South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson sent shockwaves through the Northern League when he sacked Jon King just a handful of games into the new season and replaced him with Graham Fenton.
It was a shock move but since Fenton teamed up with Lee Picton as joint managers of the Mariners, the team has gone from strength to strength.
They’ve lost just one game – ironically against the club Fenton left, rivals North Shields – and have picked up three trophies so far, with the aim of a fourth this weekend.
Fenton’s reputation as a coach continues to be enhanced after he guided North Shields from the depths of Division Two to FA Vase success in 2015, as well as Northumberland Senior Cup glory.
But what do we know about the methods of the former Leicester City and Aston Villa attacker. His former North Shields No 2, Andy Bowman, gives us the lowdown.
What are his main qualities as a manager?
His honesty with players is first-class. If you are doing well, he will tell you and praise you, but if you aren’t he will not sugar-coat it.
He will be honest and tell you where you need to improve. Players, although it’s hard to hear sometimes, appreciate that.
I would say his biggest quality is attention to detail and the structured and professional way he runs things. Different class.
How did he inspire players at North Shields?
What Graham has done in the game, as a player at the highest level and winning things at Blyth Spartans and now North and South Shields was inspiration enough. He leads by example. He put a lot of faith in players and most of the lads reciprocated that faith.
What is he like in the changing room?
Always part of the banter. Unless you throw ice at him and it cuts his eye .... mentioning no names but a player who sounds like Menver Dorris might tell you that.
He is mostly calm. He would lose it on the line sometimes and I would try and get in the dressing room early to hide anything he could throw or kick. He would then come in and actually be totally chilled. The one exception was the Senior Cup Final at St James’s Park where he was cool on the line and then ended up belting the tactics board causing all the magnets to fly across the dressing room like a nail bomb! We then went out and won!
What is he like on the training pitch?
A different level to anyone. The attention to detail and the structure of the session was a reason we had so much success. In the time I worked with Graham, his sessions and delivery, from doing it every day in his day job, just became better and better.
He referred to me as the session wrecker. I could only presume it was because everything I did was so perfect he had nothing to coach. Ahem.
When you won the Vase in 2015, what was he like on the day of the game? Did he do anything differently?
We had a few drinks the night before Wembley with North Shields’ Amateur Cup Winners of 1969 so we were both a bit bleary eyed.
Graham took the day very much in his stride and, to be fair, made sure the routine stayed as close to usual prep as was possible.
The preparation had the lot, rationed breakfast, people pacing all over the hotel and fitness tests in the car park of the hotel. But probably the funniest part was testing the strength of Adam Forster’s recovering ankle by inviting Foz up to our hotel room, getting hold of a football and Fents block tackling him all over the place as I lay on the bed in stitches.
“Could you feel that Foz” Fents asked.
“No, nothing” replied Foz.
“Right...you’re on the bench!”
Foz came on that day scored the winner. He’s now known as Adam Vase-ter by everyone!