Dave Seddon talks to former Preston North End and Republic of Ireland defender Sean St Ledger about his move into management and attempt to rescue Guiseley from relegation
The last thing on the mind of Sean St Ledger when he walked into the dressing room at Guiseley in January was management.
St Ledger, 33, joined the National League’s bottom club in the latest stage of a bid to get his playing career back on track after a painful battle against a knee injury.
He had just left Solihull Moors – another struggling National League club – and pitched up at Nethermoor to get some games under his belt.
Less than a month after arriving in Yorkshire, the former Preston North End defender and Republic of Ireland international was handed the manager’s job on a caretaker basis.
He has been in charge for seven games, winning two of them and drawing one.
Guiseley beat Hartlepool away on Easter Monday and this weekend St Ledger’s charges host Maidstone.
They will need to put a run of form together in a bid to beat relegation – they are 12 points off safety.
Our conversation starts with me congratulating St Ledger on the 1-0 win over Hartlepool.
“You sound surprised that we won,” said St Ledger with a chuckle.
“I’m enjoying doing the job, it’s been tough but the club is a delight to work at.
“There are great people at the club and it is a good set of lads in the dressing room.
“I couldn’t have asked any more of them since I got asked to do the job.
“We want to stay in this division if possible and we will keep working hard.”
St Ledger, who spent five years at PNE, punctuated by a loan at Middlesbrough, says his move into life as a manager – temporary at this stage – came almost by accident.
He said: “I was playing for Guiseley and after a few weeks they relieved the manager of his duties.
“The staff left too and I was probably the most experienced player here along with Kayode Odejayo.
“I was asked to take over for a game and it snowballed from there really. I’d just started to do my coaching badges because that is a route I would like to go down.
“I’ve had to take a step back from playing in the main because it is difficult to manage and play at the same time.
“There have been a couple of games I’ve played in since being asked to take the lead because we needed the numbers.
“One thing I have realised is how difficult it is to leave a player out of the team.
“You see disappointment on their face and that is not a nice thing.
“I’ve tried to think along the lines of what a player wants from his manager and approach it that way.
“In terms of our chances of staying up, Guiseley have nothing to lose.
“We’ve been written off by a lot of people and I try and use that as motivation for the players.
“The win at Hartlepool on Easter Monday was our first away from home since October.
“That was my second win as manager – the first was against AFC Fylde last month.
“We’ve got six games left and let’s see where we are at the end of the month.”
It is impossible to do the interview without a reference to St Ledger’s role in football’s dip into reality television in 2006.
He was a player with Peterborough United when Sky’s cameras rolled up to film ‘Big Ron Manager’.
It saw Ron Atkinson turn up at Posh in an advisory role to boss Steve Bleasdale. St Ledger’s clashes with Bleasdale were captured on film and formed a central part of the series.
“It was the first thing which got mentioned on Twitter when I got the job,” said the defender.
“The way I see it is that it happened a long time ago.
“We all make mistakes when we are 18, I happened to make mine on television.”
Preston signed St Ledger from Peterborough in the summer of 2006.
In the 2008/09 season he was a key member in the PNE side which gate-crashed the Championship play-offs on the final day.
A poor run of results had seemed to have cost them a top-six spot but a late run saw them clinch a place in the most dramatic set of circumstances.
St Ledger was on target with the winning goal in the last game against QPR.
“Myself and Jon Parkin scored in a 2-1 win,” he said.
“A couple of weeks before we had beaten Cardiff 6-0 and we ended up pipping them to the sixth place by just one goal.”
St Ledger left Deepdale for Leicester City in 2011 and it was while with the Foxes that he started with a knee problem which dogs him to this day.
He spent a couple of years in America playing for Orlando City and Colorado Rapids. On his return and after extensive treatment on his knee, St Ledger chose to join Solihull and when his deal there ran out, he moved on to Guiseley.
“It was good to play in the States and see different places,” said St Ledger.
“My knee injury dictated how things went there, I didn’t play as much football as I would have liked.
“I’ve got to manage my knee, ice it regularly and take anti-inflammatories.
“My diet has had to change so not to drink and eat things which can cause the knee to inflame.
“I’m still available to play but at the moment my focus is on management.”