Gaffer’s Greatest Gaffers: Ex-Stourbridge boss Gary Hackett

Gaffer’s Greatest Gaffers: Stourbridge boss Gary Hackett takes his turn in this NLP series
By Andy Mitchell
Who inspires the inspirations in the ever-changing world of football? Which traits stand the test of time?
In the third of our new series, we ask some of Non-League’s top bosses to name the gaffers who made the biggest impact on their playing days.
It is testament to his legacy that Gary Hackett is perhaps as well-known for his 16 years as manager of Stourbridge as he is for his playing career. 
Starting out in Non-League, the diminutive Black Country lad was picked up by Shrewsbury Town from Bromsgrove Rovers in 1983 before spells at Aberdeen, West Bromwich Albion, Peterborough United and Chester City. 
He moved into management with Redditch United and Bromsgrove before heading back to rebuild Stourbridge after previous boss Joe Jackson and many players left following two Midland Football Alliance titles that could not yield promotion due to ground grading. 
Two promotions would follow in Hackett’s era with the Glassboys going so close to a third but it was the FA Cup exploits that really put the club back on the map, including wins over Plymouth Argyle and Northampton Town, the latter resulting in the club’s first appearance in the third round proper.
And while Hackett’s greatest gaffer comes from his professional days, it is fitting that it is a man who was plucked from Stourbridge as a player.
It is very difficult but one guy I enjoyed playing under was Chic Bates at Shrewsbury. He is a Black Country lad like me and played at Stourbridge, he was player-coach under Graham Turner when I joined.
Being from the same area and having both come through Non-League football, he knew me, looked after me and was always very positive towards me.
Graham left at the end of my first season to go to Aston Villa and Chic took over, as player-manager to start with. 
I knew he was a big fan of mine and he always let me express myself, he knew how to get the best out of me. We had a player-manager relationship but also a friendship. 
I’m not going to say he was the greatest tactician or talker but he was someone who made me enjoy my football and I played well for him.
I think it was in my third season at Shrewsbury, Chic was under a lot of pressure. In the old Second Division Shrewsbury competed with the likes of Newcastle, Man City, Leeds, some really big clubs.
I remember playing the last game of the season at Birmingham City, we had to win to stay up. John Bond was manager of Blues at the time and they were in big trouble as well.
I had one of those games that I was always capable of. I scored the first, a decent solo goal, and then played a part in the second.
We had a big following that day and it was a special moment for me, we kept Shrewsbury in the division and that was a big thing for me. Chic had always stuck by me and I’d like to think I did it for him.
It was back in the old-fashioned days when you would celebrate with a beer and champagne in the dressing room and the coach on the way home. We live in different times now but it was special.
When you turn up on a big day it is great as a player and I know it meant a lot to Chic too.
Man-management is the key to everything. Yes, you need to have knowledge and contacts but respect is earned. I don’t think you can go into any job and say ‘I am the manager, give me respect’. 
It is earned by the way you go about things, communication and giving the players the feeling that if they are in trouble then you’ll back them to the hilt. 
You have to get players on board. You mix so many individuals in football, some need motivating, some need a kick up the backside and man management is the biggest thing in football.
Chic had that, you knew you could talk to and communicate with him. He is a great guy to this day and he was always good for me as a player.
I keep in touch with the family, unfortunately Chic now has dementia and Alzheimers. 
Just before the lockdown I planned to go over with Bernard McNally to take him to a Shrewsbury game with his daughter, hopefully it will happen when life gets back to normal. 

Chic Bates at Stoke City

With the contracts they sign, players are too strong now. They can dictate whether they want to play or turn up. 
In my day you had a basic wage and the bonuses made a big difference to you. If you played you would earn a lot of extra money and if you won games the same again. 
Bonuses don’t really mean anything to players now, they can earn so much. 
I was lucky. I played every game in two of my four years at Shrewsbury but you don’t see that now, you don’t see as many players wanting to stay on that pitch for as long as they can. That’s a sad indictment of today’s game. 
When I was at Bromsgrove Rovers and moved into pro football, Bobby Hope gave me great guidance. He knew football inside out and gave me all the right advice about how to approach it, adapt myself and how to be.
His words were absolutely brilliant and I am always very grateful to him for that, he really helped me as I launched my professional career. 
I needed a break after 16 years at Stourbridge, I needed to recharge the batteries.
A few things happened as well. My joint-assistant manager Mark Clifton had a massive cancer scare and we are all delighted he has the all clear now. Things like that give you a lot of perspective.
If the right kind of challenge came along I would certainly look at it. I had plenty of offers straight after leaving Stourbridge but I left for a reason and that was to take a break.
I was a bit drained, mentally and physically, and I was honest with myself. 
It would have to be the right challenge for me to come back though, I am not going to jump into something I don’t believe I can move forward. 
I think it is a good appointment. I have known Mark for many years. His parents live in the same village as me and I have socialised with him.
I am not going to knock Ian Long (Hackett’s successor who was sacked in February), it didn’t work out – that happens in football. 
Sometimes people manage clubs very well but go somewhere else and it doesn’t quite happen. That doesn’t make Ian a bad manager, he has proven he can get clubs promoted.
Mark is a good fit for the club, though. He is local and possibly realises he has been there and done the management career in the Football League, he has his business just down the road from where I work and this job means he can combine both.
Good luck to him, and if nothing else happens for me I’ll certainly pop down and enjoy myself watching Stourbridge.

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