Mansford Interview | Vital Football

Mansford Interview


Vital Football Legend
Chief executive Ben Mansford on the sacking of Simon Grayson and Blackpool's search for a new manager
Blackpool's chief executive Ben Mansford sat down with the media this afternoon to update supporters on the current search for a new manager.

He discussed a wide range of topics, ranging from Simon Grayson's sacking, to what the club are looking for in their new man and much, much more.

Here's what he had to say:


How important is it to update supporters on the current situation?
“I think it’s very important.
“I’m in a very privileged position where I get paid to have a brilliant job.
“But ultimately the football club and Simon (Sadler), who calls the shots.

“I think it’s just to give them every confidence that a process is underway.
“We’ve sat down as a board of directors and discussed what we would like to see in the next head coach.
“I think it’s important we get the right one. People will understand why a decision was made to bring Simon Grayson to the club during the summer but it didn’t work out.
“Therefore the board, myself and Brett Gerrity along with Simon really want to make sure we get the right person for the long term.

“Stability is incredibly important in professional sport and none more so than our football club at this stage.”
Simon Grayson got a lot of backing in January, why wasn’t he given the time to work with the players?
“I think you get to a place where you have to make a very difficult call.
“For me, unfortunately, I’ve had to let managers and head coaches go in the past and this was a difficult one because Simon is a real football gentleman, a really good guy

“Ultimately the squad, whether it was pre or post-January trading, we felt there was probably more to come from this squad. Therefore you have to make the very difficult decision of how much more time you give it.
“Now I think we have a good amount of time to make sure we make the right decision.
“While I will never say never, it looks like we’re in a reasonably stable position and with the quality of the squad and from what I saw of what David (Dunn) had done with the team last Saturday, we can look upwards and not backwards.
“Therefore, we felt there was enough time with the pre-group and the post-group to suggest we should be getting more and getting better.

“Unfortunately in those difficult circumstances where results ultimately tell, that we felt it was right thing to do to make a change.”
How did Simon Grayson take the news?
“I think what we talked about that day when we sat with Simon and told him we felt we needed to make a change should remain private.
“What I can say is to thank Simon, because he was an absolute pleasure to work with over the three months.

“He cared, he’s a footballing guy, it’s what he’s done for over 30 years of his life and I respect him immensely for all he’s achieved and I wish him all the success in whatever he does next.”
Did the supporters have an influence on his sacking?
“I think in professional sport the supporters will quite rightly have a view. It’s their club, it’s a community asset and it’s the heartbeat of towns like this.
“I’ve worked at other clubs where it’s exactly the same, so you respect their view.

“Not always does everybody understand everything that is going on behind the scenes and sometimes it’s right to sit and take some kicks and some punches - proverbial ones of course - when you might know the fuller information.
“I think the fans are quite rightly allowed to vocalise their disappointment when the players don’t perform.
“They’re quite right to question us if we don’t communicate our decisions or make good decisions or more importantly repeatedly make bad decisions.
“Everyone makes a mistake, everyone is human, but it’s learning from those mistakes and not making them again.

“I think it would be unfair to say the supporters had unduly influenced the decision.
“I think when we started going on the run we looked at when might be enough in terms of points targets and win targets. We tried to stick to those.
“I think the supporters have a huge part to play in this football club but we’ve got to be careful as an executive and as a board we have to try and split the head and the heart a little bit.
“I’m sure the supporters will understand that.”

Was the style of play a problem?
“I think that’s something we really must now put down, we really must say ‘this is a Blackpool team’ and ‘this is our philosophy and our identity, these are the players we’ll need to play the Blackpool way’.
“I’m really looking forward to the next head coach because I think it’s a really key appointment.
“We want to respect the history, the 1953 cup final, the Ian Holloway history, and that needs to transcend the football club from the guys in the restaurant, to the grounds staff and to the executive office.

“We have to talk about what is Blackpool and we need to put that down - and that needs to filter down to the academy as well because that’s the sort of joined-up thinking that is really important. I think that’s what is next.
“We’re not going to dictate if a manager plays 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 or whatever, but there are some key principles about what a Blackpool team look like.
“That will then give us the very best chance to use our resources to get exactly what we need to ensure we can be the best we can be.”
Is attacking play what you want to get back?

“I think this is a town where there are some non-negotiables and that’s hard work, that’s effort, that’s togetherness, that’s discipline, that’s standards.
“I believe Simon talked about entertaining football when he bought the club and I think that’s what he feels.
“He knows there are some non-negotiables about hard work because if people in Blackpool have parted with their hard-earned cash to support their football club there’s some effort, togetherness, teamwork, discipline that are set standards that can not be deviated from and if they do they shouldn’t be in the football club.
“Then on top of that, yes you want to see attacking football, you want to see balls in the box, you want to see people like Connor Ronan with his little flicks and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall with his crossfield passes, Liam Feeney getting the ball in the box and Sullay Kaikai with his free kick against Fleetwood. You want to see all that on top.

“Most supporters want to see a high-octane, a high press, entertaining style of football and we have to find the right person who is capable of delivering that.
“More importantly, we have to give them the tools for them to do it with.”
So Blackpool are going to be getting a manager that can deliver that style?
“I think they’re the things we’ve talked about, but we also want someone who’s going to connect with the community, take an interest in the academy and help us document that ‘Blackpool way’.

“We also have some plans moving forward with architects for the new training ground and there’s some big projects, so we need to find the right person that can link all those up and really be a new hero and build their own legacy.
“The football club now is ready to take off. We have a fantastic owner, a truly committed owner and he wants it to be built the right way, for it to be sustainable and to have value in the team.
“I know he along with others in his family really want to see the academy play a part as well, so I think this is a wonderful job for someone to take on now.”
Is that why some names that have been bandied about have such good reputations?

“It’s something I spoke to Simon about when I first came in about giving the supporters a football club to be proud of again. Bit by bit we’re trying to do that.
“The club has definitely come a long way from where it was.
“I think the word is getting out. You just have to look at the players we were able to recruit in January, they’re very different to the players we’ve recruited in the past.
“I think people are starting to see Blackpool as a place to go and play their football and the club is on its way to being back.

“Those in the know that do their research about what Simon Sadler has brought to the club, in terms of my appointment, the other infrastructure appointments, the fact we now have two sports scientists, we’re progressing to having two physios, we’ve got the latest GPS equipment, we have a three-man coaching team and in Steve Banks I love our goalkeeping coach who has a history with the club.
“People know the training ground is round the corner in terms of final design and trying to get the right location for that.
“On top of that we have a wonderful fanbase. Many managers that are interested in the job they sit on the various scouting packages and can hear the fans in the background. So they know they’re coming somewhere that has got a chance.
“All of us want opportunities where you can achieve and I think people now are starting to realise this is a club where people can do that.”


Vital Football Legend
Part 2

How far away are you from recruiting someone for the job?
“I think it’s difficult to put a timeline on that.
“There’s a huge number of applicants but what we’re doing is working through a process with the things we feel are non-negotiables and things we really feel we need.
“The board are doing that and there are daily conference calls, daily analysis, there’s a huge amount of data now in terms of how managers play and I think some of those are really good barometers to back up what they’re saying in a sales pitch, or what they say in a document or what their agent might say on their behalf.

“It’s a shortlist we’re working through, but huge credit to what David Dunn and Tommy Johnson have done.
“The way the team played on Saturday shows they can get some good work into the group and hopefully get points.
“For me, I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it but what I would say is that we want to find the right person.
“If that takes a little bit longer than the fans might like, then I apologise. But I hope they’ll stick with us and understand we’re trying to do everything we can to get the right choice for the long term.”

There’s quite a bit of pressure to get it right, isn’t there?
“Yes but if you can’t deal with that then you shouldn’t be in a job.
“I don’t want to get too carried away but I seem to have done alright in some of my picks so far in my career.
“I’m really helped by Simon and Brett, although I have to respect Brett has a day job as well! But they give me a huge amount of background on Blackpool and a huge amount of background on what this club stands for and what they want it to stand for and what they’re doing what they’re doing.

“I think with that blend and with the data and analysis we’ve got our hands on, I think we can handle that pressure.”
Have you held any interviews yet?
“People talk about a formal interview process but I’m not quite sure what that is!
“We’re doing what we need to do to get the right people and to have the right conversations.

“I wouldn’t want to get drawn on interviews or formal interviews or coffees or meetings, what we’re doing is taking our time to get the right person.”
How many people have you spoken to?
“As I just said, what is important is that we take our time to get the right person.
“You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers. I definitely know, whether it’s one newspaper or one website, exactly who the agent is that will have spoken to that member of the broadcast media.

“I was an agent for a long time, so I know how it works and I know the people on the other side - I much prefer being on this side by the way.
“We’ll make the best decision we can with the information we have available, not what the populist headline is courtesy of some agent conversations.”

Has anybody impressed you?
“I think it’s important we take our time to get the right one.

“There are some people that have impressed me but I think they’re just about to win Premier League titles!
“No look, in all seriousness, we need the person that wants to be at this football club.
“We’ve already touched on January and doing so much business, one of the reasons we did that was because we wanted people that wanted to be here. We wanted people that were going to be committed to the future.
“The mentality of the past needs to be eradicated. Some players here had to wash their own kit, they weren’t put up in the right hotels, they weren’t given the right infrastructure, the right support, the right environment.

“I think that’s why it’s important we get the right person that absolutely bolts through those doors in the main reception every morning and says ‘I’m the Blackpool head coach and we’re going to do this. People are with me’.
“They will know they will have the support of the owner and I and Brett, and that we don’t want a contract manager.
“By that, we don’t want someone that has had some success at an age where they will come in because the average shelf life is 12-13 months, they’ll earn so much and then will get a pay-off for another 12 months.
“Me personally, and together as a board, we don’t want another contract manager. We want this person to be progressive, has had a good education either as a player or as a young coach, that’s got some proven track record and bounces through that door thinking ‘this is for me, this is a brilliant opportunity and I will literally kill myself to make sure Blackpool are a success on and off the field’.

“That’s the person we want.”
Does that rule out Ian Evatt?
“I’m not going to talk about individuals because I think that will be disrespectful.
“I’m certainly not going to talk about individuals that are at other football clubs.

“We played Barrow in a friendly before the season and they’re having an unbelievable season, huge credit to them as a football club.
“I don’t think they’ve been in the league for 50 odd years. I think what’s important is that someone like Blackpool, who consider themselves a local friend, shouldn’t be doing anything to undermine that.
“I think saying anything more about Ian Evatt would be disrespectful and unhelpful to Barrow.”
Would you be looking for someone that is UK-based, or doesn’t it matter?

“No I don’t think it matters.
“One thing my time in Israel gave me is an exposure to some of the leading agents in Europe.
“I think foreign coaches have fared incredibly well at Premier League and Championship level.
“The best coach I’ve potentially worked for, after Lee Johnson and Paul Heckingbottom, was Vladimir Ivic who is a Serbian who plied his trade in Greece as a player. They come with a slightly different mentality.

“There’s probably only Daniel Stendel with Barnsley, there’s not so many League One , League Two, or Conference clubs that have taken non-UK or non-British options and had success.
“I might be missing one or two, but I think Stendel is one that has come from that German model.
“I think the German model has had huge success with David Wagner (Huddersfield Town) and Daniel Farke (Norwich City). Stuart Webber has a lot to answer for.
“I think a lot of that comes from Euro 2000 and the World Cup in 2002 when the Germans completely changed their coach development programme.

“You look at the Red Bull family and how they’re producing a lot of good, young coaches.
“I don’t think you’d rule that out and there is a lot of data about now with these young coaches.
“What we have to marry without being stereotypically British and pig-headed is that view that they’ve got to know the level and certain things like that.
“We’re absolutely open to foreign coaches and it’s something we have considered, I just think you have to look at a bit of experience.

“Daniel Stendel is the only one I can think of that has had success at League One level having come from abroad. If there are others I’m happy to be corrected!”
Who will make the final decision?
“Hopefully Simon won’t mind me saying this but he’s paying me to do a job to make his life as an owner and ultimately as a custodian as easy as possible.
“I think there’s a line where I will do as much of the legwork as I can. I will have my thoughts and my recommendations.

“But I think Brett and Simon have a real heritage and understanding of the Blackpool past and with massive respect to Simon, this is his and his family’s hard-earned cash.
“I really hope we align and he will be invested in the decision for all the right reasons.
“I think it will be a decision of the board with the trusted help of those who are part of the club and are helping us make this decision.
“I hope we get to a place where there is real consensus.”


Vital Football Legend
Part 3

You mention head coach rather than manager, is that what you’re looking for?
“I think it potentially is now, although you flip between the two. I’ve had a bit of both over my career.
“I think what you have to understand is that these guys will live or die by results.
“Yes there are processes which are important as is the way the team is playing and if the supporters can identify with the team, but ultimately you couldn’t stay in a job if you went half a season without winning a football match.

“Results are important and therefore I think we have to give them the tools to be on the grass and punch above their weight, exceed expectations and therefore the priority has to be the coaching.
“In what we’re trying to develop from a data point of view, that should give them a lot of help from a recruitment point of view. I’m here as well.
“I think next time we’ll probably announce a head coach, not a manager, but don’t 100 per cent hold me to that.
“If the absolute standout candidate wants to be called a manager, but the job description is correct and everyone understands what everyone’s responsibilities are, then I wouldn’t want to lose someone for that.

“But I think the message of head coach is really focusing them on wanting to live or die by what happens on the grass. The rest of it, we believe, should be club-led structures and club decisions.
“It comes back to what I said earlier about putting down what the ‘Blackpool way’ is going to be for the foreseeable future.”
So you’d rather see the manager in a tracksuit rather than a two-piece?
“As long as they are playing the way we want them to play and they’re winning football matches, they can probably wear what they want.

“I think some of it is interesting in terms of who is a tracksuit manager, who is a suit wearer, who can wear what they want because they’re Pep Guardiola and who wears a flat cap like Paul Tisdale, who used to pull off a nice Ted Baker flat cap and cravat.
“Ultimately all of them will be judged by what happens on the grass.”
Is there a chance David Dunn could remain in caretaker charge until the end of the season?
“I’ve not had those specific chats with David.

“What I’ve been really impressed with is that it was a really difficult situation for him last week because he’s clearly been at the club a small amount of time and he was brought to the club by Simon Grayson.
“We’re the guys that have just relieved Simon of the job and we’re asking him to step in.
“Simon absolutely understood why, as a professional, David would want to step up and why he needed to do that.
“He just ‘I’m up for it, of course’ because he’s a football professional and a very well-regarded coach.

“He had a great career, he’s a football man and he loves being on the grass and he knows this is a great club.
“Massive respect to him for that and in a couple of days he came up with a shape and a team that wasn’t a million miles away from coming away with something from his first game in caretaker charge.
“He’s supported by Steve Banks who is a very, very capable goalkeeping coach at this level who also has an affiliation with this club.
“Tommy Johnson, okay he’s our head of recruitment, but he’s also a coach educator for Northern Ireland and has been on the grass and got his licenses.

“We just feel Saturday showed us that we might not need to feel under any more pressure than we already put on ourselves to find the right person for the football club.”
Nathan Jones was made favourite early on, was he the club's number one choice?
“I think it would be wrong to talk about names.
“For me, I think it is right to say I like a lot of what Nathan is about. But it’s not right to talk about individuals.

“We want somebody who has really taken their time to develop as a coach, someone that has been exposed to some good clubs and then has cut their teeth and got some achievements on their CV.
“Someone like Nathan would tick a lot of those boxes but I’m not going to get too drawn on names if that’s okay.
“I’d rather talk about what we’re looking for, rather than getting into individuals.”
So is there no point asking about Brian Barry-Murphy or Paul Heckingbottom?

“Look, I’m definitely not going to talk about anyone in work. But when you talk about Hecky, I like him, he did really well.
“I want to get the right person for the job. If that means in a week’s time I’ve got to sit in front of you guys with somebody that might not make the fans happy, but I believe they've got all the skills and personality traits to do what we want, which is to return a brand of football and an identity of the football club to get us up the table, then I’ll have to make the unpopular decision in the short term.
“Occasionally I’m told what is being said and I know Heckingbottom might be seen as my mate in football, but what I can say is that I was at the club (Barnsley) when he went from Under-18 coach to the Under-23s, he then went in as assistant and got two wins at Wembley in no period of time.
“He kept them in the Championship and I think they were third or fourth in the Championship when all the best players had to be sold when Patrick (Cryne), may he rest in peace, had to make decisions to sell the club.

“But yes, I also don’t need to invite due pressure on myself unless I’m absolutely sure it’s the right person for the job.
“I hope the supporters will understand that, if we make a decision, it’s because they’ve hit those criteria that we believe will take Blackpool forward in the long term.
“If it’s Hecky, it’s Hecky, but let’s focus on getting the right person.
“But the message I’m trying to say honestly and openly to the fans is that this is not about me or the board winning any brownie points, it isn’t about taking the pressure off.

“I’ve been at clubs where you make a popular decision and it does buy you that period of time, it does stop the supporters from haranguing you, criticising you or writing openly to you on social media questioning your motherhood potentially.
“But I think what is right, is that the fans have got to try and trust and I hope they do trust us to make the right decision, even if that might not be the most popular in their drinking circles in their local pubs.”


Vital Football Hero
Good piece and thanks for sharing @sexy. What pleased me most was "
“We also have some plans moving forward with architects for the new training ground and there’s some big projects, so we need to find the right person that can link all those up and really be a new hero and build their own legacy."


Vital 1st Team Regular
So, after name dropping a few times, I take it we're getting Heckingbottom...

If so, not impressed.
Looks that way Bob, apparently doesn't want to talk about anyone except Heckingbottom. Obviously biased and dangerously attached to his friend. Not good, very disappointed and a poor interview that doesn't exactly fill me with hope.


Vital 1st Team Regular

Looks that way Bob, apparently doesn't want to talk about anyone except Heckingbottom. Obviously biased and dangerously attached to his friend. Not good, very disappointed and a poor interview that doesn't exactly fill me with hope.
what a way to lose your job, promote a pal. Surely SS will have the final say and make the correct decision


Vital Football Legend
How refreshingly appealing.Stuart James was a decent player at Bath City who retired early to get into sports journalism. A nicely presented feature well worth a listen.