Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Interview with former Glasshoughton Welfare director of football Ray Gowan

Phil Riding (left) with Ray Gowan
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Almost seven years ago Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar appeared for Glasshoughton Welfare in a Northern Counties East League Premier Division game against Maltby Main.
Grobbelaar’s appearance was to highlight the growing crisis at Leeds Road. Glasshoughton, who were rapidly running out of money, had a tired and aging committee which needed new blood.
The summer of 2007 saw manager Steve Learoyd step down and be replaced by Tim Hope. A new director of football and general secretary was found in Ray Gowan.
London-born Gowan had moved to Leeds following “a lifetime in the Northern League”, initially as a player and then as a manager.
Gowan quickly took charge of off-the-field matters, but admits there was a lot of work to do.
“I had been here twice before and been impressed on both occasions in FA Cup ties and I came down and met the people and once I had met the people you couldn’t say no,” he said.
“It was one of them situations where ‘what do you want me to do’ and they didn’t really have an answer. It was a double-desperate situation because there was no money and there was not anyone here who knew the way to go forward in non-league football.
“There were a lot of people here willing to put the time in and do whatever work was needed, but they just needed pulling together as a body.”
From the playing perspective, the club tumbled to the bottom of the Premier Division and Hope lasted just a month and was replaced by former Garforth manager Dave Holmes.
Holmes oversaw the club’s relegation to Division One before resigning just weeks in the 2008-09 season. Wayne Day returned to manage the club for a second time, but left within four weeks.
Gowan appointed current chairman Phil Riding as the next incumbent and looking back on his time at Glasshoughton, Gowan claims the team wasn’t the priority.
“Playing-wise the club was going rapidly backwards,” he said. “But what we had to do first was put the off-the-field side of things in order. For instance the cricket club used to run the place totally and they got all they wanted. All the finances were going towards the cricket club.
“All I did was get myself into a position where people would listen to me and say ‘yes we do want a football club and we realised that the club is quite high in the non-league pyramid, they’re not just a Sunday afternoon team’. It was a case of putting a structure in place and that is exactly what we did.
“I had to be more concerned about the off-the-field things. Once we had got a team that was playing every week that wasn’t going to be disgraced, which we did, then it was about getting the club right. The ground is a magnificent place. The set-up and facilities and the way it is a community place is brilliant.”
Gowan, who is described by Riding “as the saviour of Glasshoughton”, brokered a deal that saw Glasshoughton start receiving the bar takings from September to April and that is a key component to how the club is run by Riding in 2013. 
That is one of his legacies to his time at Glasshoughton which ended in December 2008 as the former Brandon United and Shildon boss left to take charge of West Auckland Town.
“It was one of the worst things I ever did was leave Glasshoughton football club,” he said.
“West Auckland got themselves into difficulties and were struggling to survive in the Northern League Division One and they wanted a manager.
“They have since got to the Vase final, but at that stage they were in dire straits.
“I knew this (Glasshoughton) was almost completed and knew I could leave it alone and it would certainly survive and possibly go forward. So I said ‘yes’ to managing West Auckland.
“I managed West Auckland from December until the end of the season and it was awful. They had allowed themselves to get into such a mess. They were overpaying players and there were players there who didn’t want to play.
“We survived by the skin of our teeth. But one month before that season ended I went to the chairman and said: ‘look I don’t know who your manager is going to be next year, but it is not going to be me’. That’s when I left football completely.”
Craig Elliott

Gowan moved to South Africa and still follows the fortunes of Glasshoughton. Nine months after Gowan left Welfare, Stuart Waddington raised them off the bottom of the Division One table.
That was the platform that Craig Elliott built on and the current Ossett Town manager led them back to the Premier Division following a dramatic 3-2 victory at AFC Emley in April 2012 – a day Gowan cherishes.
“For the last four years, I have lived in South Africa and that is why I got a such a warm welcome from the lads (when arriving for Glasshoughton’s FA Cup tie with Jarrow Roofing during a holiday in the UK),” he said.
“While the facilities are magnificent (at Glasshoughton), we had to really work on the football side and we had to beg, borrow and steal to get machinery to cut the pitch or to get new goalposts.
“Everything was needed like the refurbishment of the stand and that’s what we did. That’s probably where I contributed the most. The biggest pride in my life in the recent past was at the end of the season before when Glasshoughton got promoted back in the Premier Division.
“I got an unbelievable amount of satisfaction when they got promoted. From 6,000 miles away, thank god for the Internet and that you can keep in touch. I was the most pleased man in creation – me and Phil Riding will have felt exactly the same that day they got promoted.
“I watched their progress last season and saw they were struggling at times. It perhaps pointed towards that they needed a change at the top which they did.”

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