Jan the man hawkish on Harriers

Grahame Lloyd hears Molby plan a confident start for Kidderminster
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The Independent Football

Among the advertising hoardings dotted around Kidderminster's refurbished Aggborough Stadium are two publicising a local firm of estate agents. As the Harriers prepare to make history, Doolittle and Dalley have been swept along by the euphoria and spent £800 on doubling their presence at the ground.

Among the advertising hoardings dotted around Kidderminster's refurbished Aggborough Stadium are two publicising a local firm of estate agents. As the Harriers prepare to make history, Doolittle and Dalley have been swept along by the euphoria and spent £800 on doubling their presence at the ground.

But they are unlikely ever to sponsor the team. They don't have enough money, and certainly not the most appropriate of names.

In fact, since Jan Molby became their manager 15 months ago, Kidderminster have done a lot and have not hung around. After winning the Conference by an impressive nine points last May, they will bring 114 years of waiting to an end at three o'clock on Saturday when they take on Torquay at Aggborough.

The former Liverpool playmaker is relishing the latest challenge of his brief but eventful managerial career. "It's obviously a massive occasion for everyone," says Molby, "but, in many ways, you just want to get it out of the way so you can concentrate on the other 45 games.

"I think it's important, as new boys, that we get a reasonable start, but if we lost on Saturday it wouldn't be a disaster - as we saw last season, when we had four defeats in our first five Conference games and went on to win the title."

When Molby sat down with his chairman, Lionel Newton, to prepare for Kidderminster's arrival in the Football League, some players were not retained, but most of last season's squad have been offered full-time contracts. The club's longest-serving part-timer, Paul Webb, a well-built midfielder,appeared unwilling to give up a well-paid job as a warehouse manager in the Midlands but eventually decided to make the transition.

"It's a big gamble for him giving up the security of his job at 32," Molby says, "but we were offering him what he's wanted all his career - the chance to play League football. The temptation in the end was too great."

As well as rewarding his fledgling manager with a new four-year contract, Newton has consistently backed Molby's judgement with hard cash. Kidderminster have more than trebled their previous transfer record by signing the forward Andy Ducros from Nuneaton Borough for £100,000, and another £20,000 sorted out an insurance settlement to enable the defender Ian Clarkson to continue his League career.

"Andy has got immense ability," says his manager. "He played nine times for Coventry in the Premiership and then drifted out of the game for a little while, but I saw enough of him last season to suggest that he was the most exciting player in the Conference - he can open up defences."

The striker Tony Bird has rediscovered the habit which persuaded Molby to sign him for Swansea City three years ago. "I bought him from Barry Town to score goals, and nothing has made me change my mind about Tony; he's got seven in pre-season so far."

Experience will be provided in defence by the 32-year-old Mark Shail, released by Bristol City at the end of last season, and, in the absence of Mike Marsh, the former Wales captain Barry Horne will be directing operations in midfield as well as coaching the first team.

"Barry's a different type of player to Mike, who can't play in the Football League because of an insurance pay-out," says Molby. "Mike was our playmaker, but Barry's strength is breaking up the opposition's pattern of play. At 38, he'll provide us with a lot of experience and have a great influence on the youngsters around him."

After being refused entry on safety grounds in 1994, Kidderminster are about to take up what they consider to be their rightful place in the League. Off the pitch, their smart stadium puts many Second Division clubs in the shade, and Molby is confident that his footballers won't let the side down.

"Only time will tell if the team are ready for the Third Division. We've been trying to warn them about certain things, like physical strength. It's been a massive change for a lot of them - some have never done full-time training.

"But we're not looking just for consolidation. I hope that by next May people will be able to say that we didn't look out of place in the Third Division."

At 16-1 to win the Third Division championship and 3-1 to gain promotion, Kidderminster might well be worth a punt. The favourites to go up, ahead of Darlington, Brighton, Chesterfield and Blackpool, are Cardiff City at 5-1.

Sam Hammam's prospective new club are at present managed by Molby's former assistant Billy Ayre, who helped him take Swansea City to the 1997 Wembley play-offs before both were sacked.

Third Division players to watch

Kurt Nogan (Cardiff) Scorer at all levels in his career could propel relegated Bluebirds straight back.

Paul McGregor (Plymouth) Former young Forest blond bombshell has goal power to lift Argyle to play-offs.

Andy Ducros (Kidderminster) Jan Molby paid £100,000 for striker from Nuneaton. Let's hope he's worth it.

Nigel Jemson (Shrewbury) Released by Oxford, the veteran forward has the makings of a shrewd signing for the Shrews.

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