So the Dave Frecklington era at Matlock Town came to a rather abrupt end when after the Easter Monday home thumping by Buxton, the Gladiators and Frecklington agreed that it was time for him to move on with coach Terry Fleming and assistant Chris Rawlinson.
As Frecklington said after Matlock’s final day defeat at Stafford, their fourth in a row, “it’s been a crazy seven months.”
Few could argue with that, with the Gladiators losing their first three games under Frecklington’s charge only to then go on an unbelievable run from the beginning of October when they were marooned at the bottom of the table, to only lose one further league game up to New Years Day which would see them competing for a play off spot.
But 2019 has been a disaster as far as results go. Seventeen league games played and just two victories, both away from home, so there’s been little cheer for home fans since the turn of the year.
Matlock have picked up a paltry nine points this calendar year.
The performances and the results between October and the turn of the year were simply outstanding, including phenomenal away wins at Warrington Town and Nantwich Town, both with unbeaten home records and challenging for the title.
Some astute signings were made with Ross Durrant providing stability in goal, Lee Beevers adding experience and know-how in defence, Luke Hinsley adding competition in attack and most notably, winger Craig King arriving from Alfreton. King was the stellar signing and he would soon excite the Matlock crowd.
In that successful run, Matlock never knew when they were beaten, coming from behind on a number of occasions to earn all three points and at Buxton on Boxing Day, recovering from a 2-0 deficit to be level by half-time and bring home a well-earned point.
Team spirit was sky high, Frecklington had forged a bond with the fans, one he strove to maintain throughout his tenure, even when times got tough later on. His concept was that everyone was one big happy family, from club officials, management, players, helpers, bar staff to fans.
However, 2019 has been a year of frustration so far. Matlock had already had more than their fair share of bad luck with injuries in 2018. When they travelled to St Neots in the FA Trophy they had virtually a complete first choice starting line up out and even had to sign on 45-year-old Fleming for the Integro Cup tie at Basford two days later.
The injury curse failed to disappear as in mid-February King was ruled out for the rest of the season with knee trouble, only two days after extending his contract at Matlock until the end of the oncoming season. Other key players have been out at various times.
Frecklington took all this in his stride but it was possibly not surprising that the earlier sparkle had ebbed away.
Matlock had slid down the table but that pre-Christmas run had ensured there would be no late season alarms and their place in the top division was confirmed with a 3-1 victory at Marine with five games remaining.
Regrettably it appeared as if the team thought it was job done after that. The sunglasses and flip flops were on and it rightly annoyed Frecklington who typically spoke as he felt criticising the players on the club’s TV station.
People will no doubt have their own opinion as to whether this was a wise move but the players did nothing to make amends and to be hammered in their own back yard by their closest rivals understandably angered supporters.
So we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in Frecks’ reign.
His commitment to the club, his honesty and integrity could not be questioned. It would have been interesting to see how Matlock would have fared had he been appointed last Spring with a full summer and pre-season behind him. There was no settling in period for him, results were needed and he got them.
He was possibly a victim of his own success. With that great run, expectations were raised, Matlock looked a force in the division and it was not only Gladiators followers saying this.
The equally poor form after the turn of the year came as a major shock and disappointment to all concerned with the Gladiators. Had the improvement since October been spread over a longer period in the way that say, Lancaster City got better, people may well have had a different outlook on things.
Frecklington could be described as a journalist’s dream. Always available, he spoke from the heart and was well liked, both within the club and in non league football. His contact list was long, an incredibly important attribute to have as a non league football manager.
His personality will be missed, as will those of Terry and Chris. It was a pleasure to work with them both in an administrative capacity at the club and from the reporting aspect.