BIG INTERVIEW: Chris Sedgwick

Chris Sedgwick in action for PNE
Chris Sedgwick in action for PNE
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Had things gone the way Chris Sedgwick had planned, he would be giving investment and pension advice now, rather than going through another football pre-season.

In May, Sedgwick hung up his boots after a professional career spanning nearly two decades – which included six seasons with Preston.

A new job as a financial advisor beckoned, the winger having thought carefully about life after football.

Sedgwick finished on a high, making 22 appearances for Bury as they won promotion from League Two.

As the Shakers celebrated the 2-0 win at Tranmere which saw them pip Southend and Wycombe to the last automatic promotion slot, Sedgwick sipped a glass of champagne and toasted his goodbye to football.

Three months on, the suit and briefcase have yet to see the light of day, the financial advisor role on hold.

Instead he will be on the Gigg Lane touchline today as Bury meet North End.

There is even a chance Sedgwick will get on to the pitch at some stage to play against his former employers.

Over the summer he was appointed Bury’s first-team coach by Shakers manager David Flitcroft, himself a former PNE player.

There is scope for him to also put the boots on again if needed – he has had playing time in pre-season to shake off the summer rust.

So what is the story behind the U-turn, the change of heart in his career path?

There is a chuckle from Sedgwick as he reflects on the summer’s events.

“I decided in January that I would retire this summer. I was well down the road in training to be a financial advisor,” he told the Evening Post.

“Bury won promotion on the final day of the season, I played the last 25 minutes of that game at Tranmere and it felt a fitting way to bow out.

“Being a financial advisor was something which had interested me for quite a while.

“I had paid close attention to the investment side of things when I was playing and I decided that would be my next career step.

“I applied to St James’s Place, one of the biggest financial groups in the country to join them.

“That involved going in front of an interview panel and they accepted me on their training scheme.

“I was halfway through the course when I had to ask to put it on the back burner because Bury had offered me a job.

“To be fair, they were great about it and perhaps finance is something I can go back to further down the line.

“I have two more exams to pass and then I’m qualified to be a financial advisor.

“What happened with Bury is that I got a call from David Flitcroft in the summer, asking if I would be interested in being first-team coach.

“It was too good an opportunity to turn down, a chance to learn that side of the game under a great manager and staff.

“These first few weeks doing the job have been good, a case of having to get used to some different things.

“Using the staff changing room instead of the players’ one was a big change.

“I think the players still like me – they don’t stop talking when I go into a room with them, which is a good sign!

“I’m still registered as a player if we need an extra body in the squad.

“This will be my third season with Bury and it is a totally different club to the one I joined two years ago.

“They have a young, ambitious chairman and a young ambitious manager.

“Our training ground is the one Manchester City had at Carrington until last season.

“It is surely the best in League One and will be better than a lot in the Championship and even some in the Premier League I would imagine.

“Having a training ground like that is a big selling point to potential signings and being near to Manchester is an obvious attraction to players if they are relocating.”

Sedgwick is one of several ex-Preston players who now find themselves at Bury.

Manager Flitcroft started his career at Deepdale and played a handful of first-team games in the early 1990s.

Danny Mayor, Danny Pugh and Leon Clarke have all pulled on the PNE shirt and will feature in this afternoon’s friendly, which is the last dress rehearsal before the season starts next weekend.

Paul McKenna, who trains the Bury Under-16s side, is another one with strong North End links.

“There are a few of us here who have played for Preston at some time or another,” said Sedgwick.

“Danny Mayor is the most recent – he is a local lad who is going from strength to strength as a player.

“He was League Two’s player of the year last season and I think he will definitely end up playing in the Championship – hopefully with Bury.

“Things went a bit wrong for him at Preston, probably a case of the wrong manager at the wrong time for him.

“With the right manager he would have blossomed at North End.”

Sedgwick’s time at Deepdale came between November 2004 and May 2010.

He pulled on the Preston shirt 255 times, scoring 14 goals. He played under four managers – Billy Davies, Paul Simpson, Alan Irvine and Darren Ferguson – reached the play-offs twice and looks back at his six years with a great deal of fondness.

Sedgwick was playing for Rotherham, a club with whom he won two promotions, when PNE came calling in 2004.

“I was at Rotherham from the age of 16, we got promoted twice and reached the Championship,” he said.

“They then got into a bit of financial trouble and had to sell a few players.

“A few clubs got linked with me but Preston were not one of them.

“Then out of the blue they made a bid, together with Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday.

