Fans of National League football will have spotted the somewhat controversial dismissal of John Flanagan, who had guided the Nash to their highest ever league position and equalled their best ever FA cup run.
While they were having a slightly frustrating season, they were picking up points against teams far higher than themselves in the league, including a recent draw with league leaders, Bradford Park Avenue.
Mark Bradshaw has been sworn into the managerial role, which could be a good fit, he is known to the club having played for them (pre-Flanagan) and managed the women’s team at Curzon in the past, however, it could be a testing time for the new manager.
Curzon Ashton are only a handful of points clear of the drop zone, and there are a lot of tough fixtures to come with FC United away this weekend, who are enjoying a resurgence of form in the last couple of weeks. Kidderminster, who are 8 points clear of them and high flyers, Chorley coming up could prove a hard induction for the new manager.
The other game this month? That would be a local derby with Ashton United.
As well as the obvious issue of replacing a fan favourite and a tough few games to get his tenure off the ground Bradshaw is also in a tough league, half of the teams in that league are in the north-west, and 2 are in Tameside, so attracting players to the club is competitive, especially as it is not one of the richer clubs in that league, and lacks the romance of say, FC United.
Curzon has a team made up primarily of young players, Oldham Athletics youth programme seems to be the prime poaching ground for them, while this means that these players have been well coached, it does mean they also lack experience, and unlike other teams in the National League North, don’t have much in the way of older ex – league footballers helping them along with the experience, skill and the level head that goes with it.
Curzon’s porous defence also needs attention, the Nash have kept three clean sheets this season, one of which was a 0:0 draw against Spennymoor. This has led to a few draws in games that wins were achievable, they were 2-1 up against strugglers Southport recently to concede an 80th-minute goal.
They aren’t clocking up the cricket scores that can happen at this level, but they need to erase these mistakes, as this is a hard league to get out of, but so also is the Northern Premiership below them, which they do really need to avoid slipping back into. It’s an more physical game at that level and sharing with the likes of Stalybridge Celtic and Hyde could make it yet more competitive to attract players to the club.
It’s unrealistic for Curzon to aim for beyond mid-table this season I would think, Bradford Park Avenue and Chorley are looking very strong, with Chorley second with two games in hand on most of the league. With the exception of maybe rock bottom Nuneaton, every team below Curzon would have a viable shout for staying up, and quite a few around them are not well clear of the drop zone. It could be a pretty scrappy run for the rest of the season for these teams, so Curzon desperately needs to stop dropping 2 points.
Bradford needs to work with the team that Flanagan established, and will likely have loyalties to him, not the new manager. Working to gain their confidence at a really crucial time of year for the club, I fear may not be easy for him. However, as much as a fan as I was of Flanagan, a change can be as good as a reset, and I wish him the best at the club.