Friday Feature: Ginnelly’s Journey From Sunday League To Boro’ Saviour

Back in December, Jimmy Ginnelly was tasked with arguably one of the most difficult jobs in England – saving Nuneaton Borough from a drop into Step 3 for the first time in almost a decade.

A Nuneaton boy born and bred, the 55-year-old is currently living his boyhood dream at Liberty Way. But after a bad injury effectively ended his playing career at a young age, a career in management became a sound way of overcoming the disappointment.

“I played for the Nuneaton Borough youth and reserve teams back in the early days of my time in football,” he explains to the National League’s Oli Osborn. “At the time it was a real pinnacle for the Club and very difficult to get into the first team.

“I picked up a bad knee injury at 23 and never really recovered, then began to have problems with the other knee, so my focus moved away from the playing side of the game at that point.

“My local pub team had recently lost their manager who was moving abroad,” he continues. “An opportunity came up to run the Reserve team and within two weeks was on the touchline in charge of the first team at Stockingford AA.

“It led to a very successful ten years. Every season we’d be winning league titles, alongside cup silverware at almost every opportunity but we got to a point where we just couldn’t take Stockingford AA any further.

“I got frustrated with the situation, and then took up a position at Atherstone Town, where we finished third in Step 4 and won the Southern Football League Cup in 2009.”

After a successful spell at Atherstone Town, Ginnelly took some time away from management before returning as part of the coaching setup at Barwell the following season.

It would be a match made in heaven for Ginnelly who went on to lead the Canaries to their highest ever league finish – a spell that would catch the eye of new Nuneaton Borough owner Nick Hawkins.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Ginnelly took the role with the aim of reigniting the locals’ passion for their football club.

“It was an incredible time at Barwell,” he said. “When the offer to become Nuneaton Borough manager came up, it was such a tough decision to leave the Club. I have so much time for the people who I have had to leave behind.

“There’s this thing pulling on my heart strings saying ‘football in Nuneaton is dead and has hit rock bottom. Can I be the man to bring that back to this community?’

“This is the only job I would have left Barwell for. The opportunity of taking the job at Nuneaton was pulling on my heartstrings too much to say no to the offer.

“I want to generate the crowds and buzz back around this football club.”

Now a month into life at the Boro, Ginnelly is as determined as ever to turn things around, not just on the field but off it as well.

“I’ve almost taken over a sinking ship,” he said. “But I know the fans are right behind what we’re trying to do, both on the pitch and with the ‘feel-good’ factor we’re trying to create.

“It feels like the town is backing me. The attitude of everyone involved, from staff to players to supporters has been top drawer.

“The Curzon match was our highest attendance of the season, and we’re even running out of room in hospitality! We know the town has an appetite for football, we just have to produce a product on the pitch to keep people coming back for more.

“Behind the scenes, we’re putting a structure in place to help the Club in the long-term, and the supporters who are here week in week out can see the progress of that. We are working tirelessly to get anything right at the Club, both on and off the field, whatever happens at the end of the season.

“We’re aware how big of an achievement it would be for us to stay up, given the circumstances. That doesn’t mean we won’t be given it our all to make it happen.”

Images in Twitter post credited to Simon Kimber.

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