Chester's Double Act Still Have A Score They Want To Settle

They’re the pub quiz question they would rather not be a part of, the preference propping up the bar rather than being the source of the landlord’s Thursday night entertainment behind it.

‘Question number five - name the football managers who were sacked days after winning the league title’.

Even now, Salford City’s parting of ways with Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley having just lifted the National League North trophy is somewhat of a head-scratcher.

There’s not many managers who would be left out of work having just taken the club to their greatest ever day.

Then again, there’s not many bosses who work for a group of the game’s greats hell-bent on catapulting their club through the Pyramid.

Much water has passed under the bridge since the pair departed in May 2018, and two years in at Chester they say the ambition still burns to do it all again.

It was always going to take more than the mother of all knockbacks to stop the former soldier fighting on, all guns blazing.

Johnson said: “It’s not bitterness, it never has been - it’s more about proving people wrong, we’re constantly trying to do that.

“We feel we could manage at National League level and we desperately wanted to, but we weren’t given that chance. It’s a decision we respected and we move on.

“OK, we maybe feel a little cheated, and that’s nothing against the Salford owners at all.

“What you’ve got to remember is that we are going into our 12th season as managers next year. We have served two years or more in all the divisions from North West Counties up.

“In our first game in charge of Ramsbottom we lost 5-0. We felt we’d worked hard enough to get a shot at managing in essentially a full-time league, we put in the graft.

“We felt we earned the opportunity, of course we did - we wanted a shot at it.

“Not many managers can say they weren’t kept on after winning the league but it’s just a part of the path in football. Nothing ever really surprises you.

“We actually felt we would have taken Salford up again, we might have even won that league. But you’ve got to move on and we certainly have.”

Loving the challenge of Chester, the Blues looked a good bet for the play-offs before the curtain came down on the season in early March.

Signing a new deal until the summer of 2023 in the New Year, there’s security for the double act as they look to make up for lost time.

Johnson added: “We’ve worked at a few different varieties of clubs during our time in football, but Chester are something different.

“Ramsbottom United were the village club, while Salford City were the money machine with big ambition.

“Chester are more of the sleeping giant, the historical club who hope to be back playing at a higher level. Being the ones to try to take them there has always excited us.

“We weren’t out of football long when we left Salford, but we certainly didn’t rush into a decision.

“We actually had a chance to go in at a National League club, but like everything the situation has to be right - we didn’t want to just take the first offer that came our way.

“Then we got the call about Chester and it just felt like something we needed to do. We actually accepted the job without knowing the budget for the season! We feel we can have success without being the biggest spending side in the division.”

While some clubs in the National League North have already made new signings and announced re-signings, Johnson says Blues fans may have to remain patient.

Then there’s what happens next, football post-COVID-19 could be a very different place according to the father of three.

“Next season is a very big one but first of all our current season isn’t over,” he added. “Although my lawn is by far the best lawn you will ever see and the time off has been put to good use, we could be going back still if the decision is taken to play the play-offs.

“The other thing is that we don’t know how different things will be once football re-starts. This could change things, and clubs now are going to have a lot of thinking to do.

“I think we’re actually going to see the level of football get better and better. Squads throughout the game are going to be more compact and streamlined - and that means that better players are going to be playing a level down than maybe they should be.

“Clubs will now have more control and there could be a lot more balance going forward.”

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