Football: Toast to the right-hand man

Richard Slater studies the appeal of a coach driven by dual demands

IT WASN'T showy, just a simple request. A short, polite call on the mobile to ask if the landlord could open up a few minutes early; he had an appoint- ment to keep. Derek Fazackerley was welcomed into the pub which has been his local for 14 years and, as they trickled towards the bar, regulars nodded their greetings to the England and Bolton Wanderers coach and he acknowledged each by name.

Stability is the underpinning tenet of Fazackerley's life and career, a characteristic which has been attractive to many of the key names of British football since the 1970s. As a player he spent 18 years making a record 671 appearances in the heart of the Blackburn Rovers defence, working under such luminaries as Howard Kendall, Jim Smith and Gordon Lee.

Spells learning the coaching trade followed at Chester, York, Bury and Kumu in Finland before Smith, by then manager at Newcastle, lured him to Tyneside as reserve team coach. But, despite the fact he was now approaching the big-time, Fazackerley, born in Penwortham, just a few miles away, resisted the temptation to uproot his family from the hilltop village just outside Blackburn which was home.

"The game is full of insecurities," he said. "We were settled as a family, my children were happy in their schools, so it didn't seem appropriate."

His assessment was justified. Within a few months of Fazackerley's appointment, Smith made way for Ossie Ardiles, Kevin Keegan taking the helm soon afterwards.

Fazackerley, now 47, was one of the few constants in a turbulent era at the club, a period which saw Newcastle escape relegation to the Second Division by a whisker before striding into the Premiership and, subsequently, into Europe.

"It was a great time, both rewarding and exciting. The attendances shot up and we were playing with the kind of football principles Kevin and I believed in - determination to win and at the same time trying to entertain people."

The opportunity to work closer to home, though, meant his partnership with Keegan was temporarily severed as Fazackerley rejoined Blackburn Rovers as Ray Harford's coach in time for the fruitless Champions' League campaign.

An equally dismal run in the league preceded Harford's departure, but again Fazackerley remained in place as the walls around him fell.

Only when Brian Kidd replaced Roy Hodgson last December did Fazackerley, for the first time in a professional career which began in 1969 when he signed for Blackburn, find himself at the sharp end of the game and out of work.

"I can't deny that it hurt me to have to leave Blackburn Rovers, but there was no bitterness and I respected Brian Kidd's decision to bring his own staff in," he said.

"At first I enjoyed the break, the phone was constantly ringing and people in the game were checking after my well-being. But then the calls stopped coming and the reality of being out of work hit me."

Then the phone rang again. Kevin Keegan, just about to announce to the nation he was temporarily taking charge of England, was on the line. "He said he wanted me on board for the four games he was going to be involved in and, after I'd picked myself off the floor, I felt very proud. Football's like that - it's either feast or famine."

And the feast was to continue. After some indifferent results and performances by England under Glenn Hoddle, Keegan, with Fazackerley at his side, contrived a vital 3-1 victory over Poland in the European Championship qualifiers. It was the first match at Wembley, barring an appearance for Blackburn Rovers' Veterans in a 1-1 draw with Billingham Strollers, that he had been involved in.

Over the next seven days he is to make two further visits. Tomorrow he will be with Colin Todd for the play-off final between Bolton and Graham Taylor's Watford after helping right a downward spiralling promotion campaign in its final weeks, while next Saturday England take on group leaders Sweden in the latest round of Euro 2000 qualifiers.

Fazackerley is modest about his achievements. He never played at a higher level than the old Second Division yet he was relied on by a string of fine managers. They recognised his cool, assertive reading of the game, his robust style, his tempered aggression. Without trying to second-guess the precise reasons why both Keegan and Todd called upon his services, he responds only that they must have respect for the way he goes about his business.

One might expect that, with two of the biggest games of his career looming this week, Derek Fazackerley may betray a hint of tension. But not a bit of it; he is calm, assured and considered. Above all, he exudes that in- demand quality of stability.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea