THE BIG INTERVIEW
Glynn Snodin is worth listening to.
When I spoke with Preston’s assistant manager this week on the back pitch at North End’s Springfields training ground, the groundsman turned off his mower and took a break from trimming the immaculately conditioned turf.
He couldn’t hear the interview from the far touch line, but it was with an air of respect that the engine was quietened to allow 52-year-old Snodin to chat about his career.
The Yorkshireman might not have such a front-of-house role at PNE.
On matchdays he doesn’t prowl the technical area – instead he sits up in the stand to track North End’s fortunes from a higher vantage point.
But with the wealth of football experience Snodin has under his belt from his years as a player, chief scout, coach and assistant manager, the role he plays on Simon Grayson’s backroom staff cannot be underestimated.
He developed as a left-back under the guidance of Billy Bremner at Doncaster.
At one stage, he and his younger brother Ian were transfer targets of the legendary Brian Clough.
Briefly, Snodin was later to be a team-mate of Eric Cantona at Leeds, witnessing at first hand the Frenchman’s maverick talents.
He played UEFA Cup football with Hearts, moving to Scotland to fulfil an ambition of playing in Europe in an era when English clubs were banned in the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster.
When his playing days were over, Snodin went on to carve out a successful career in coaching.
The highlights include being assistant to sibling Ian at Doncaster when the club were literally rising out of the ashes following an arson attack at their ground.
He helped in the early development of Gareth Bale’s career when George Burley’s No.2 at Southampton.
Snodin had four years on the international stage too as Northern Ireland’s assistant boss.
It was in early 2009 when Snodin teamed up with Grayson for the first time.
Together they led Leeds, and then Huddersfield, to promotion from League One.
That is a trick the pair are hoping to repeat with North End in the forthcoming season.
Training is over for the afternoon when we chat at Springfields, the cameras and notebooks packed away after Kevin Davies’ first day as a Preston player.
Snodin’s roots are in Thrybergh, Rotherham, and from an early age he could be found kicking the ball in the streets near his home.
“I was probably only three when my dad Colin first gave me a football,” said Snodin.
“Dad was very strict with myself and Ian, who is three years younger – he wanted us to be footballers.
“He blew it as a young lad and should have made it as a player because everyone who we speak to said he was different class.
“Dad didn’t want us to make the same mistakes as him, so he kept us in at night to watch Match of the Day rather than going out with our mates.
“I was playing for a local Sunday league side when Maurice Setters from Doncaster came to watch.
“We had some good players and three or four of us were signed up as schoolboys there.
“A few months later I signed as an apprentice. Stan Anderson was the manager then.
“Getting a professional contract meant I didn’t need to clean boots and scrub floors, but I still did it – jumped in with my mates.
“I was at Doncaster from 1976 through to 1985, and from 1979 Billy Bremner was the manager, assisted by Cyril Knowles.
“What a fantastic man Billy was. His knowledge of the game was amazing and he bred into you the will to work hard and win – whether that be a five-a-side in training or a bit of keep-ball.
“God bless Billy, I owe him so much for what he did for me at Doncaster.
“A lot of clubs came in for me while I was a Doncaster player but Billy wanted to build a team around myself and Ian and wouldn’t let us go.
“Brian Clough tried to sign Ian and myself, so did Jack Charlton at Sheffield Wednesday and Alan Clarke at Barnsley.
“I stayed a bit longer at Doncaster than I probably should have done in hindsight.”
Eventually, Snodin left to join Sheffield Wednesday when Howard Wilkinson was in charge of the Owls.
Later he was to be reunited with Bremner when the Scot took over at Leeds.
“I was at Leeds from 1987 to 1992,” said Snodin.
“Had Billy not been Leeds manager, I would have stayed at Wednesday, who were in the top division.
“Leeds were in the division below but because it was Billy, I wanted to play for him.
“I knew how he worked and loved the fella…also I’d been a Leeds fan since I was 12.
“Eric Cantona signed for Leeds in 1992 a couple of weeks before I left to join Hearts.
“In that two weeks I saw straight away what talent Eric had – he was different and had a presence about him.
“Gordon Strachan was a special player there too.
“I played left-back for Leeds and the midfield in front of me was Gary Speed, Gary McAllister, David Batty and Strachan.
“They were four talented and very honest lads. What a pleasure it was to play with them.
“I left Leeds to go to Hearts, where Joe Jordan was manager.
“By moving to Scotland there was the chance to play in Europe.
“When I was at Sheffield Wednesday, we’d finished fourth in the league but English clubs were banned from European competitions because of Heysel.”
