding experienced players of the right calibre if and when he can find them. “I’m used to coming into a club and aiming for promotion, but the target this year is to finish fifth from bottom. We’d take that. Then give it a real go for promotion next season.”


Vanarama National League Column – Tim Flowers

Tim Flowers going against tradition and succeeding in management as a goalkeeper, by Glenn Moore

The most eye-catching result in the Bank Holiday Vanarama National League programme was at Damson Park where Solihull Moors became the first team to defeat early-season front-runners Wrexham.
In front of a bumper 2,412 gate, three times last season’s average, the West Midlands club won with Alex Gudger’s late goal. That delighted Tim Flowers whose first season at the Moors helm has begun promisingly.
Goalkeepers have traditionally not become managers. While there are some notable historic exceptions such as Raymond Goethals, Dino Zoff and Tony Waiters those that did – even outstanding players such as Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and Neville Southall – were rarely successful. Perhaps the most celebrated ex-English keeper with a management role was Brian Clough’s assistant, Peter Taylor. Goalkeepers, it seemed, were regarded by chairmen, media, fans, and maybe themselves, as too detached from the outfield players, too individualistic, to be managers.
That view, though, may be changing. The current Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui was a ‘keeper along with Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santos, Nigel Adkins of Hull, former Hull and Russia manager Leonid Slutsky, now at Vitesse Arnhem, and David James, currently of Kerala Blasters.
Flowers, like Shilton, Clemence, Waiters and James, is a former England No.1. The 51-year-old was the most expensive goalkeeper in Britain when Blackburn paid Southampton £2.4m in 1993, a move that paid off when Rovers won the Premier League title. Flowers won 11 caps and made 500 league appearances before moving into coaching. Initially, like so many former keepers, he was a specialist teaching his old role, but he became assistant to Iain Dowie at Coventry, QPR and Hull.
He took his first crack at management in October 2010, at Stafford Rangers, then of the Conference North, but resigned after nine matches. He returning to coaching and pitched up at Moors last November as assistant to Mark Yates.
At the time Moors looked doomed having taken 11 points from 19 matches after a rapid turnover of managers. As late as Boxing Day Moors were bottom, 12 points adrift of safety. However, the pair oversaw a revival that garnered 37 points from the last 20 matches enabling Solihull to stay up in comfort.
This revival prompted Macclesfield to hire Yates for their return to the Football League, John Askey having moved onto Shrewsbury Town after leading the Silkmen to the Vanarama National League title. Flowers, who had been interviewed for the post separately from Yates, before the board suggested they work as a pair, stayed at Damson Park. 
“The great escape ranks as one of my biggest achievements in football, and now to have the opportunity to build on everything we achieved last season is the icing on the cake,” said Flowers. “This club’s got ambition, make no mistake.”
These are heady times for Moors. Formed by a merger of Moor Green and Solihull Borough in 2007 neither the club nor its predecessors have never finished above 16th in the fifth tier. With Moors currently in the play-off places history beckons

Vanarama National League Column – Gateshead

Gateshead’s miraculous start following a summer of upheaval

By Glenn Moore


Four matches into the new Vanarama National League season the table has a surprising look. Pre-season favourites Salford City are lower mid-table, having not won until their fourth match. Last season’s play-off finalists Boreham Wood are only a point higher. Three other fancied clubs, Leyton Orient, play-off regulars Aldershot, and newly relegated Barnet, have also been slow to settle.

Meanwhile, in second, level on points with early leaders Wrexham, are Gateshead, which is remarkable considering the Heed nearly folded in the summer and were without a contracted player two months ago. When a takeover failed to materialise chairman and then-owner Richard Bennett considered closing down the football club, already the third such incarnation in the Tyneside town.

Instead the budget was slashed and the club reverted to part-time with an emphasis on building a squad of young, local players. Steve Watson, the former Newcastle United defender who had returned to the area to manage the Heed, agreed to sign on for another year. However, at best it looked as if it would be a season of fighting relegation, with a view to buying the club time.

