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Dunstable Town boss Tony McCool steps down

Dunstable Town boss Tony McCool has announced that he will be stepping down from his role as manager of the Southern League Division One Central club with immediate effect. 

The Blues, who are currently sitting in 17th place following Saturday’s defeat at Berkamstead, were part of an extraordinary battle to avoid the drop from Step 3 with Gosport Borough last season.

Despite having no playing budget, McCool’s side almost reached safety but ultimately slipped into Step 4 following a dramatic final week of the season.

Over the summer McCool set up a crowdfunding page to reward the players, which received almost £3000 in donations.

In a long and heartfelt statement posted on his website, McCool said, “It is with regret and a heavy heart that I will be resigning from my role at Dunstable Town Football Club. I have had to make this tough decision due to a number of reasons which I believe its only fair to explain.

“Before that, I want to thank the committee. In truth I think they are battling a thankless task and working so hard, but without question there is a toxic undercurrent trying to destabilise the club and that is not fair considering if it wasn’t for their hard work and for some, personal investment there would have been no football club.

“Recently I have had to listen to ridiculous unrealistic comments and views where people consider the club to be like it was, and don’t understand how close to the brink it was/is and the long term strategy along with the short term challenges. The club is too small and in too much danger for all people not to be pulling in the same direction and I personally don’t deserve to be treated like that when things are so glaringly obvious and my family certainly don’t deserve to receive cheap childish naïve underhanded threats.

“My wife was critically ill and is still in recovery. Next week we are back in London for more surgery and she needs me to be fully happy and supportive in order to focus on helping her fully recover. I can only do that if I’m well as well.

“When we recently won two games back to back against all odds we didn’t hear from anyone. But, on days like yesterday it seems there are people ready to jump on it as part of some ulterior motive, which is outrageously unfair to the players and the staff considering what we all put in. It’s vital, everyone sticks together now. Take this as a lesson if you want your club to exist moving forward.

“Late on Thursday night before training I received a call that West Ham would like to take our goalkeeper for a game on Saturday. Of course we embrace this and it’s what we are about. Plus, we don’t have ANY contracted players anyway. After then desperate attempts to get cover we had no time to get one sorted although West Ham did then try to assist, but we did not have enough time to get the keeper signed on. I’m left then with taking our only other keeper, who’s 16. Considering some of the violence I’ve witnessed on the pitch (not yesterday) I was not willing to subject the kid to that potential as goalkeepers have to stand there and get hit. So, our striker Charlie Black went in goal. On the pitch, we are ravaged by injury and fatigue after a gruelling Xmas period. Our fantastic new physio has been working fantastically to get the lads patched up and out there but in truth, we couldn’t field a fit 11 players. Unfortunately, added to that we cannot simply go and recruit players of experience and known quality for this level because we don’t have the resource available. So, with an outfield player in goal we had our right back Joe, injured ankle, swollen to twice the size, playing. Kyle, limping through a groin strain. Hassan has a sprained ankle, playing. Arel injured, playing. Saul hip injury, came on, playing. Marius Patru out with a hamstring tear. So we ended up with a makeshift striker to buy us some time to try and manage those injuries. The rest of the lads are also exhausted! Added to that, two of the best performing midfielders for this level Rio (broken leg) and Ethan (near hip dislocation from horrific tackle) are both out injured, long term. This was just one game. In many games this season we have had 9 players injured and have used 11 goalkeepers. Yesterday, on a dreadful pitch our opposing (decent) manager and coach, who know football properly, Humbly commended us for not giving up and still trying to dominate possession and our style of play.

“Despite the lack of resource we have shown many of the top leagues that we can play the game in an attractive way and that helps us develop players. We also don’t have the players to go back to front and play percentage football. I have found it very frustrating that we have not been better protected by officials and the injuries sustained are in some cases really violent old school attempts to destruct our young players physically and mentally. It’s a shame more teams are not braver and try to play decent football, as overall I believe that would showcase more players with true ability that should be playing higher. But we had to accept this was going to happen in many cases and that added to our injury list, whilst officials focused more on sock tape and removing breast cancer awareness wrist bands. Non league football would be a more pleasant watch if leagues and officials decided to stamp out violent play. Maybe more people would come and watch and then clubs would rely less on wealthy benefactors.

“I also firmly believe that all non league football should be guided by financial fair play and ensure that they pay players within their means to avoid running out of money and players leaving on mass. This has a real negative affect on the sporting integrity. Just thought I would get that in!

“When we played away, it was great to see the other clubs that have clear resource, Sports science, coaches, goalie coaches, 3G pitches, bars and cafes to generate income. We don’t have that at Dunstable. Pretty much all the clubs assets resided in the boot of my car. It has no stadium. To the councils credit it looks after the pitch but all the takings over the bar and for food go to the council. The football club doesn’t receive a penny. There is a lack of branding and images to make it feel like home. It feels like renting a pitch at a leisure centre. I tried to change the whole culture of the club and I hope they address this for the players sake because its not an enjoyable place to play football. The council need to recognise that without Dunstable Town FC it will leave a huge hole in the balance sheet, they need to work on making that the home of the football club who is its biggest customer.

“Being the manager of a club in this situation is very unusual. It meant we had to focus heavily on development and young players and creating a culture and ethos. We were getting there. We have used over 15 players from our development squad and yesterday again have 5 players in the first team squad that had played for them. A couple of weeks ago we had 10. That is very rare. It also means it takes time for them to learn and improve. We have had 3 players now go full time and the latest to the championship. Soon I hope to be 4 with that one being the Premier League. This endorses the pathway ethos. We broke down the ‘them and us’ mentality that many non league clubs have and worked closely with the development squad who in turn then worked with the U16 and U18s so we were building true succession planning all the way down. We were building an almost professional type structure and with no money. We did that in 18 months, and I hope they all recognise the benefits of that and continue in that way which I started. It will bare fruit!

“I also hope you get a manger now that understands that money cannot be the solution to problems at Dunstable Town until the whole structure is fundamentally changed. Therefore, winning games will be tough, give them time and don’t abuse them. Because, if you do, I really fear for the clubs future and a lot of endless and tiring hard work to get this club back on its feet and survive will have been in vain.

“Thanks to the genuine people that clapped us off the pitch when we were struggling so bad, the players needed you. Thanks to everyone on the committee. A truly lovely genuine group of people and I feel desperately sad for you. I hope this pays off and everyone drops the nonsense and sticks together. Thanks to Gareth, we’ve been through a lot together and I’ve gained a great friend. But mostly, thanks to the players. You have been awesome. Some of you I’m sure will work with me again and I’m sure will be back in professional football. Thanks for never ever giving up, sorry I couldn’t see it through, but I need to put my health and family first”

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