Snodin came back south of the border to play for Barnsley before his playing career finished at Carlisle.
It was his move to Cumbria which paved the way into coaching.
“I kept getting calf injuries at Carlisle and decided to call it a day,” recalled Snodin.
“Mick Wadsworth was manager there and he suggested I did my coaching badges.
“I wasn’t keen at first but he encouraged me and asked me to combine it with the job of being his chief scout.
“He told me being a scout would help me get a good knowledge of players and teams.
“Later I went to join Mick at Scarborough, going as youth team coach.
“That was the next jump up after being a chief scout.
“After that I went to Doncaster with my brother.
“Ian had got the manager’s job and he wanted me to go in as his assistant.
“Because it was him, I took the job rather than take up another opportunity offered by Barnsley.
“Donny were in the Conference, the ground had been set on fire and there wasn’t even a pen and paper there.
“It was an eye-opener to say the least. Basically we had to build up the club again from nothing.
“Working with Ian was actually great.
“I knew he had a short fuse and I thought things had the potential to go wrong.
“But in the year-and-a-half or so we had there were maybe only three occasions when we disagreed.
“He let me get on with the coaching while he observed and then picked the team from what he saw.”
Snodin’s next port of call was Charlton, which on paper was a strange move for someone whose career both playing and coaching had kept him firmly in the north.
But he settled in quickly in London and was a key part of Alan Curbishley’s staff as the Addicks established themselves season-after-season in the Premier League.
“I burst out in tears when I left Charlton to go to Southampton as George Burley’s assistant in 2007,” said Snodin.
“But it was time to move on and Southampton was fantastic.
“There were some great young players there. I worked with Gareth Bale.
“Even at such a young age, Gareth would stay out after training had finished for hours, practising free-kicks.
“We often had to order him off the pitch because he’d been out there for so long.
“It doesn’t surprise me what a fantastic player Gareth has turned out to be.”
Snodin went back to London, this time to West Ham when Curbishley was manager there, and ultimately into contact with Grayson.
“I got to know Simon well. We would talk about players when I was at Southampton and West Ham,” he said.
“Just after Simon had gone in at Leeds, I rang him to say, ‘I’m really pleased for you – just get that great club up’.
“We chatted about players and at the end of the call, Simon just said, ‘There is one last thing. I want you to come and help me here’. I nearly dropped the phone because I was so emotional.
“It took a couple of months to sort out the money situation at West Ham and then I went to Leeds. We got Leeds up and then were so unlucky to get sacked.
“What we wanted to do we couldn’t do – we wanted certain players but weren’t allowed to get them.
“It was our intention to have a good rest after Leeds, see what happened the following summer.
“But three weeks later I got a call from Simon at midnight telling me to pack my bags because we were going to Huddersfield!
“The same thing happened when we came here to Preston.
“When we left Huddersfield, I asked Simon, ‘Are we having a longer break this time’?
“Simon went on holiday to Dubai and while he was there, he phoned me and asked could I go and watch Preston’s game against Bournemouth.
“Preston were fantastic that day from minute one to minute 90 – it could have 5-0 let alone 2-0.
“When Simon came back from Dubai he phoned and asked what I had thought of Preston. I said ‘fantastic’ and he replied, ‘Good, we’re going in there’!
“Just watching that game against Bournemouth I knew we wouldn’t have a problem with the players.
“It was important that John Dreyer stayed because he knew the lads well.
“What a gentleman he is, a fantastic man to have working with you.
“I’m really pleased to be at Preston. Looking from the outside you would always think that it is a decent club.
“But once you get here, you realise that it is bigger than you thought.
“Simon and myself got the opportunity to visit Sir Tom Finney last season, that was special.
“My dad had always talked about the Preston Plumber and what a magnificent player he was.”
Snodin is genuine about PNE’s chances in the forthcoming season.
He said: “Simon has a great knowledge of football for a young manager.
“To have got three promotions under his belt at his age is fantastic, and he wants another one with Preston.
“We mean it when we say we want to get promoted this season.
“Of course words count for nothing and it comes down to what we do on the pitch.
“But what we have seen on the training field this summer is exciting – actions speak louder than words.
“Kevin Davies was a great signing this week and hopefully now we can get goals from anywhere.
“When the ball goes into Kevin, you know it is going to stick and then lads can run off him. That was a job I thought Jack King did well last season.
“People say he didn’t score many goals, but Jack did the work for others.
“We want plenty of options this season, be able to mix up how we play – give the opposition problems. We won’t make it easy for other teams – their scouts won’t be able to report back that we are just a standard 4-4-2.
“I can’t wait for the season to start.”