Summer Special: Mr Loyal McCann Ready For His New Chapter

Arsene Wenger. Paul Tisdale. Tony Burman and Gary McCann.

Not a few weeks to savour for the football romantics among us.

The long-serving and loyal within the game have fallen like dominoes since Arsenal announced the end of their sovereignty last month.

It’s not just at the tip of the pyramid where eras have come to a sad conclusion.

At Hendon they never imagined life without Gary McCann. Signing as a player in 1997, he took over in 2005 and kept the club in the promotion mix year after year despite limited finances.

He could fight on no more and decided it was time for change last month after over two decade in north London. Hampton asked the former goalkeeper to replace Alan Dowson and a new period has arrived.

“It’s quite strange that four of the longest serving managers in English football have taken charge of their last match within a fortnight of each other,” he told us.

“Three of us lost in the play-offs, it’s not really how you want to go out but if the others are anything like me then they would have loved every minute.

“It feels strange after the best part of 15 years making pre-season plans for another club. They used to call me Mr Hendon, it was clearly a club very close to my heart. That goes without saying.

“I have had a few offers over the years but couldn’t leave. But it’s true what they say, you know when the moment arrives and you’ve come to the end of your journey.

“When we lost the Bostik League play-off final at Dulwich, I knew. I knew I wouldn’t be in charge next season and I knew that was the last time I would be Hendon manager. It was the right time.”

Both manager and new club have one gut-wrenching thing in common.

As Dulwich were shattering Hendon hearts, six days later Braintree Town were doing the same thing to Hampton. Losing a promotion final on penalties will fuel them both in the club’s new chapter.

“It’s never a nice way to end a year!” he said. “A whole season coming down to spot kicks is very difficult when you lose.

“But Hampton have ideas. It’s going to be a great league next season with some big clubs. Torquay United and Woking coming down, Dulwich, Slough and Billericay coming up - then you’ve got the clubs who were here last season and who will be strong, the likes of Chelmsford and Dartford.

“We can’t wait to get started. It’s been a new experience for me but a great one. I’m looking forward to getting to know the supporters.”

It’s a good job few people know their way around London like McCann.

The cabbie has been racing from place to place to get signatures on forms and on Friday the club confirmed eight new arrivals. A number sign from Hendon, while Wealdstone’s Ricky Wellard is also on board.

“It’s been crazy,” he said. “We’ve managed eight new signings and we are re-signing some of last season’s side and let me tell you it’s not been easy!

“But that’s the joys of part time football. I can’t wait for the real stuff to begin and it’s exciting building a new squad at a new club.”

Where next?

Free-Scoring Prior Steps Down To Sign For Dorking Jason Prior has surprised many by leaving Havant & Waterlooville to sign for Dorking Wanderers - weeks after scoring the goal to take them up.
Kudos Paving The Way For A Princes Park Goal Rush! Dartford believe Kudus Oyenuga can fill the scoring boots left by Alfie Pavey.

Hampton & Richmond Borough Video playlist