To say Paul Phillips has had a tough start to his managerial tenure at Matlock Town – and that is without even playing a game – is a huge understatement, writes Ian Richardson.
Very few new managers would have to face up to the death of a player just a couple of days after being appointed, but that’s what happened to Phillips when news came through of midfielder Jordan Sinnott’s passing, just hours before the Gladiators scheduled trip to Mickleover Sports last Saturday.
That game was called off as was Matlock’s scheduled visit to Grantham Town on Tuesday evening. Matlock will return to action at home to Hyde United on Saturday afternoon before facing Radcliffe, also at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday.
“Saturday, things were raw and I think it really hit home with the lads on Sunday when I spoke to them, hence Tuesday night’s game was put off,” said Phillips.
“I’ve played and managed against Jordan who was still a young kid at the age of 25 and it’s obvious from the outpourings of grief and the comments and tributes made by so many people as to the kind of person he was. A lovely lad who touched a lot of peoples’ hearts. Obviously there’ll be a fitting tribute to Jordan and I feel that the club has handled the whole thing impeccably.”
Now Matlock must concentrate on picking up much needed league points to get out of the sticky situation they find themselves in, being third from the foot of the table and in a relegation scrap prior to Buxton’s home game with Warrington Town on Tuesday.
A Buxton win or draw would drop Matlock into the definite relegation positions, albeit with Matlock having five games in hand.
Phillips believes that Matlock owe it to Sinnott and themselves to earn the points they need to escape from the lower reaches of the table.
“Jordan was a winner, we need to get out of this tricky predicament we’re in at present. It’ll be fitting if we can win the two cups we’re left in and also finish as high up the table as we can,” he said.
Phillips is mindful, however, that as well as it being a tough day off the field on Saturday, it will be equally challenging on it against Hyde.
“I know quite a bit about them, they’re a very good team with good players, they’re good going forward, they have pace so it’ll be a tough test and it’ll be a test of our mentality and when that whistle goes on Saturday, we’ve got to be in the right frame of mind. I’ve faced them twice with Buxton this season, lost one and won one so I know what they’re about and we’ve got to be ready to face the challenge,” said Phillips.
While acknowledging that Matlock have games in hand, Phillips says it is not a given that this can be Matlock’s saving grace.
“We’ve got games in hand but not points in hand, we’ve still got to go and win these games,” he warned.
“We’ve got a bit of a fixture backlog, so we’ll be taking one game at a time. We’ve got a lot of fighters in that dressing room, we need to show strong character and spirit. We need to start winning football matches beginning on Saturday.”
Phillips is hopeful of having help in place by the weekend in running the team.
“I’ve spoken to one or two and I’m looking at someone who can also play and be my assistant to be a bridge between myself and the players. Hopefully that can be sorted in the next couple of days.”
On the subject of new arrivals, Phillips kept his cards firmly to his chest.
“It’s a hard one,” he admitted.
“I want to give everyone here the chance to show their worth as I believe they’re all capable of doing a job. Perhaps all that was needed was a new manager, a new voice but I’ll bring in new people if I feel the need arises and I have certain things in place should that prove to be the case.”
Matlock will be without top scorer Marcus Marshall against both Hyde and Radcliffe due to a two match ban following his red card at Scarborough Athletic.
The Matlock players will be wearing black armbands on Saturday and there will be an appropriate tribute to Jordan Sinnott before kick off with Matlock having been in contact with the Sinnott family this week.