The caller on the other line goes silent as the question is out in the open, the silence is deafening. “That is a great question,” admits manager Ivor Green breaking the silence, the man who has all the answers seemed stumped at this question. The man who has inspired players and continues to inspire players is asked who his inspiration was.
“There was this man called Ron Bradbury, he managed Atherstone and Tamworth he was a very successful manager at the higher end of professional football,” he began with a sense of pride in his voice. “I used to manage Sunday morning teams and he got me into Saturday football, he put my name forward.
“We’ve kept in touch ever since, he’s a proper football man, an intelligent man I speak to him regularly, if I had any concerns then he was always available to me. He’s a very honest man who will tell me what went wrong even if we win a game 5-0, his desire and passion for football was second to none, he was a massive help for me.”
It’s been two years since the influential manager Ivor Green took charge of the Staffordshire club located in the cathedral city and civil parish that is Lichfield City, and he was reflecting on what has been a season of ups for himself and the team.
“It’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed it with COVID-19 coming along early on during my time here it’s been strange, but the chairman and vice-chairman have made me feel so welcome,” he enthused to me over the phone. “Their support is almost inspirational, when you’ve got guys like that who’ve put so much into the club it gives you the incentive to play your part in any way you can.”
Green who was formerly at Atherstone reveals that he wasn’t looking to get back into football and revealed who changed his mind in favour of the Staffordshire outfit.
“Liam (Heath) and Darren (Leaver) were driving forces behind me joining I wasn’t looking to get back in at the time,” Green admits. “I had a phone call before we met up in person, I learnt about their aspirations and aims for the club. I watched a few games with my wife, it appealed to me massively. I then sat down with Wayne (Chapman) for a few hours to discuss if it was the right thing to do and we both unanimously decided it was.
“They (Darren and Liam) are two great guys, they told me the story from when they took the club on to where it is now and one of the main things that appealed to me during the tales, they told was the drive they both had. Lichfield were always a good side, they both had and still have the ambition to drive the club and not standing still just accepting they were a good side, they wanted to keep the club pushing forward.”
The man who seems to have all the answers this season in terms of answering tactical questions admitted to me that he was still learning and will always be a student of the beautiful game.
“Moving to step 5, the challenge was brilliant and with football you are always learning,” he told me with passion in his voice. “The things I have learnt have been so important to me this season, one of the main things I’ve learnt is the professionalism of sides at this level and I’ve met some great people who have taught me a lot. In terms of quality and the length that teams will go to win, it’s incredible.”
As the interview progressed and Green began to get more and more confident and more open with his ideology of the game and listening to the influential manager, it’s a learning experience and I’m the student taking in every word as gospel.
“I’m not a massive fan of the professional game,” Green admits to me which shocks me originally, he explains further. “I enjoy more of the semi-professional game certainly you can pick things up, I’ll go and watch a game and see things that I like and will want to include that in our game. I think the more you watch the more you learn, especially at a semi-professional level, I don’t think the quality gap between a step 2 side and a step 5 side is that big, it’s all down to fine margins.”
Having been in a fortunate position to be in the same company as Green and his enigmatic assistant Wayne Chapman, their stringent tactical belief is clear to see from someone who know the pair for just 5 minutes or for 5 years, it is a requirement for any player, so can it be altered.
“We both have a belief to get the ball down and play and to be proactive, “Green reveals. “I always think as a fan I don’t care if you have 5, 500 or 5,000 people attending. I want fans to enjoy what they see. I want fans to enjoy football, if a fan gives me a pat on the back and says they enjoyed it, that’s fantastic to me. I also think that players enjoy football more when they have a license to play and be the player they want to be.”
Having spoken to nearly every member of the senior squad, one constant theme remains that the man-management skills of the man who adorns Lichfield’s attire every weekend is crucial to their development. He enlightens me and explains just how important getting the player’s respect is.
“It’s one of my most important factors in football,” he admits to me. “I watch a lot of football; managers have their own ways, but I’ve been to some games where the players look sad and miserable, I just can’t accept that. It’s a short career and at this level it’s more of a hobby and who has a hobby they don’t enjoy.
“You’ve got to give players the license to enjoy themselves and play the game that suits them more than it does you sometimes. There’s this fear of losing in football, you can take away the players excitement of the game and restricting the players ability. If you sign a player who can drop a shoulder and beat a man, but you spend an hour a week talking to him about how to defend, it’s a waste of time. I want to see players with a spring in their step when they play for me that’s crucial.”
As the interview is nearing its conclusion the topic of family is brought up, Green admits to me that although this job is a hobby, it’s a seven day a week type of hobby.
“Any manager in the game will tell you if you haven’t got the support system around you it’s a difficult job for any manager it’s relentless,” Green says. “My wife was a big reason why I took the Lichfield job in the first place; she knew within 30 minutes of me getting back from the meeting that it was something that I was interested in.
“She’s unbelievable, a proper football woman, the only downside is she gets quite into it. When I was leaving the house for Tuesday’s game (1-0 defeat to Chasetown), she said to me ‘You better not be making any changes’, and obviously I did and when I got home, I got a roasting for it. She knows what’s going on and has always given me so much support.”
As the interview comes to a close with the man who has the longest unbeaten streak in the club’s history, the question becomes just how far Ivor Green can take this side. They’ve already reached new heights this season and could yet win a cup, Green will be hoping he can pull another rabbit out of the hat and inspire his side to victory on the big stage.