Six years and counting for Town boss Aspin

Neil Aspin
Neil Aspin

If a week is a long time in politics, then six years is bordering on a dynasty in football.

That is the anniversary recently celebrated by Neil Aspin at FC Halifax Town, just three days after the club’s 3-2 defeat in their final game of the season at Woking.

Only four managers in the top five divisions of English football have been at their clubs longer than Aspin - Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Paul Tisdale at Exeter, Nicky Law at Alfreton and Tony Burman at Dartford.

Aspin admits there have been offers to prise him away from the Shay over the last 12 months, but is in no rush to up sticks.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” he says.

“This year I’ve had a lot of interest and I’ve spoken to a couple of clubs.

“I always thought that would be what I wanted but as it’s turned out, because I’ve had the chance to speak to a couple of clubs, I know it has to be the right club.

“When I first came to the club we had a plan and a strategy to go forward and that’s what you have to do.

“You’re not going to go from a non-league club to a big job so you have to go up another rung of the ladder.

“But you look up at the next league and the life expectancy is a year.

“So after working in non-league for 11 years I wouldn’t just throw it away to go anywhere just for the sake of being a league manager.

“There’s no point in doing that.

“You’re always ambitious and I’d like to think what I’ve done in my 11 years as manager will keep me involved in football.”

Aspin believes the grass isn’t necessarily greener elsewhere.

“Without going into details, the clubs I’ve spoken to this year have struggled,” he says.

“And that’s with managers who are more experienced than me at that level.

“We all like to think we can go in and wave a magic wand but it’s not as easy as that.

“The fact there have been six or seven jobs that have come up this year I’ve been mentioned for shows I’ve been doing something right.

“But I know I need to get results next season.

“You’re always under pressure.

“If people are not liking what they’re seeing or you’re not getting results then being successful only buys you so much time and people soon get fed-up with it.

“I have to make sure I get players who will do the job next season because if I don’t I’ll be under pressure.”

The Town boss insists his longevity in the role has not given him a protected status.

“The way things are, people soon get fed up with managers,” he says.

“Staying anywhere for a number of years is getting more and more difficult so I would’ve been naive to think I was going to stay somewhere that long.

“I aimed to get the club back to where they were and that’s what we’ve done so I’m satisfied with that.

“How long I end up staying at the club is out of my hands but what I always do is work hard and try to get a team the supporters can be proud of.

“I also do that in a way which balances the books.

“But at this level it’s a lot harder to win games and it’s getting harder to get the players to push you forward.

“If you look at the teams that have got promotion over the last few years from the Conference, they’ve all got million-plus budgets, which is never going to happen with Halifax.

“Even getting a part-time club into the play-offs is very rare.

“That’s what you’re competing against. It doesn’t stop you hoping you can do it, otherwise none of us would bother.

“But people have to realise it’s a difficult job.”

The Shay chief admits it will be extremely difficult to emulate their play-off finish from their first season back in the Conference, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying.

“We did better than I thought we would last year (2013-14) and there was a time early in that season when we got to fifth and I said to Lee Nogan ‘this is as high as we can ever get’,” he recalls.

“I didn’t expect us to finish in the top five but we did.

“We topped the table this year and that will be very difficult for any manager who follows me to do.

“There is a part of me that thinks, with the way everything is stacked against us, this is as far as we can go in our present form.

“But I don’t like losing or being on a bad run like were at the end of the season so you’ve always got the drive to do better and that will never change, even if we have the lowest budget in the league.

“I’ll always have that desire and passion to do well because the only thing about football you enjoy is if you win.

“I know it’s tough but I’ll never stop trying to improve.”

Whatever the future holds, Aspin is determined to see the club at least retain their Conference status.

“If you sound too negative people accuse you of being negative but there are a lot of teams who’ve come up from the Conference North and gone back down over the last few years,” he adds.

“That’s always the first thing we have to avoid. You must try and stay in the league first and once you’ve done that you try and push as far as you can.

“If you start thinking you’re going to do this and that - you only have to look at how difficult it’s been since Christmas to win games.

“If you get in a bad run it can be very difficult to get out of it.

“We have to be realistic and the first priority is to stay in the league.

“If you go back down it’s a difficult league to get out of.

“Now we’ve made the steps to get back where we started I don’t ever want to see a time when we go back down again.”

Aspin is hoping the expected influx of new faces this summer will revitalise the club as well as him.

“It’s disappointing when you lose your players but when you see them going on to do well you do get a lot of satisfaction from it,” he says.

“When you get a player and you see him develop and you know he can player, you get a lot of enthusiasm from that.

“I’m at the stage now where I’ve been here six years.

“Everybody gets stale. Supporters get fed-up with seeing the same faces.

“But what changes that is by getting some new personnel and they give me a spark and also the crowd sees new players and they get a spark and everything can pick up.”

The former Port Vale defender says the job of football management is all-consuming but that he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

“I don’t think you get much enjoyment out of football management,” he adds.

“I can’t say enjoyment and football manager in the same breath.

“It’s a very frustrating job.

“I do enjoy the wins. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the football we’ve played over the years.

“There have been lads who’ve done well for me and teams who’ve worked exceptionally hard.

“But you take the job with you all the time.

“When you lose you don’t sleep.

“The chairman and the board are not ones for giving out too much praise so you find you’re trying to justify what you do.

“I wouldn’t say there’s that much enjoyment but I wouldn’t swap the job because it’s what I’ve always known.

“And that’s why when managers get sacked they’re always desperate to get back in, no matter what they’ve been through.

“It’s like a drug and you get used to it.

“You get aggravation but you want to prove people wrong and you have to keep fighting and try to do better.”