Then, ten days before the season started, Dr Ranjan Varghese, a Hong Kong-based businessman with a background in ship-building design, bought the club. He has since installed a locally-based operations director, Michael Williams, and a London-based sporting director, former agent Chris Hawes. Watson retains control of playing matters and, in a major coup, has signed former Newcastle centre-half Mike Williamson, a veteran of more than 400 senior appearances, 134 of them in the Premier League.

Like Watson, who quit promotion-bound Macclesfield to join Gateshead last season, Williamson wanted to move back to the north-east. With the rest of the squad an average age 24 the 34-year-old brings valuable experience. Williamson made his debut in the 2-1 win over Dover Athletic that completed an impressive opening trio of victories with successes at Maidstone United then at home to Salford City. Gateshead then took home a point from them 500-mile midweek round-trip to Boreham Wood with a late equaliser from Steven Rigg.

The new owner, Williams told supporters, has a five-year plan to establish Gateshead as ‘an established, self-sustaining League Two club rooted in the community’ and maintaining the focus on recruiting young players from an area with a notable football heritage.

The 2,264 that turned out for last season’s FA Trophy semi-final home leg with Bromley indicated there is some potential on the east bank of the Tyne, but it will not be easy to realise. That was an unusually big match with the crowd boosted by neither Newcastle nor Sunderland playing that weekend. Gateshead International Stadium, built for athletics rather than football, with a running track and rarely fans behind the goals, is usually less atmospheric. Attendances averaged just 853 last season, less than ten per cent of capacity.

Nevertheless, at a time when so many of the area’s passionate football fans are feeling frustrated by their clubs Watson’s young team could offer a refreshing alternative.

For more on Gateshead, visit: https://www.gateshead-fc.com/

For more on the Vanarama National League, visit: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/

For great deals on car and van hire, visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/

Vanarama National League column – April 18

The National League run-in by Luke Coulson, Ebbsfleet United and FWA member

Crystal, blue sea accompanied by soft, white sand and blanketed by a clear, blue sky. That will no doubt be the thought on many players’ minds with only ten days of the season remaining. However, in our minds, the thought of sand doesn’t compare with the grass of Wembley.

Two weeks ago, we were unbeaten in seven games and moving up the Vanarama National League table. Yet, our fine form nearly came to an end at the hands of Macclesfield, live on BT Sport. Despite a commanding first 30 minutes, a scrappy away goal for the league leaders killed our momentum and early in the second half, their lead was doubled through a well executed training ground corner. It was hard to see a way back against such an organised team, however, a Danny Kedwell penalty restored our hope and two minutes later a straight red card for Macclesfield’s striker, Nathan Blisset, gave us the advantage. With ten minutes to go, the comeback was complete thanks to a curling Dean Rance strike. Although, it looked as though we may go on to find the winner, Macclesfield defended well with ten men and we had to settle for a share of the points.

On the following Tuesday night, when Roma scored three goals to knockout Barcelona from the Champions League, we scored three goals against Wrexham to close the gap in the National League. Yet, the only difference was that our result was expected. We exploded into the game from kick off, creating countless opportunities. However, we only capitalised on our superior display in the 50th minute when Corey Whitely scored a low strike at the near post. The opening goal seemed to ease our nerves and our relentless pressure allowed us to score two late goals. With ten minutes to go, Kedwell found the bottom corner with a low strike and I found the top corner in stoppage time to claim an emphatic win and a huge three points against another playoff rival.

Following the dismantling of Wrexham, we travelled the dreaded 325 mile trip to face Barrow, a team trying to climb out of the relegation zone. At this stage of the season, a team at the bottom of the league can be the worst team to play as they desperately need the points, however, we stood up to the challenge. The match wasn’t filled with quality, yet it was abundant with resolute defending and a determination to claim all three points. In the 32nd minute, Dean Rance scored his third goal in ten games and the only goal of the game with a brilliant reactive finish into the top corner. A late onslaught was inevitable from the home side but the dedicated 76 Ebbsfleet fans who made the tedious trip, witnessed a strong and professional defensive performance to keep our clean sheet.

