The Good Bad and Ugly: Steve Kittrick’s Memories

Stuart Hammond’s catches up with Guiseley’s experienced boss Steve Kittrick.

From starting out as a manager at Robin Athletic over 20 years ago, Steve Kittrick has consistently  picked the pockets of the rich to keep his poor-by-comparison  clubs on the up.

After an apprenticeship served in the Northern Counties East League as reserve team boss at Ossett Albion, he managed the stiffs and first team at his other former playing clubs Glasshoughton Welfare and Pontefract Collieries – before going to Goole as assistant to Steve Richards in 2001.

Four years on, when Richards left their next post at Ossett Town, Kittrick took charge and led the unfashionable Ingfield side to sixth in the Northern Premier league’s top-flight – the highest in their history – when he left to take charge of Guiseley in November 2007.

Small in size but big in ambition, the 55-year-old nicknamed after Mini-Me from the Austin Powers films explains why it would be ‘Groovy’ to keep the little Yorkshire club punching above their weight by winning promotion to Non-League’s top-fight…

First job?

“Robin Hood Athletic in the West York- shire League in 1992. Colin Riley took over as chairman and was paying a few quid out, so I went up there and played. He left,  leaving  behind a massive void money-wise, so I stepped in to help out for six months until they got someone. “lt  was  Iike a pub team, so I was learning about grass-roots football  and what to expect and what not to expect.

“As a player I learned a lot playing for Ronnie Radford at Ossett  Albion, who was very big on standards. You were never late for his training sessions.

“He was so fed up with lack of discipline that he said the first eleven at training would start the next game. The 12th man through the door was our star player of the time and he left him on the bench!”

First signing?

“I can’t actually remember, but one of the first at Ossett was a very young James Walshaw, who’d just come through the academy set-up. He’s a local boy, from Dewsbury, and he went onto score a lot of goals for me there and for Guiseley.

“Another would have been James Cotterill, who’d been to prison after the incident playing for Barrow against Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup. No.one would touch him but everyone makes a mistake and I signed him for Ossett, and then took him to Guiseley.

In fact, Cotty gave me the nickname ‘Little Verne’ at Ossett after the 2ft 8ins actor Verne Troyer!  There was something in the Yorkshire-Evening Post about managers and Cotty cut the article out and wrote Smallest’, with a picture of Mini-Me underneath. He signed it ‘Steve Kittrick’ and stuck it on the dressing room wall. He still calls me it now when I speak to him.”

Best Signing?

Steven Drench from Barrow. He’s a goalkeeper but he’s the most miserable man you’ll ever meet. We went to his wedding a couple of weeks ago said to him ‘You’ve got to smile on wedding day!’ We’re amazed he hasn’t had a chance in higher football again, but they wanting lads at six foot four and five these days. His agility and kicking is like an extra outfield player’

First promotion?

Winning the UniBond Premier with Guiseley in 2009-10. On the last day of the season, we beat Ashton United and Boston had to beat Marine away to win it, but they only drew. I remember being stood on the pitch and the place was silent as they played the live Radio Merseyside commentary of the last four minutes of the other game. “I can just remember dropping on my knees as the place erupted. It was a fantastic feeling.”

Funniest player?

“Our old left-back Dave Merris. Three years ago we were in the play-off final at Telford and stayed overnight. Once we got in the dressing room, I named the team and gave the lads a bit of a rousing speech to get them all buzzing, turned my back and everybody started laughing.

“Dave was stood on the treatment table in stockings, suspenders, knickers and bra – and he’d had them on from going down  to breakfast at 8am, all morning at the hotel, the pre-match meal, the build-up at the ground and when being interviewed by local IV! I have never ever seen anything like it. “He lay down and said to the physio, ‘Come on Martin, give me a rub’. Martin said, ‘It’s not natural, I can’t do that, you’ve got to take your gear off’!”

Funniest incident?

“There used to be a guy stood at the other side of the pitch at Guiseley, saying’ You’re effing rubbish Kittrick’ every week. “One game, I set off like Linford Christie down the touchline, round the back of the goal, up the other side…and I was going to say to him ‘lf you want to talk to me, find me after the game and say it to my face sensibly’. But by then I was so out of breath that I couldn’t talk!

“It wasn’t funny at the time but we have a laugh about it now.To be fair, the bloke apologised at the end of the season and if anyone gives me abuse, Martin the physio says ‘Hold it Kitty – don’t give yourself a heart attack’,”

Biggest achievement?

“Getting Guiseley into the Conference North, because when we set off on this journey there wasn’t a five-year plan, a two-year plan or whatever. I’ve never been under contract at Guiseley and I’m still not, so there’s been no long-term plan. It’s always been just , See how we go’.

“But over the last five-and-a-half seasons we’ve always won a trophy and progressed every single year. Now, we are going to progress of the pitch as well, with a million pounds being spent on the ground, because the club has realised that we have been successful and what my staff and l have fetched is a level of professionalism, while playing attractive football at a place where people want to be.”

Lowest moment?

‘Five weeks ago when we got beaten by FC Halifax in the play-of semi-final.

“We’ve lost in the last three years and the first,  we finished fifth and suddenly appeared in the final. We were all starstuck, on a rollercoaster ride.

The second year we were tired after a fixture pile-up, but this year we finished second with 91 points and going into the play-offs, we were expected to do it.

We got back to 1-1 in the first leg and Josh Wilson could have won it for us late on. But coming back to our place, four or five Halifax players wanted it more than four or five from Guiseley and that was the difference. I’m still not over it now, if I’m honest”

Best thing about Non-League?

‘You get really nice people, honesty on and off the field  – most of the time –and I think it’s exciting. We’ve got supporters who’ve been to Leeds United and have said ‘We’d rather come and watch this than pay £30 or £40 to watch a load of overpaid people just putting half a shift in’.

“Non-League is like a family.  You’ve got your good and bad clubs – and good and bad supporters – but on the whole it’s great. “I always remember FC United coming to Guiseley and Chris Holland was still playing at the time. Their fans were  all huddled in one area and when I took Chris off, with him being very grey, they started singing Just For Men’

“Everyone, players, referee, the linesmen, both  dugouts, fell about laughing! They are the good things afoul Non-League and Chris appreciated it. We still call him Just For Men, now!,’

Toughest place to qo?

“Supporters wise I’d have said Halifax, because personally I’ve had more abuse there than anywhere else. That’s probably because they are our rivals.

 Favourite place to go?

“I like going to AFC Telford. I think it’s a great set-up and the people are good. I always have a bit of banter with the chairman Lee Carter, and they’ve got a new manager in Liam Watson, who I know well.

“I always remember walking round the back of the goal with my assistant at the time, Wayne Benn. They started shouting ‘You fat b******’ and we kept looking at each other as if to say, Is that me or you? I stopped and pointed at him, and they started singing, Get you t**s out for the lads, to him!, “There’s been some funny situations but I like the banter – and like the FC United fans – some of the stuff they come out with is tremendous.

Toughest opponent?

“Steve Evans and Crawley Town. We played them in the FA Cup in 2010-11, the year they won the Conference, they were on fire, beating us five nil. “We played as well as we could, but they ust shored everybody what you need to do to get where you need to -be. We were just in awe of what was happening – staff, players and supporters.

Ambition?

“To manage at the highest level I possibly can, whether it’s with Guiseley or someone else. It would be a privilege to manage up there or in the Football league, and I’m confident that with the team I’ve got around me now, we could manage at any leve

Reproduced from the Non-League Paper Sunday 16 June 2013