Friday, 13 July 2012

Hats off to ‘Harry’

The departing Dave can leave with head held high

Mack: now watching from the sidelines (Burt Graham)
Having had little chance to blog in recent weeks (see previous post), it would be remiss of me to return to duties without a piece about Dave Mack’s resignation from the post of First Team manager at Easington United.
The most important thing to say is that Dave deserves an immense amount of credit for what he achieved during his six-year period in charge. 
Along with five pieces of silverware, he steered the side through several periods of reconstruction as well as what has proved to be a tough move from local to regional football.
Dave stepped up from assistant-manager to take the reins in January 2006.  It came in the wake of an embarrassing seven-goal mauling at Hutton Cranswick in the Humber Premier League and manager Sean McLaughlin’s subsequent resignation (due to overriding work and family commitments).
Despite an improved performance at home to Pocklington Town, the team failed to give Sean the send-off he deserved and so when Dave took charge of his first match, at Hedon United on Saturday, 28th January, the Eastenders had won just once in eight outings.  Ironically this - a rare success at Sculcoates Amateurs - had come under Dave’s stewardship while Sean was away.
Hedon's Drapers Lane ground was never the easiest of places to go but thanks to a Gav Thurkettle strike, the new manager got off to a winning start.   And despite a 0-1 defeat at Hornsea Town in the following week’s league cup clash, the run to the end of that first season proved a successful one.
Five wins and two draws in the remaining eight league games secured a creditable top six finish, while a resounding 4-1 victory over Withernsea at Saltend clinched the Eastenders’ seventh South Holderness Cup success.  Things were looking up.
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
Pride of Holderness again - August 2011 (Colin Brammer)
In the following season Mack’s men secured a top five finish and retained the South Holderness Cup, thanks to Steve Harrod’s extra-time winner over Hedon Rangers. 
When pre-season then saw Tanton Cup winners Hornsea Town defeated on penalties in the inaugural Holderness Cup Winners Cup, hopes were high that another tilt at the HPL title could follow.  Instead, the 2007/08 season saw Dave confronted with the biggest challenge of his fledgling management career.
It had all started well enough and the Eastenders travelled to Sculcoates on 6th October as unbeaten leaders, having won six of their opening nine games.  However, a 3-1 defeat ensued and prompted a dramatic slide down the table.  Only five of the remaining 21 league games were won and United’s eleventh place finish was their worst in five seasons.  Defeat by Hedon in the South Holderness Cup semi-finals completed a disappointing campaign.
Dave’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss of several key players and he finished the season by blooding youngsters such as Anthony Barnett, Jamie Cousins, Chris Frost, James Mee, Paul Morrow, James Robinson and Luke Smith.  It was very much a case of "in at the deep end".
In a way, the manager thrived on such situations. One accusation that could never be levelled at him was lack of fight. Refusing to get downhearted, he simply regrouped and went again the following season, leading the Eastenders to an excellent fourth-placed finish in their final season in the HPL. Not surprisingly, it was some of those same youngsters who came to the fore.
In 2009/10 we came within one win of gaining promotion in our first season in the Central Midlands League and the following year we ended our recent barren run in the South Holderness Cup; victory number nine in the competition coming in front of a home crowd at the Farm.
Victory in last August’s Holderness Cup Winners Cup gave Dave his fifth piece of silverware but, much as it did in 2007, it proved something of a false dawn for what was to follow.
Last season was one beset by off-the-field problems that did much harm to First Team prospects. Indeed, just before Christmas it appeared possible that the team may even have to resign from the league. Thankfully, backed by loyal assistant Nicho, Dave again showed stomach for the fight and the tenth place finish – the club’s highest ever in terms of the Football Pyramid – proved testimony to that.
Like father, like son (Burt Graham)
So why did it all come to an end?
Well, the South Holderness Cup semi-final defeat at Withernsea (our first at the hands of our rivals in 21 outings) didn’t help.  But it was the reaction to it inside the Eastenders’ camp that really hurt.
Without wishing to open up old wounds, I was shocked by what I saw and heard that night, not to mention what was posted on a certain social network site later on.  We all knew there had been simmering resentment for much of the season among some members of the Second Team, and there had been distinct lack of communication at management level between both camps.  However, the apparent gloating at the senior squad's demise by some supposed clubmates was quite disgraceful.  It was enough for me to offer my own resignation as well as making Dave think long and hard about his own future. 
Having struggled to carry everyone with him during the campaign just gone and with plenty of whispers as to who would actually be there when the current pre-season came around, not only was Dave forced to question his position but it was also reviewed by the club's committee.
It was this uncertainty that prompted me to have a couple of long conversations with the manager, during which we discussed whether either of us wanted to face another nine months of not knowing just how many people were behind him.
For me it was a no-brainer.  My "revised" role meant I would no longer be directly involved with First Team affairs.  But for Dave it meant walking away from a job it was plain to see he cared deeply about and felt was far from finished.
In the event he tendered his resignation to the Chairman on Sunday, 10th June 2012.  It was accepted by a meeting of the Club’s management committee two days later.
The 1997 South Holderness Cup - where it all began! 
Mack’s resignation brought to an end not only six years’ involvement as manager but an association stretching back to 1997 when he made his playing debut in the club’s first ever South Holderness Cup Final success!  His last of 260 Easington appearances came as a second half substitute at Ollerton Town on 25th February this year.  
I have had many disagreements with Dave during the six-years we worked together at management level.  At times I thought he blurred boundaries between the position of manager and being "one of the lads", while there were other things he did that I would probably have handled differently.  But Dave knows this and we've always been able to talk through any such differences.  That's probably why we got on so well!  And what has never been in doubt through it all has been his willingness to tackle problems head-on in pursuit of what he saw as the right way forward for Easington United football club.  And for that he deserves the utmost respect of all with the club's interests at heart.
Player losses, fallouts over selection and an amazing turnover in backroom staff were just three of the issues that he was confronted with during his “reign”.  In addition, he had no shortage of personal matters to attend to, yet not once did he let these stop him performing his match day tasks to the best of his ability.  If there's some solace to be found in the split, it's perhaps that there should be more time now for Dave the dad to pursue son Cameron's weekend interests?
Pointing the way forward (Own photo)
To those players who stayed loyal to ‘Harry Hill’ (as they affectionately dubbed him) another thing they could be assured of was his determination to take the team as far as it can go.  This wasn’t surprising given that, as a player, he’d been one of the main cheerleaders behind the decision to enter the HPL.   Not surprisingly, Dave was also fully behind the move to the CML and would love to have been the man to take the club to the “promised land” of the Northern Counties East League.
Instead, he can only watch as the club enters another new era.  Ironically, this is under the stewardship of the returning Sumo, completing a full circle.  It's a mark of the man that Dave has set aside his own personal disappointment to wish Sean the very best.
It's to be hoped he doesn't become a stranger to Low Farm for Dave Mackay-Dundas really does deserve the gratitude of a lot of people involved with the club, some of whom should perhaps feel a tad uncomfortable with their part in his departure. 
I know I do.

1 comment:

Sumo Mc said...

A lovely article Slush, a credit to you and Dave