Unfinished business and a desire to win trophies persuaded Ryan Hindley to return to Hallam as joint manager with his old assistant and close friend Stephen Whitehead.
Hindley, the man responsible for raising a ship-wrecked Hallam off the bottom of the Toolstation NCEL Division One table and then transforming them into perennial promotion candidates, recently returned to Sandygate nearly three years after leaving for Worksop Town.
His shock return ended a seven-month sabbatical (one spent managing Handsworth over 35s) from NCEL management which began after he ended a brief sojourn with Rossington Main last season.
His sterling work with Hallam, Worksop and Rossington has arguably labelled him as a ‘struggling football team specialist and troubleshooter’, but Hindley does not want the tag. He wants success.
“I’ve not applied for many jobs, but I have gone for one-or-two and I’ve looked at who has got it and thought ‘not sure about that’,” Hindley told Non League Yorkshire.
“Whereas I, and I don’t mind saying it, I have consistently turned clubs around. But I don’t want to be perceived as that person who does that and clubs saying ‘bring him in because he’ll turn it around’.
“I think I deserve better and I have come into a proper football club.
“I win football games whichever way you want to look at it. I went into Rossington who had four points after ten games and turned that around and finished 14th.
“I did it at Hallam, they had zero points after ten games. I took over Worksop who had five senior players and turned them into a very good solid outfit and took further in the FA Vase than ever before.
“I do make things happen, but I always have good backroom staff behind me, people like Steve, Stuart Lowe, Spinky (Craig Spink) at Worksop. It is a collective effort.
“I wouldn’t be back at Hallam if the club didn’t have the ambition. I also feel I have unfinished business because we always got a kick in the short and curlies in the play-offs.
“We have a brilliant squad and I mean that because it is solid. I have a stable committee and board, a brilliant joint manager in Steve and coach in Danny (Cardwell).
“I enjoyed Rossington (last season), but I probably held a gun to them at times because once as (ex-chairman) Carl Stokes left it wasn’t the right place for me.
“I went away and I wasn’t particularly interested in coming back into it, but me and (Hallam chairman) Steve Basford had a chat and it just felt right. The break probably helped me get my love back for football.”
Hallam were bottom with zero points after ten games when retiring player Hindley replaced former Dinnington Town manager Steve Toyne in October 2014. The former Ilkeston Town and Alfreton Town star striker overhauled the squad and with the likes of striker Michael Blythen, Steve Brammer, James Reed, Micah Bishop and Simon Mirfin, Hallam became a force to be reckoned with.
But Hindley could not guide back to the NCEL’s top flight for the first time since 2011. Hallam were always the bridesmaids after successive play-off semi-finals defeats before Hindley was enticed away by Worksop.
Hallam finished third last season under Whitehead, Scott Bates and Dean Bamforth. Bates and Bamforth stepped down in the summer and Whitehead has battled on a sole manager until Hindley’s comeback three games ago.
Hallam are eleventh, but with games-in-hand so a run of victories could easily propel them into the top four. That’s where Hindley has his sights trained on.
“The club is in a much better place off-the-field than it was when I was here before,” he said.
“Steve (Whitehead) has done a great job as he has assembled a great squad and hopefully I can add a little-bit player-wise. But as you can see by our results, I don’t think we’re far away and I don’t think we will be if we keep to the levels that we are at.
“The play-offs defeats do still rankle so I’m just glad the play-offs aren’t here this year, but the top four is available for anyone in the top ten, eleven. It is about who puts that run together. We’re three unbeaten and we have conceded one goal in three. We have turned that corner.
“I’ve told them that we need to be more clinical in the top end of the pitch to make sure we see teams off. If we get that top end right, I don’t see many teams beating us.
“We’re going to still set ourselves up for a strong season next year, but I just think let’s keep picking teams off and see where we go.
“If in the middle of March and we’re in the top eight, we’ve got a chance.
“Teams will drop points because it is a tricky time of the year. People move on, budgets get cut if clubs think ‘we’re not going to get to where we want to get’ so you can always pick up one or two players who might make you stronger.
“I’m happy with this squad at the minute. I think we need more depth because we have some lads who work Saturdays which isn’t ideal. One or two sprinkles would make us stronger.”
Hindley will reunite with Rossington on Tuesday night as Hallam host them at Sandygate, but catching with old friends is on a back-burner as he admits taking three points is essential.
“Rossington are a good side, they’re building something,” he said.
“They are up and down with results, but that’s what happens when you’re building a squad. Slowly, but surely. Credit to them and I wish them all the best.
“It is a great club. It needed something doing off-the-field which they’ve done. But for us it is a must-win, every game is.
“Win Tuesday, win Saturday and suddenly we’re picking teams off.
“Every game in the second half of the season and we’ve quite a few, becomes a cup final and every player in that squad will be needed.”