“I had a choice where to go but as soon as I met Billy Davies, my mind was made up.

“Billy set his stall out well, with what he wanted to do and the players he wanted to sign.

“He talked about reaching the play-offs, yet at the time we were 14th or 15th in the table.

“We did reach the play-offs that season, getting to the final against West Ham at the Millennium Stadium.

“Our form from before Christmas onwards that season was brilliant – we won lots of matches and played well.

“Unfortunately in the final, we just seemed to hit a brick wall, whether we just froze on the day or were tired after the work of getting there.

“We were confident before the game, having beaten West Ham twice in the league.

“In the final, neither side played well, it was a scrappy game and their winner was a scrappy.

“Claude Davis slipped as he tried to clear a cross and Bobby Zamora bundled it in.

“We reached the play-offs the following season, losing to Leeds in the semi-final.

“The second leg at Deepdale was such a bizarre night to say the least.

“I rolled my ankle in the pre-match warm-up and had to pull out.

“Billy made some changes to the side which people couldn’t get their heads around.

“We started with four strikers – David Nugent, Danny Dichio, Marcus Stewart and Brett Ormerod.

“Stewart was playing in a role at the top of the midfield with Brian O’Neil and Paul McKenna – it was crazy.

“Brett had his leg broken in the first five minutes, which disrupted us.

“The floodlights went out at one stage which led to a long hold-up during play.

“We lost 2-0 and not too long after, Billy left the club to go to Derby.

“Paul Simpson took over and, for the first half of the following season, we did really well.

“We were top of the division at Christmas and winning a lot of matches.

“Simmo was keeping things ticking over from Billy’s time in charge and doing that well.

“In the January, he made a few signings which didn’t really work out.

“Michael Ricketts came in, a couple of others did, while some players left.

“What happened that season was really disappointing because I thought we were on course to get promotion.

“Looking back, I remember Billy making a comment about having two sides at the top of the table – us and Derby.

“That seemed to get under Simmo’s skin, upset things here and we hit a bad run.

“From being in really good form, we suddenly couldn’t buy a win.

“By the time we starting winning again, it was too late and we missed out on the 
play-offs by a point.

“We beat Birmingham 1-0 in the last game of the season but it wasn’t quite enough.”

A few months into the next season, Sedgwick saw another managerial change at Deepdale as Simpson was sacked and replaced by Irvine, who joined from Everton.

“We were really struggling when Alan came in,” said Sedgwick.

“He did a fantastic job, making some important signings at the time.

“Chris Brown was a great buy and really boosted the forward line, while Richard Chaplow did well.

“Over the second half of that season we produced promotion-like form and that was needed because we had been in real trouble.

“We ended up avoiding relegation quite comfortably in the end but it had not looked good at one stage.

“The following season we reached the play-offs – we had started the season well, fallen away a bit and then came back strongly.

“In the semi-final we played Sheffield United and it was a tight game at Deepdale, finishing 1-1.

“Over there though, we got a bit of a battering. But I do remember Billy Jones having a chance right at the end which almost forced extra time.

“Football is all about fine margins and who knows what would have happened had that goal gone in?

“Alan Irvine left part-way through the next season and Darren Ferguson came in.

“Fergie made it clear that he wanted to clear the decks and bring his own players in.

“I was one of those who got pushed out and it was a bit upsetting that six years at the club ended in the way it did.

“My last game for Preston was against Watford at home in the April.

“I came off injured and after I had got myself fit again, Fergie didn’t use me for the last few games.

“After leaving Preston, I went to Sheffield Wednesday, where Alan Irvine was the manager.

“Wednesday were the club I supported as a kid and it was a big reason why I ended up there – I had a couple of better offers to stay in the Championship but I wanted to go to Wednesday.

“The first season there, I played a lot under Alan but then not as much when Gary Megson replaced him.

“But I won a promotion there which was great, one of four I’ve had in my career.

“It would have been nice if I had another promotion with Preston but it wasn’t to be.

“After leaving Wednesday, I went on trial to Scunthorpe and signed outside of the transfer window.

“I was having to wait for someone to leave before I got a contract and I ended up going to Hyde United on loan to get some game-time.

“It was only meant to be for a short time but my agent had misread the rule about playing for three clubs in one year.

“So I had to stay at Hyde for the rest of that season, which was hard work.

“They were part-time, and only training twice a week didn’t suit me

“From there I went to Bury and here I am now, taking my first steps in coaching.”