Solicitor’s role with Fylde is far from brief

Fylde RU first team manager John Greenwood

Fylde RU first team manager John Greenwood

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AS a successful solicitor, John Greenwood is used to a heavy, demanding case-load.

And it’s a good job too, for since linking up with Fylde Rugby Union Club four years ago to become first-team manager, his portfolio has just got bigger and bigger.

Greenwood’s wide-ranging brief includes drafting and negotiating contracts with the players, dealing with registrations, and using his skills of advocacy to represent players at disciplinary hearings in Leeds – he also has to arrange transport for matchdays and, at times, even muck in by lugging the kit and equipment to and from the dressing-room.

And he must be imbued with the work ethic, for he also assists with the management of the Lancashire senior team, as well as managing the Red Rose Under-20 side, and he has just been appointed manager of North Of England under-20s.

A former player with Fylde in the early 1980s, he took on the rugby responsibilities as an outlet away from the job of solicitor, based in Burnley, a practice that specialises in high-profile conspiracy and fraud cases all over the country, and which is starting to expand.

So how does the 54-year-old manage to fit it all in?

He replied in deadpan manner: “With difficulty! I went to school with Fylde coach Mark Nelson and have been the best of buddies with him for a long time.

“He invited me on to a Lancashire tour of Canada after they won the County Championship final.

“When we got back, I came to a pre-season match at Fylde, as some of the guys who had been on that tour had been playing in that game.

“I was approached by Fylde chairman Mike Brennand and then coach Stuart Connell to see if I wanted to take over as manager because they had a vacancy.

“Without realising what I had let my self in for, I agreed to do it, but the amount of work I have to do is a lot more than I ever expected!

“Up until this season, I dealt with all the stuff in the changing-room, but another of our officials, Ian Cosh, deals with that now, so I am now in a jacket and tie rather than a tracksuit on Saturday and getting more involved with sponsors and such-like.”

Greenwood played in the back- row at Fylde, and also had spells with Wharfedale, Vale of Lune and Calder Vale, where he was captain, before hanging up his boots, aged 45.

His job negotiating contracts with the Fylde players has come at a time when they have seen their pay drastically reduced.

Love

He declined to disclose what the average Fylde player earned, saying: “I would not like to commit to any figures, but what I can say is that, when I first started four years ago, the budget as far as players’ wages is concerned was three times more than what it is now.

“All the players here have semi-professional contracts, other than one or two exceptions.

“We would like to think they are doing it for the love of the game –when I played, you didn’t get paid.

“You got some expenses, but you didn’t get paid for playing – you played for the love of the game.

“I think professionalism has had more of an effect at our level than it has at any level, because people do tend to go to clubs who are paying more wages.

“This year we have cut back on players’ wages, but because of the facilities we have got, and because it is a good club to play at, we have attracted one or two new players.

“We have also got Brian Ashton on board, and we have attracted Jason Robinson.

“We are working on a strict budget this year, and we will be working on one next year.

“We don’t know yet whether we are going to get promotion – if we do that, we are going to have to find the funds somehow to cover the cost of the additional travel.

“We have made significant reductions, but we have a long history, and players hopefully come here because they want to play for Fylde, rather than for playing for a club that pays more money.”

Tightening budgets is something that is being exercised throughout National League Two North.

Greenwood said: “Last season, we heard on the grapevine that Caldy had someone who was paying a lot of money – that all went sour and as a result of that they lost quite a few of their players.

“I can’t think of any particular club this season who is paying a large amount of money – I think we are all very much on a par.”

Fylde went into this afternoon’s match at Kendal in second place behind Loughborough Students, but they need to keep up the momentum in a division where the top team is promoted automatically, and the second-placed team is involved in an end-of-season play-off.

Greenwood said: “We had a very good start, then we had a dip when we lost at Luctonians and Westoe on back-to-back weekends, before rediscovering our form.

“If we had played Loughborough at the time we should have, we would have recovered momentum, and probably have beaten them.

“Traditionally, we haven’t started off well after Christmas, but by beating Morley as we did last Saturday, we have hopefully put that behind us and we have some games where we can get full points.

“I am quite confident there is a good atmosphere as far as the playing side is concerned.

“Everyone wants promotion, everybody is going towards that and, touch wood, we have a very good chance of getting it.”

Coach Mark Nelson is in little doubt that the work done by Greenwood – entirely on a voluntary basis – is a boon to Fylde.

He said: “I am not quite sure whether some people realise the kind of job John does for the club.

“I am quite sure that if he wasn’t with us, he could easily hold a similar job down with a Premiership club.”

n FORMER Fylde prop forward Kieran Brookes is to play for Leicester Tigers next season, when he leaves Newcastle Falcons.

He is one of the most promising props in the country, having been capped at England and Ireland Under-20 level. Fylde coach Nelson, wishing Brookes well for the future, said two people had played an important role in his development – Kirkham Grammar School director of rugby Aled Trenhaile and Woodlands hooker Alan Holmes.

steve.simpson@blackpoolgazette.co.uk