BIG INTERIEW: Brig boss Neil Reynolds

Neil Reynolds is the new manager of Bamber Bridge (photo: Ruth Hornby)
Neil Reynolds is the new manager of Bamber Bridge (photo: Ruth Hornby)
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When Neil Reynolds is not living and breathing non-league football, the 39-year-old likes to watch his beloved Liverpool strut their stuff in the Premier League.

It is rather apt then that the new Bamber Bridge manager will implement the footballing model used by Reds boss Jurgen Klopp during his own managerial reign at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.

Reynolds was installed as Brig’s new manager last week after the shock resignation of previous boss Neil Crowe.

The former Clitheroe and Kendal Town midfielder is almost part of the fixtures and fittings at Irongate after enjoying three spells with the club as both a player and coach.

For the past five-and-a-half years, he has worked as Crowe’s assistant – helping the club to reach two play-off finals in the NPL First Division North.

While working in close quarters with Crowe over that period of time, Reynolds admits that he has agreed with many of the former manager’s footballing principles.

But, as he is quick to point out, he has his own ideas and will very much be his own man as he looks to build a successful future for Preston’s biggest non-league club.

“I have learned so much over the last five years,” said Reynolds.

“Neil gave me a lot of responsibility when we worked together and I will always be grateful for that.

“In a way, I will miss being the No.2 to Neil Crowe.

“We have had lots of highs – and lows.

“I think getting to two play-off finals was a massive achievement

“The FA Cup game against Chorley a couple of years ago was a massive occasion for the club.

“We also had some tough challenges.

“I think I will miss sitting in the clubhouse with him until 12 o’clock at night after a midweek game, talking how we can take the club forward.

“We spoke about our style of play a lot to be honest.

“Crowey will tell you that I watch a lot of football off the ball, not just when we have the ball.

“I like to look at our defensive shape and midfield shape and the way we work without the ball. A lot of what Neil used to say, I wouldn’t disagree with.

“He favoured a passing style of play but also expected the team to work hard just as hard when they didn’t have the ball.

“I want my teams to press all over the park and work hard off the ball, but when they are on the ball to relax and enjoy themselves.

“No player of mine will ever be lambasted by me for attempting a pass and giving the ball away.

“But they will hear from me if they are not working hard enough or not getting their shape back when they haven’t got the ball.

“I suppose my style is a bit like what Jurgen Klopp does at Liverpool with his pressing style of play.

“My team’s identity will be all about pressing teams.

“At the moment, I would say we are not fit enough, but we will get fitter and that’s what I will be doing in training.

“Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a time to play and time not to play and to be fair that is what myself and Crowey always believed in.

“We are not going to pass the ball just for the sake of passing it, but I like to pass.

“There was a time during the game on Tuesday against Marine when we strung together 30-odd passes.

“I want to keep the ball, keep in possession of the ball as much as possible.

“But if there is the opportunity to get it forward and play in the final third then I want us to do that.”

A student of the game, Reynolds will leave no stone unturned in a bid to give his team the edge over their rivals.

Having worked under some of the best local non-league managers in non-league during his 20-plus year playing career, Reynolds has a wealth of experience to call upon.

But he is also not averse to applying some of the techniques used by the greatest managers in the world at Irongate.

And while Reynolds is a familiar face and voice to the current squad, the players have already begun to see some changes, which have been apparent in the new manager’s opening two games in charge against Colwyn Bay and Marine.

“I will change things and already the lads have commented on the changes I have brought in,” said Reynolds, who during the day holds the position of vice-principal at Fulwood Academy.

“Things like coming out to music before the game, turning up to games in club suits.

“The way the team warms-up before a game.

“I read a lot and read a lot of football literature.

“One of my favourite books is ‘Living on a Volcano’ which is about football management.

“One of the things Arsene Wenger does is not to go into the dressing room straight after half-time.

“He allows himself and the players to calm down a little bit.

“A lot of managers will go straight in and speak to the players, but then you have got seven or eight minutes where nothing much is happening and by the time the players go back out for the second half, they have forgotten what you have said.

“I think going in towards the end of half-time and giving them only instructions has helped in the games against Colwyn and Marine.

“I like to watch other managers – see how they do things and how they behave on the touchline.”

Those subtle changes may have helped Brig avert a recent poor run of form which saw them lose eight out of nine games.

That sequence of results saw them drop to mid-table in the NPL First Division North after they had earlier led the way in October.

Reynolds managed to inspire an excellent second-half fightback to earn a point in a 1-1 draw at Colwyn on Saturday.

And confidence was high in midweek as they thumped Premier Division Marine 4-1 at home in the League Cup.

Reynolds believes uncertainty surrounding Crowe’s future over the last few weeks may have been a contributing factor, among others, to the recent poor run.

“We started really well this season and I think what’s gone on behind the scenes in recent weeks which led to Neil’s departure may have affected us in some way – I don’t know.

“I can’t comment on that and it will be wrong for me to comment on that.

“It did not really affect me because I was not party to what was said or what went on.

“I had a gist of it and it might have affected Neil, and I know he has commented on it this week.

“I think it could have had some effect on the poor run.

“But I think one of the big reasons has been injuries and I know a lot of managers hide behind that.

“We have had some big players missing. We have been without the best player in the league. Any team in our division and maybe the division above would miss a player like Alistair Waddecar.

“We have been without him since August Bank Holiday Monday.

“Don’t get me wrong, one player does not make a team, but Ally is a massive part of what we do.

“We miss his goals and his creativity, his drive and work rate. But it’s not just him we have been without.

“We have had a number of players missing and it’s been tough. Michael Potts has been missing through injury, George Bowyer.

“Glenn Steel has been unavailable and Matt Lawlor have been suspended.

“I think also we have been struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, which has been a concern.”

What will aid the new manager going forward is the much-improved financial footing the club has put itself in.

Reynolds well remembers the days – not too long ago – when he and Crowe saw 
their already limited 
playing budget cut to next-to-nothing.

Indeed the club was in such dire financial straits that it looked like it may go out of business.

Fortunately, chairman Frank Doyle and the committee have steadied the ship, while Helen Nowell has worked wonders with the clubhouse, improving the social set-up and its takings.

“At one time, it was looking like the padlock would be going on the gate and the club would be going out of business,” Reynolds said.

“But we’ve managed to turn it around and a lot of praise goes to the committee and big thanks to the chairman, who has worked hard and hopefully we can put Bamber Bridge back on the map.”

With Reynolds having moved up to the top job, he 
has promoted former Blackpool winger Simon Wiles – previously the first-team coach – to become his assistant.

Stuart Barton will assist the goalkeepers and he is also hoping to bring former Brig stalwart Mike Falconer back into the fold as part of his backroom staff.

“Simon is an A-Licence coach and has got the potential to move up the football ladder.

“I am really looking forward to working with him.”

Brig will be hoping to register their first league victory under their new manager when they host Hyde at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium today.