On Saturday, before the final game of the season, Gingerbreads joint managers Jimmy Albans and Wayne Hallcro were given the reward for their efforts at Grantham. The managerial duo signed new contracts, Chairman Steve Boam this time rewarding them with a two year deal.
The Grantham Chairman revealed that it is not just playing performances that have caught the eye. The work off the pitch has not gone unnoticed by other clubs. Mr Boam said that he had received approaches from clubs at higher levels asking about the possible availability of Grantham’s joint managers. When he put that to the pair, their reply was music to his ears.
It was the easiest decision I have had to make as Chairman.” Said Mr Boam. “We have a fantastic working relationship and they believe in the same things as I do. We have had clubs interested in Jimmy and Wayne. I asked them if they would go should another club come in. They both said no, they wanted to be at Grantham. That only made the decision easier. It is a reward not only for their success, but their loyalty as well.”
“It is the result of three years hard work.” Said Albans. “It is appreciated by both Wayne and myself. We feel it gives us the stability we wanted to go forward from this point. There has been a lot of stability at the club since we joined, a lot of changes as well, but this demonstrated to us, the Board, fans and players alike that we are here for the long term. It is one job done, another started.”
Although stability has been at the centre of what Albans ad Hallcro have done to turn round Grantham from a mid-table side to Champions, change has been just as important. Of the squad which started their tenure with a 5-1 win at Market Drayton Town, only four were still at the Meres for Saturday’s 2-1 win over Ilkeston. Four of the players named in the sixteen, including winning goalscorer Tony Battersby were not even at the Meres at the start of the season just finished.
“Everyone here will be given the opportunity to show they can cut it at a higher level.” Albans said of next season. “We are not going up just to make up the numbers. We want to have an impact. We intend to bring in three or four new players again over the summer to improve the already very good squad we have. Our aim is to be in the same sort of position again in two to three years. If it happens quicker, then all well and good. Our new contracts should give the current squad that certainty from us, but also shows to new recruits that there is no quick fix at Grantham. We will do things the same way in the Premier Division.”
Albans expects that the new level will present new challenges to Hallcro and himself. Not least in the expectations of the type of players the pair will be dealing with.
“It is a different ball game.” Albans said. “We will be competing against teams who have been at that level for a number of years and know exactly what it takes. Players at Premier level are in a stronger position when they are talking to clubs. In Division 1, there are only about 5 or 6 players at other clubs we would want to bring in. They are all on contract where we are, but we were one of few big clubs competing for their services. Now we are one of many. We are in the process of agreeing the budget for next season which will allow us to do what we have for the last two years, expand what the club can do by enhancing what we have with some more quality.”
The approach of the club which has seen steady progress was seen by Mr Boam as being part of the way Albans and Hallcro have settled into what is their first managerial role as a pair.
“As much as they want to progress as managers,” Mr Boam said. “They also realise it is easy to drop off the radar as quickly as you get on it if things don’t work out. They have been positive in their aims and outlook in all their time at the club. We have delivered together and they have earned the contracts. They have learnt lessons as they have gone along and just got better and better.”
Albans was quick to point out that the contract extensions are as much a reward for the hard work and dedication everyone has put in to get Grantham the championship as they are for himself and Hallcro.
“We wouldn’t have done this without the support and help provided by Dennis Rhule, Mick Hogg, Nigel Marshall and Woggy. They are as much part of us preparing for games and winning them as we are. The amount of pressure we have been under for the last ten weeks has been immense. The players have had a lot to cope with and those four have made sure we have all kept focused on continuing to do what we have done in previous months. That was evident right up until the last minute of the season when we once again did what we have all season and grabbed a late winner by just keeping up the level of performance until the very last minute. It has been so good to win it and reward the Board the Supporters Club and fans for their support of us and what we are trying to achieve.”
With Grantham missing out on promotion via the play-offs last season, Albans had a message for those clubs involved in this seasons round of games.
“I would like to pass on genuine best wishes from myself and Wayne to all the clubs and managers involved. “We know what you are going through and are very glad that it isn’t us going through it again this season!”
Mr Boam finally revealed the truth behind the success at Grantham.
“I can work with them,” he said. “And they can work with me!”