"We believe we're a very good team" - Millington sets out his vision for The Shaymen

More often that not, new FC Halifax Town managers are handed a fairly meagre inheritance from their predecessors.

By Tom Scargill
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 12:53 pm

Pete Wild, Jamie Fullarton, Billy Heath, Jim Harvey, Darren Kelly and Neil Aspin all took over from managers who had been sacked or deemed surplus to requirements for underachieving.

But for Chris Millington, he replaces his former boss Wild with The Shaymen in comparatively rude health.

Yes, several first-teamers have left to join Football League clubs - two of them following Wild to Barrow - but it looks like other vital players such as Jesse Debrah, Sam Johnson, Jack Senior, Kian Spence and Matty Warburton will all be retained.

Chris Millington

Wild helped build a backroom team and way of working that helped drive Town to two play-off finished in the last three season and which is now in Millington's hands.

What the new Town boss will also hope to continue is Halifax's established status as promotion contenders.

"We believe we're a very good team, the staff and the players here believe that we're better than most teams in the division, and we don't expect that, on our day, there'll be anyone better," he said.

"So we see ourselves competing right at the top end of the division, and success for us looks like having a real clear identity in our play, playing with a certain swagger and going out to win every game.

"It's a long season. We've seen it in recent years, especially when you look at last season, Stockport didn't look like they were in with any type of chance of winning the division mid-season, and Grimsby had a turn of results that led to us thinking that they wouldn't even make the play-offs, and they're the two teams that got promoted.

"So over a full league season you'll see a lot of change in and around the top of the division.

"However, every team we come up against, we'll be going out to win and expect to be capable of beating every team with the group of players we've got, and with the hard work the staff put in behind the scenes, so we want to be competing right at the top end of the division, and we want to be the people who put Halifax Town back in the Football League.

"That, ultimately, is our objective, and that's what we'll be working every day to try and achieve."

This is Millington's first management role in senior football, and he has relished the role since being appointed at the end of May.

"From a personal perspective, I've found it really exciting," he said.

"The challenges have been clear because it was quite a short turnaround, there was an awful lot of organising that needed doing, we've had quite a high turnover of players, which we wouldn't have wanted in an ideal world.

"But it's given me the opportunity to immediately get my fingerprints on the identity of the team and the types of players I wanted to bring in.

"So it's been enjoyable and I'm really looking forward to getting the season started."

If Millington wasn't aware of the differences between being an assistant and a manager upon his appointment, he certainly is now.

"As assistant it was very easy because I could share my opinion with the manager, and be safe in the knowledge that once I'd shared my opinion, the decision was down to him," he said.

"Now I'm at the other end of that where I'm trying to hear and take on board the opinions of the people around me, but once I've received those opinions then I have to be able to make quick decisions so that we can move forward in the right way.

"I spend an awful lot of time on the phone, and at this time of year it's agents, players, getting organised with players we want to try and bring in.

"So that takes an awful lot of time up because it's not just talking to a player and agreeing a deal, it's the player, the agent and the club and obviously the chairman has to sanction it and make sure it fits in with our structure financially.

"So things take an awful lot of time to get sorted, but it is enjoyable and I know the benefit at the end of that process is that we'll have a team that I think will represent the town and the club really well."

One change is how Millington will be addressed by his players.

"I leave that up to them," he said.

"The new lads just automatically call me gaffer, and the established, re-signed lads sometimes trip over Milly, sometimes aren't sure, but over time that'll work itself out."

Will another difference under Millington's tenure be the end of Town's pre-match, on-pitch huddle?

"I believe the huddle should be down to the players really, so I'll give them the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to maintain that, and they want to organise and deliver that."

What Millington hopes the fans will see on a matchday is an exciting team that is comfortable with the ball and able to hurt teams on the break.

"I'd hope that people will recognise that we've got good footballers within the team, we want to build, we want to play a possession-based style of play, but we also want to have that pace and you've seen it in the signings in Milli Alli, Sam Smart, Angelo Capello, Jamie Cooke, players with real pace who like the game once they have the ball and once they're counter-attacking," said the Town boss.

"So I hope people recognise a possession-based team that's got pace and creativity at its heart."

Millington also has one eye on more long-term objectives, such as losing fewer of the club's most prized assets on free transfers.

"I think what I'd like to be is in a little bit more control of who we lose and when," he said.

"I think in the case of Kieran Green and Jay Benn, we've been in control of that process, whereas there's been a number of players who've left, be it simply because they've been out of contract, and they have left without is being in a position to immediately replace them.

"So if we know that players are coming towards the end of their contract, I want to be in a position where I know I've got one or two good options ready to pull the trigger on immediately.

"If it's other players leaving, we want to be in control of that process because they're contracted and we make the decision when and how they leave."

Millington says chairman David Bosomworth has backed him to be able to create the squad he wants.

"The chairman's worked really hard to make sure that he understands what we want to do in terms of where we want to spend the money and how we want to bring in established players in certain positions to strengthen us and make us better," Millington said.

"He's helped me do that every time I've asked him to."

Millington is happy with how things are off-the-pitch too, having been able to keep his backroom team together after Wild's departure.

"I was really pleased that we managed to retain the backroom staff that we did, I was delighted that although there were other options and offers for a number of them to go elsewhere, they felt that what we were doing at Halifax Town was something that they really wanted to be a part of," he said.

"That was incredibly pleasing at the outset of pre-season.

"The standard of work, the level of commitment and the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty has been quite humbling in many respects, and I can't speak highly enough of them.

"I hope that the fans are aware of what a good group of people are working so hard behind the scenes to try and bring the club's hopes and dreams to life and make them a reality, because they really are a phenomenal group of people who are giving everything they possibly can to try and make our objectives come to life.

"We've got a really highly qualified group of people doing what, in other clubs, more people would be tasked with doing."

Whether Millington goes on to achieve that coveted promotion or not, the Town boss believes it won't be for the lack of effort or application.

"I really hope that the fans can see what we're trying to do with the players that we've recruited," he added.

"It's a team that they can be really proud of and I hope that they experience that coming down to The Shay.

"They see a group of players who not only have got ability but have got a real pride and passion in playing for the team, and want to achieve success for Halifax Town."