By Alex Narey
Losing 6-0 at home would have been the bitterest of pills for Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley to swallow last week.
Slowly but surely, Chester had been chipping away for a play-off spot and last Tuesday night – as tough on paper as it may have been with Stockport County the form team in the league – offered the Blues a chance of taking one small step towards a top-seven finish, and one giant leap for promotion back to the National League. But it wasn’t to be, an aberration that all but killed any lingering hopes of climbing out of the division.
For most managers, such a defeat would bring the shutters down. The media would be brushed off, and the fans’ voices not heard, hoping the damage goes away so they can just focus on the next game.
But this is never the case with Johnson and Morley; there is always transparency. Both are active on Twitter, with Johnson in particular serving as a mouth box and interacting with the club’s following, embracing their views and their opinions.
He listens and revels in a part of the job that a lot of managers chose not to have any time for. He treats respectful fans with nothing more than the respect they deserve, and when he does suffer abuse – which comes with the territory for all managers – he doesn’t bite. Erudite and witty, he lets haters be haters before they shamefully move on to their next target.
On Thursday last week, with fans still hurting after the Stockport dismantling, Johnson tweeted for them to get in touch, saying he would follow back so they could ‘DM’ him with any questions about the club and how they are moving forward.
“I’ll answer them all,” he said. Johnson has three kids; I’m pretty sure there are things he would rather be doing away from his duties at The Deva. But being a football manager isn’t just a job, it is a lifestyle, and for Johnson (and Morley), dealing with the emotions of the supporters – the people who are the real ‘owners’ of a football club – remains just as important as celebrating the victories and lifting the silverware.
Clueless keyboard warriors play hide and seek at every club, but speak to the masses at Chester and they know, despite promotion this season perhaps being just out of reach, that they have two guys steering the ship who will never settle for half-measures.
They have connected with the supporters and are bringing stability. That was always going to be the biggest hurdle for Chester this season.
Reece Thompson, the former Guiseley player, was jailed last week for a vicious and sustained attack on a woman.
As well as attacking his victim with an iron bar, Thompson forced her to eat paint and smashed two mirrors over her head. It’s the sort of detail that makes you wince in shock while clenching your fists in anger.
My immediate argument is that the sentence is not enough, but the real punishment must come on Thompson’s release, and football needs to keep its back turned on this vile individual.
I have always been someone who advocates the need for a second chance; people step out of line in their younger years, and the harsh reality is that one blot on their records closes many doors of future employment. I believe that to be harsh in many cases.
But playing football for a ‘career’ is a privilege. In many cases the game has a duty to support people with convictions, but in the case of Thompson, he needs to be shut out for good because there is a fear that clubs, particularly at the lower levels, will be there ready and waiting with an olive branch once his time is served.