FC Halifax Town: “We’re going full tilt to be as high as we can as quickly as we can”

Phil Hughes and Jamie Fullarton
Phil Hughes and Jamie Fullarton

As management team Jamie Fullarton and Phil Hughes approach a year in charge at FC Halifax Town, Tom Scargill sat down with the duo for a wide-ranging interview. In part two, they discuss working together, sports science and the next 12 months.

The history books will say Jamie Fullarton was in charge during a formative period for FC Halifax Town.

Under his watch, the club has gone from part-time to full-time, training in Halifax to training in Leeds and - it is hoped - from yo-yo club between fifth and sixth tier to a long-term presence in the National League.

“When you come into a club as a manager, your thoughts are that from your first day to however long you’re there, can you improve it in every aspect, can you make an impact?” reflected the Town boss as he approaches 12 months at the helm.

“Can you leave it in a better condition than when you walked in?

“I believe there’s been great progression in most aspects, while I am not satisfied due to my thirst to be better.

“When you come into a relegation battle, to keep our league status was a positive and it gave us a platform to then move on in the summer.

“We’ve had a turnaround in the squad and added value to the books in terms of the players.

“That’s an area this club has a history of, being able to sell players to make money.

“We’ve got players with the potential to do that as we continue to work on the training pitch to maximise their value, both on the pitch on a Saturday and as a monetary asset for the club.

“Time is the currency you need. We live in a microwave society, we want instant success.

“But the way you get quick success is with a foundation and an infrastructure.

“When you haven’t got that in place, you must look to build it, therefore it’s even more important you have a longer period of time to be judged fairly.

“That’s all you ever look for.”

“The manager’s so driven forward, he doesn’t often look behind him,” says assistant manager Phil Hughes.

“If you look at when we first came in to where we are now, it’s been some turnaround, off the pitch.

“The manager has implemented that, and put a lot of energy into it. It is an energy-sapper.

“There’s a lot to do apart from being stood in the dugout on a Saturday.”

“Phil’s the voice of reason,” says Fullarton, “and has the knack and luxury of being able to step back and review better than me.

“I’m 7,000 revs in top gear. I don’t reflect or ever feel satisfied.

“That voice of reason helps me to develop as a manager.

“You must complement and supplement your skill set in your managerial team.

“That’s why it works (between us). His attributes are key for me to strive to be successful.

“At any point in such a subjective, volatile industry, the wheels can quite easily come off.

“If you haven’t got the jack - or a Phil should I say - to put a new one on, then you’re struggling.”

There is a gym now on site at Town’s training base in Leeds, which Fullarton hopes will be ready to use in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s something the chairman’s backed me on and will benefit the club over the coming years,” he says.

“Sports science is a big part of football now. We’re not reinventing the wheel, all we’re doing is trying to get to the same level as our competitors.

“We’ve invested in GPS, which every club bar three or four have in the National League.

“It’s a great tool to use, and strengthens the professionalism, while giving an indication of how hard the players are working, and will help to reduce soft tissue injuries when combined strength and conditioning programme that we will look to implement.

“The GPS also enables us to structure the week so we get the players to peak performance on a Saturday.

“It’s something we’ve introduced that helps develop that culture of professionalism.”

When asked where Fullarton hopes to be a year from now, he adds: “There’s lots of factors you don’t control that influence that, and there’s constraints that we work within.

“So you rely on timing to have an impact on how fast you can progress.

“While we have aims of progression and improvement, how far and how fast you do that depends on the variables which as a manager you do not control. you can only try and influence.

“We’re going full tilt to be as high as we can as quickly as we can.

“But constraints are like a handbrake on a car.

“You have to work within them, while still pushing them.

“What I don’t want to do is make any radical statements, because I don’t control some of the aspects that affect how well we can progress.”

Another thing out of Fullarton’s control was the lack of a fee for goalkeeper Carl Rushworth.

The youngster signed a deal with Halifax back in August having come through the club’s academy and trained with the first-team during pre-season.

But he moved to Premier League club Brighton this season on a free transfer, and Fullarton, who also has an academy in Spain and has worked in youth development in England, believes the current system needs to change.

“We have a contentious issue regarding the academy at National League level because you have no protection whatsoever from clubs taking your players,” he said.

“We’ve experienced that with Carl Rushworth. Phil (Hughes) spent nine months involving him at first-team level, developing him, only for Brighton to take him from us.

“What is the Football League and the National League going to do to help us? There’s got to be a rule change.

“If Brighton wanted to sign a goalkeeper from my grass-roots academy in Spain, they need to pay me 30,000 Euros for every year he’s been at my academy.

“For Carl Rushworth, that would amount to 60,000 Euros. Instead we haven’t received anything.”

Hughes added: “He’s our player, he’s reached a level where a higher club thinks they can take a chance on him, but why should they take him for free?”