If the journey to Barrow wasn’t enough, last night we travelled to Eastleigh to play our fourth game in eleven days. The result and performance was symmetrical to the weekend, a narrow 1-0 win backed up with an impressive and unyielding defensive display. In the second half, Nathan Ashmore saved a penalty to keep the score level and in the 82nd minute, Kenny Clark rose highest to meet a Jack Powell corner and score the winning goal. However, although the goal has been awarded to Clark, apparently Harry Kane may be contesting the decision.

The victory last night has not only extended our unbeaten run to eleven games but has moved us into the playoffs with a game in hand. If our unbelievable form continues throughout our remaining three fixtures, the palm trees and cocktails will just have to wait a little longer.

Vanarama column March 26 – Solihull Moors

The Vanarama National League relegation battle is heating up nicely, by Glenn Moore.

If it were not for Solihull Moors the Vanarama National League relegation fight would be all but over by now. Torquay, Guiseley and Chester have fallen away, each at least nine points adrift of safety with matches running out. Moors, however, keep the battle alive; theirs is the first result half the division look for on a Saturday afternoon.

That scenario did not appear likely on Boxing Day, after a 1-0 defeat at Maidenhead left Moors bottom of the table, a dozen points from safety. But four days later the revival began. It started in the 57th minute at Holker Street, Barrow, when Darren Carter, a veteran of many clubs including Birmingham City, West Brom, and Preston, scored an equaliser. Six minutes from time a penalty from Jamie Reckford delivered three points. Nevertheless, Moors still went into 2018 bottom of the Vanarama National League with 20 points from 27 games.

However, by the time Moors won at Dagenham, in late January, to complete a haul of 13 points from 15, fans of the Warwickshire club were beginning to dream. Moors had overtaken the aforementioned trio of relegation strugglers and climbed to within a point of safety.

Two months on Moors remain, frustratingly, in the relegation zone, albeit only on goal difference from Barrow. Despite suffering only two defeats in 12 matches there have been too many draws with only one win in the last seven.

Former Crawley Town manager Mark Yates, who led Kidderminster Harriers to Wembley and Cheltenham twice to the League Two plays-offs, is behind Solihull’s revival. Prior to his appointment in mid-November five different men had picked Solihull teams in the previous 12 months. The departure of Marcus Bignot (now at Chester) for Grimsby was followed by two permanent managers, Liam McDonald and, for 26 days, Richard Money, with two caretakers, Keith Bertschin and Gary Whild, before and after. That instability had an inevitable affect and Yates, assisted by former England and Blackburn goalkeeper Tim Flowers, took over a team that had 11 points from 19 matches.

Under his charge they have gained 29 points from the next 20 matches, a record good enough to put them in the Vanarama National League’s top half if sustained over a season. But that woeful opening period means they remain in trouble with a demanding run-in ahead. Yates, 48, who has not been relegated in a decade as a manager, is eager to keep that off his CV.

Moors, who share their ground with Birmingham City Ladies, were formed by a merger of Moor Green and Solihull Borough in 2007. The union has proved successful in that neither of the parent clubs had reached the fifth tier, a status attained under Bignot in 2016. That exalted status is now in jeopardy, but with a clutch of clubs within reach, hope of survival is far stronger than could have been imagined at Christmas.

FWA to honour Women’s Footballer of the Year

For the first time in the 71 years of the Footballer of the Year award, the members of the Football Writers’ Association will also be honouring the Women’s Footballer of the Year at its annual dinner on May 10.

The decision to break with tradition recognises the development of the women’s game as chairman Patrick Barclay explained: “The FWA simply felt a need to keep pace. Quite a few of our members now work in women’s football and this reflects our belief in equal opportunity.”

The FWA has formed a sub-committee that features leading figures in the women’s game to decide the winner of the inaugural award – including distinguished internationals Alex Scott and Rachel Finnis- Brown, who have 222 England caps between them.

