Craig Denton on Worksop Town, Lincoln City, Danny Cowley and juggling management with teaching PE

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 17 September 2019, 15:50

A week after his surprise departure from Worksop Town, The Sack Race caught up with Craig Denton who managed to spare us a few minutes on his lunch break - he’s also a secondary school PE teacher - to discuss his Tigers exit, being linked with the Lincoln City job, the inspirational Cowley brothers, and what the future holds for him in the managerial arena.

Last Wednesday Denton resigned from his post at Worksop, a shock given his immense success with the Tigers last season in the form of an NCEL Premier Division title and NCEL Cup double. He’d also enjoyed a decent start to the current campaign with three wins on the board from six league matches.

“There were several key areas which I was slightly disappointed with and when I contacted the club to address those issues it was brought to my attention that they weren’t on the same hymn sheet as myself, which I was extremely disappointed with,” Denton told The Sack Race.

“We had an absolutely fantastic 2018/19 season where we won the double. Then when I sat down with the club at the end of last season to prepare us for this year it was highlighted about staying in the NPL’s Division One South East, and getting a couple of points early on to give us a boost.

“I thought that after putting nine points on the board from six games I wasn’t only on track but exceeding expectations.

"I was extremely disappointed with their comments and their vision, and I just thought to myself that in non-league everyone - directors, owner, chairman, manager and fans - has got to be working together towards one goal, and if the goal posts have been moved slightly it doesn’t work. I needed everyone to back me.”

Like many non-league managers Denton has had to juggle life as football manager with a full-time profession, which for him is working as a secondary school PE teacher.

“My pupils would always ask how Worksop got on, and some would give you a little bit of stick if we lost but I would always have the final laugh when I'd stick it to them at a game of football after school - I’d always come out as a winner!

“I think a lot of non-league managers will tell you that it’s a full-time job [being a football manager] but you’re given part-time hours to complete it. It’s a challenge and takes up a lot of time and commitment, especially in the evenings with training, meetings with players, and clubs.

“You’re constantly on your phone and it’s an all or nothing task, but I love what I do and that’s why I’m obviously keen to get back into it [management] providing it’s at the right club.”

48 hours before Denton vacated his post at Worksop, the club’s neighbours Lincoln City - a full five tiers further up the English football ladder in League One - were unable to keep hold of the Cowley brothers who after weeks of speculation departed for Huddersfield Town.

The likes of Michael Flynn, Gareth Ainsworth and Phil Parkinson were all swiftly linked with Lincoln in the aftermath of Cowley’s exit, then last Thursday a new name cannoned into the mix: Craig Denton.

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Denton was initially priced at 33/1, odds that were rapidly slashed to just 4/1, which at the time made the 33-year-old the second-favourite for the job, ahead of established Football League managers such as Flynn and Parkinson.

“It came as a big surprise to me! I think there were a lot of people Googling my name to find out who this Craig Denton guy is. I was quite taken aback to be associated with any sort of job at that level, and for me to be selfish it’s a great bit of publicity for myself.”

Denton can now be found at 20/1 and with Lincoln’s reported top targets, Flynn and Ainsworth, both believed to be happy in their current jobs - while earlier this week Exeter boss Matt Taylor rejected an approach - it will be interesting to see what happens next in the search for Cowley’s successor.

Speaking of Cowley, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with the Huddersfield boss and Denton. Afterall Cowley, and brother Nicky, previously spent 15 years working as a PE teacher, while they started life in the managerial arena at a similar level to Denton, before working their way up to the National League, where they would go on to propel Lincoln from non-league to League One in three years.

“What he’s done is an inspiration for every manager. At whatever level you’re involved with you always want to try and test yourself, and what the Cowley brothers have done is remarkable and absolutely fantastic.

“I know a lot of people speak very highly of them but what comes across for me is their work ethic and how humble and respectful they are, they are also down to earth and look like two really good guys. Every manager, especially at my age (33) and level now has that goal to try and do even a quarter of what the Cowleys have achieved.”

As for Denton’s future plans in management, he revealed that while he’s “keen as mustard to return,” it has to be with the right club.

“I want to make sure I pick the right move, for myself and for my backroom team.

"For this moment in time I’m looking for something I can work around my full-time job as a teacher, so ideally within a travelling distance that would be achievable.

"But never say never, in the distant future that I would consider moving somewhere else.”

You can keep track of Denton and his managerial career over on his personal Twitter account: @_CraigDenton

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