|Scarborough Athletic manager Rudy Funk|
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
When asked on how the death of former Macclesfield Town Keith Alexander affected him, an emotional Rudy Funk pauses for a moment.
“We were great friends and to me he will irreplaceable as a friend and a guy who gave me so much advice to be fair, I miss him today,” he says, recalling how Alexander, then the Ilkeston Town manager, got him involved in Non-League football management.
Alexander passed away suddenly in March 2010 and for Mansfield-based Funk, the Football League’s first black manager was the first manager to pay any interest in him.
Until meeting Alexander in the late 1990s, Romanian Funk’s only involvement in football had been through sponsoring his local team Blidworth Welfare.
Having chosen not to pursue a playing career after arriving in England, Funk, who has a Romanian sports degree, wanted to start a management career.“Many, many years ago when I came to England I obviously wanted to get into football, but in those days 33 years ago, the style of football over here was quite different to the one I had seen so it didn’t bond together,” he said.
“So I said to myself that I had to get my qualifications and move onto management
“But because of the qualifications I had from Romania, no-one would entertain you.“Keith was the first person to do so and he said: ‘let’s start you from scratch’.
“He embraced me and gave me my first job and there was Colin Morris who was like a mentor to me and is an FA coach.”
Funk, 56, is now a holder of the UEFA B (FA Level 3) coaching qualification and his first role was coaching an Ilkeston Town youth side.But when the Millennium came, Funk achieved his dream of managing a club by taking over Blidworth.
A coaching role at Eastwood Town followed before he became the manager at Staveley Miners Welfare.A brief spell at Glapwell was next until he was appointed joint boss at Teversal with John Courtie, where the pair achieved promotion.
From Teversal, five “glorious years” at Rainworth Miners Welfare followed. This was where Funk made his name by leading them from the Central Midlands League and through the Northern Counties East League and into the Evo Stik Division One South.The glory period at Rainworth ended in November 2010 and a short stay at Shirebrook got Funk back into football before Scarborough came calling in April 2011 – the type of job he had been striving to get since starting out in Non-League football.
“Absolutely, it is every manager’s dream (to manage a team like Scarborough),” he said.“I am very fortunate to be the manager of Scarborough for the simple reason that if the job becomes vacant, I can assure you that managers from the Championship will apply for this club.”
Funk led Scarborough to the NCEL Premier Division title in April and will lead the club in their inaugural Evo Stik Division One South campaign.Some say the controversial decision to place Scarborough in the South Division will benefit them because of Funk’s knowledge of the league.
He disagrees and jokingly says the only advantage is that he can “get out of bed later” for some of the away games.Funk will not even set a target for the season. Some people have Scarborough down as favourites for a second successive promotion after the signings he has made.
Four of North Ferriby United’s NPL title winning squad have been signed – Chris Bolder, Steve Ridley, Paul Foot and prolific striker Gary Bradshaw and Funk does admits the signings have created excitement.
|Gary Bradshaw battling for the ball|
For now though, Funk is taking a calm approach.“It is one game at a time,” he says.
“We will test the waters and see what’s what because the Evo Stik league is new to our players, the ones who are Scarborough-based.
“It will be new grounds for them so we don’t set our targets too high. We’re trying to take one game at a time and when it comes to Christmas time and we feature anywhere near the top, obviously we will make some different decisions.
“Right now, the only aim we have got is hopefully starting the season well and getting a few wins under our belts to give us the right vibes and we will see how it pans out.“We have created a buzz around the place with the signings we have made
“The lads who we have signed from North Ferriby are the champions and the lads we have kept from last year are the champions so there has been great interaction between them.“What amazed me the most was the first training session as everyone felt like they had been working together for years. That speaks for itself and that can only come from people who have the attitude to win games and be successful.”
Time will tell and Funk is set to learn the identity of Scarborough’s first day opponents later this week.