They will serve on the selection panel alongside some of the most highly respected journalists and broadcasters involved in the women’s game including Jacqui Oatley, Jonathan Pearce, Glenn Moore and Jane Dougall.

Arsenal full-back Alex Scott, said: “I am delighted that the FWA have taken this action – I can’t wait to get down to work with the other judges.”

The Women’s Footballer of the Year trophy will be presented on Thursday May 10 at the Landmark Hotel.

For more information, contact Executive Secretary, Paul McCarthy (paul@maccamedia.co.uk) or 07831 650977

Vanarama National League column – February 7

Manchester United can take inspiration from the Vanarama National League to boost subdued Old Trafford atmosphere

 By Luke Coulson of the FWA and Ebbsfleet United
After Manchester United returned to winning ways against Huddersfield, with a home debut goal for new signing Alexis Sanchez, eyebrows were raised when Jose Mourinho decided to concentrate on the lack of atmosphere at Old Trafford.
Despite winning 2-0, the Portuguese manager quickly diverted his answers away from the performance and his new Chilean forward, instead choosing to focus on the subdued ‘Theatre of Dreams’ that lacks enthusiasm.
Unfortunately for us, our opposition last Saturday definitely did not suffer from a home crowd with a low volume setting.
Despite my slight feeling of bitterness towards Tranmere Rovers for not signing me after a trial, I can’t deny that Prenton Park is an intimidating place to play due to the passionate home fans. Therefore, during the game I wasn’t surprised to hear a certain Tranmere fan shout ‘Coulson, you’ve been our best player!’
In my two visits to Prenton Park with Eastleigh and Ebbsfleet, I have been on the losing side twice and the loud home support has without doubt contributed to those results.
After losing 3-0 to Boreham Wood, a second 3-0 defeat in two games was definitely not what we had been training hard for throughout the week. However, our manager, Daryl McMahon, couldn’t fault our effort and hard work against a strong Tranmere team that have now won their last eight home games.
The first half was a game of limited chances with both teams cancelling each other out with structured formations. Yet, Tranmere broke the deadlock and doubled their lead before half time with two precise long range efforts that not even Nathan Ashmore, the best goal keeper in the league could save.
We continued to create chances throughout the game but a third goal for the home side in the second half sealed their victory and moved them up to fourth in the table.
With fourteen games left in the season and on the back of two defeats, it is vitally important that our mental toughness, positive attitude and togetherness remain strong for the remainder of the campaign.
Fortunately for us, Tranmere are not the only club with a loud and passionate following. Our own Ebbsfleet fans can produce a lot of noise, too, and we want them to produce that ‘Prenton Park atmosphere’ when we play host to Solihull Moors at Stonebridge Road this weekend. As a team we want to excite and entertain, and it is a real boost to have the noise of the Ebbsfleet faithful echoing on the wind behind us.

