Football: Addison depends on principles

The manager of the Football League's bottom club has a keen sense of irony. Simon Turnbull met a man who loves a challenge

Simon Turnbull
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:50

COLIN ADDISON flicked through the yellowing pages of the Newcastle United programme on his desk until he came to the pen pictures. "The manager of Hereford United is Mr Colin Addison, aged 31," he read aloud. "He is a young, progressive manager who has the qualifications, drive and the determination of many of the managers in the Football League."

"It's funny," Scarborough's new manager said, removing his spectacles and casting his mind back to the night he first tested his qualifications, drive and determination against Football League opposition. "People tend to forget that game at St James' Park.

"They think it was a one-off game at Hereford. But we went up there one wet and windy January night, in front of 39,000 people, and came away with a tremendous 2-2 result. In fact, I thought we played better that night, in terms of football and application, than we did in the replay."

Mr Colin Addison's first success as a young, progressive manager was indeed no one-off. It was a three-off.

The team of part-time Southern Leaguers he guided from both sides of the Edgar Street fence, as player as well as manager of Hereford United, held Newcastle and West Ham to draws as well as shooting down the not- quite-so-mighty Magpies in the FA Cup in 1972.

Indeed, the 2-1 third-round replay win at Edgar Street - Ronnie Radford's wonder goal, the invasion of the Parkas and all - would not have been possible had Addison himself not equalised in the original tie on Tyneside.

"One of the best goals I scored in my career," he maintained. "Never gets a mention. People also forget that after we beat Newcastle in the replay we drew 0-0 with West Ham four days later before we went out 3- 1 at Upton Park to a Geoff Hurst hat-trick.

"Yeah, it was a magnificent cup run. I mean, that Newcastle team wasn't a bad one, you know."

It was good enough to beat a Manchester United side featuring Best, Law and Charlton at Old Trafford the following Saturday. And Addison's Hereford heroes were good enough to gain election to the Football League at the end of that season, his first as a manager, and to win promotion the following year.

At 58 going on 31 again, the impossibly young looking, youthfully exuberant Addison still has his eyes cast upwards in the football management game. Since responding to an urgent SOS call two weeks ago (Save Our Scarborough), he has been looking up at all 71 teams above his from the bottom rung of the Football League ladder.

His career has come full circle: from trying to get into the League with Hereford to trying to stay in it with Scarborough. "There is an irony in it," he said. "But I've never ducked a challenge and when the call came, asking if I was interested in I decided to go for it.

"A lot of friends said, "What the hell are you going to Scarborough for? To get an early holiday in? To do a bit of paddling?"

"But I've come here for the challenge. I've got clubs out of similar situations before: Newport in the late Seventies and Cadiz seven or eight years ago.

"It's not as if it's new for me. But this one is a big challenge. It could be the biggest of the lot."

The chips are certainly down at the McCain Stadium. Scarborough are six points adrift at the foot of the Third Division, though with two games in hand of the clubs directly above them, Hull and Hartlepool.

For Addison, it is a coming home as well as a challenge. He was brought up in nearby York and launched his playing career as an attacking inside-forward with York City.

He went on to make his mark in the old First Division with Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United and he has returned to North Yorkshire with a managerial CV which includes five months in the scorchingly hot seat at the Vicente Calderon. Like Arrigo Sacchi, and some 20 other coaches in the past 13 years, Addison endured an uncomfortably brief working relationship with Jesus Gil, the president-cum- autocrat of Atletico Madrid.

"It was an experience, to say the least," he reflected. "The man was completely irrational. You never knew what was coming next.

"I went there as Ron Atkinson's assistant six games into the 1989-90 season, took over in the January when Ron moved on and was sacked at the end of May. Atletico were fourth bottom when we went there and they were fourth top when I got the sack.

"We were in the semi-final of the Spanish Cup - 2-0 down to Real Madrid from the first leg - and we needed three points from our last three league games to qualify for the Uefa Cup. We could have won the cup. We could have still got into Europe.

"But that was the man. That was Jesus Gil. If I had been in the same position in England I probably would have got a new two-year contract.

"It was very disappointing, one of the biggest disappointments of my career, not having the chance just to finish off that season."

Addison may have left unfinished business at the Calderon in Madrid, but he has a mission to complete at the McCain in Scarborough. "What's the difference ?" he said, echoing the question. "About 48,000 spectators.

"Obviously at a big club like Atletico you've got money to spend. There's not much to spend here, if any. But the principles are the same.

"The systems, the tactics, the attitude, the application... They're all the same, whether you're at Atletico Madrid or at Scarborough." Or whether you're a young, progressive manager at Hereford United, for that matter.

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