Vanarama National League column – January 24

The FA Trophy – dealing with expectation

 By Luke Coulson of the FWA and Ebbsfleet United
Losing a football match is hard to take; losing to a lower league team that you’re meant to comfortably beat is simply sickening.
The problem with being the ‘superior’ team in a cup match, in this instance the FA trophy, is that the pressure is all on you. If you win then it’s expected, however, if you lose then eyebrows are raised and questions are asked.
The hardest aspect of playing against a lower league team is not the game itself, but the mental challenge that comes before kickoff. Without realising, an over-confident and complacent state of mind can creep in and affect the team performance.
Also, the lower league opposition often raise their performance for the occasion, playing without pressure or expectation on their shoulders. That is why this year alone, Bristol City beat Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, Nottingham Forest beat Arsenal in the FA Cup and unfortunately, Warrington beat us in the FA Trophy.
A tough 1-1 draw led to a replay three days later against the Northern Premier League Division One North side. After a heavy Christmas period, the extra fixture in midweek was definitely not what we had hoped for. Warrington frustrated us by disrupting our usual free flowing football and deserved a second match at Cantilever Park.
Having lived in St Helens for many years, I was not surprised to be welcomed back to the North by a light drizzle of rain and a strong, cold wind.
We knew that the match was going to be far from a spectacle of football but we prepared in our usual way and focused on the task at hand. Once again cup football proved to be unpredictable and we dropped out of the competition, suffering a disappointing 2-0 loss. The defeat means we are no longer in any cup competition so our attention is now completely fixated on making the playoffs in the Vanarama National League, a campaign that took another step forward at the weekend.
Unbeaten in their last five games, Aldershot lie in second position and over the festive period, managed to close the gap on league leaders Macclesfield. After ending our unbeaten start to the season, we hoped to return the favour to Gary Waddock’s team by halting their recent progress.
The match ended 0-0, but despite the lack of goals the game was an end-to-end encounter, which was fast paced, tactically balanced and a great advertisement for the Vanarama National League. Although we could not quite find the winning goal, we were pleased with another clean sheet and a valuable away point to back up our recent derby win at Maidstone. 
Our shock cup exit undoubtedly added to our motivation and the brilliant performance at Aldershot was definitely the answer to forgetting the pain of the FA Trophy. 

Baptism of fire for Leyton Orient and Hartlepool – Vanarama National League column

Glenn Moore of the FWA, provides his mid-season assessment of the National League’s new boys.

As December bites so reality sinks in for those teams relegated into the Vanarama National League. Hartlepool and Leyton Orient have now played 23 league matches, half the campaign, and there is no avoiding the fact that non-League is proving very tough. 

At the weekend Leyton Orient, under new manager Justin Edinburgh, lost at bottom club Solihull Borough. They are now 20th, one place above the relegation zone. Hartlepool, having conceded twice late on to lose at home to Macclesfield, are 13th; which means Jeff Stelling has to wait for the bottom half of the Vanarama table to flash up on Soccer Saturday to see where his team are.

This difficult baptism should come as no surprise. It is often said that relegation can enable struggling clubs to take stock, reform, and come back stronger, but that rarely applies to dropping out of the Football League. Of the 19 clubs relegated from League Two in the last decade (Torquay went down twice) only two bounced back immediately, Bristol Rovers in 2015 and Cheltenham the following year. More worrying for Hartlepool and Orient is that only seven of the 19 have climbed back into the Football League while five fell further, often due to financial problems. Boston, re-formed Darlington, Stockport County and York City are now in Vanarama National League North. A finally resurgent (and re-formed) Hereford are pushing to join them from the Evo-Stik South Premier.

“This is the biggest club in the Vanarama National League,” said Edinburgh after Saturday’s defeat.  Therein lies one of the problems. Opposition players are inspired by playing a club with such a long Football League pedigree, and by visiting Brisbane Road. “We have to embrace that and not fear it,” added Edinburgh, who said Orient was the “only job I would have taken in the National League [because of] the pull of the size of the club, the history.”

But if history helps attract fans, players and managers it counts for nothing on the pitch. Stockport are averaging 3,209 at the gate this season, the fifth highest attendance outside the Football League, but are mid-table in the Vanarama National League North. They lost at second-place Brackley Town in front of 585 on Saturday. That was one of the Saints’ best gates of the season – swelled by travelling Hatters fans.

In many respects the Vanarama National League is like the Championship: full of clubs with (relatively) storied histories, big followings, decent stadia – but fiercely competitive and no respecter of reputations. Orient are the Sunderland of non-League. Like the Wearsiders the O’s have put their faith in a new manager, one with a solid pedigree, hoping that unlike a succession of recent bosses this is the one who stops the rot. The current season may be gone with regard to promotion but, as with Chris Coleman at Sunderland, if Edinburgh can turn things around the club will develop momentum, and could take some stopping next season. However, as the likes of Wrexham, Tranmere and Stockport know, with hungry upwardly mobile clubs like Sutton United, Bromley and Brackley around there are no guarantees.