Brett Marshall’s Non League Journey

Brett Marshall with the NCEL Premier Division title in 2012

Armed with just a dog licence and a TV licence, Staveley Miners Welfare manager Brett Marshall has conquered the Northern Counties East League as a manager and chairman.

Marshall led Retford United to the NCEL Premier Division title in 2012, losing just three times in the league despite the club going through one of the league’s most spectacular financial meltdowns.

Three years later Marshall was the chairman of Clipstone when they won Division One. 

Marshall, a very successful and prolific Non League minibus driver as long as there’s fuel in the tank, has brought success to nearly all his clubs, dating back to his Central Midlands League days. 

His football CV is excellent – not that he’s too bothered as memories are more important to him.

This is Brett Marshall’s Non League Journey:

Staveley Miners Welfare manager Brett Marshall

“Football has always about memories for me. I always say to players that they can always go elsewhere for money and some players will do it, but you can’t show your grandkids money because you’ve probably spent. It is all about memories and it is not just about winning cups and trophies because that doesn’t make you a good manager. Anybody can have a lucky season and win a cup. 

“As a manager, put down on a bit of paper what you have achieved at each club, whether that’s a top three finish or a cup run, promotion, league win and let’s see what you have achieved at numerous clubs. That’s why I have the utmost respect for people like Paul Marshall because of what he’s done and his longevity.

“It is about the whole experience for me and this article is not about whether Brett Marshall is a good manager. I don’t particularly care. The only thing I care about is the club I manage and the supporters, that’s it.”

Playing Career 

“I was a striker. I wasn’t some who you would write home about, but I didn’t have a bad goal record and I played in some decent sides. I don’t keep a record of it, but it was a good number and I scored regularly. If someone who watched me play described me they would say I was a good-looking Lee Chapman. I wasn’t a target man when I was younger as I was quite quick. Once you get older, footballers end up going 180 degrees and you turn your back to goal and hold the ball up so my game changed.

“I started playing in 1987/88 and I played for a team called Oakham United who were in a league called the Central Midlands Supreme at that time. It was a good run football club whose got a history of producing high quality footballers. The most famous player to have played for Oakham left two years before I joined was Dion Dublin. He’s been there, so has Mick Saxby, the ex pro, Johnny Miller who is known locally, so it was a terrific football club.

“I played locally after that. I played for Blidworth Welfare and then I moved to Nottingham and played for a team called Greenwood Meadows which was interesting. I also played on a Sunday morning for a few good Sunday sides. I played for Phoenix in Nottingham, Skegby who were a big local side and a big local pub which we used to go to called Ladybrook. I’ve been on tours to Germany playing football. I remember when we were playing in a cup game on a Sunday morning and one of the guys had a transit van with seats from the pub in the back of it and we went to the game sat on them. You wouldn’t never away with it now. I had some wonderful times playing for some great football clubs and they are times I’ll always remember.

“I played with Kenny Burns who played for Forest. I played with him at Oakham. I played with Bob Newton who is famous for playing for Chesterfield. They were always great characters in the dressing room.”

“It was very typical 1980s, 1990s football and very different to what it is now. It was all good fun, no stress and no social media. I was saying to someone the other day I played at what is the equivalent to Step 5 today and you never knew how everyone else got on in the league until you got the Football Post the following morning. Non League Football has changed so much. It is now so instant. I thought of a funny line the other day. If I had to sum up Non League Football on social media, it is like a 1980s knicker factory canteen scenario. Banter is one thing, but the majority of it is not banter. Some people really need to check their blood pressure. It is supposed to be fun.”

Management 

“For anybody who knows me, management probably would have been the last thing that anyone thought I would go into. Believe it or not I was a bit of a joker and a bit of a clown. The older people reading this will know, but something called Rowell Jacks, I used to put it in people’s underpants and back of their shirts. I’ve been in dressing rooms where people have done things you couldn’t print. I do have a few pranks stories, but even now people don’t know it was me who did the prank so I don’t want to go into them!

“I live in Mansfield and a good friend of mine Paul Hyde who is manager of Collingham, me and him met and we ended up doing a bit of coaching at Clipstone Football Club in early 2000s. We went there for a little period and then we got offered a job at Retford United when they had a manager called Neil Pointon who played for Everton. They went on a path of a financial model that just didn’t work because as much Neil was a professional footballer, he didn’t know players locally. Me and Paul went there and had a really successful time there. We did the treble, the only team to do it, winning the Supreme League, the Floodlit Cup and the League Cup. We had some terrific players like Vill Powell, Kevin Noteman, Gary Castledine – all ex pros. Vill was really prolific. He scored 22 goals in one season, but he missed 72 as well. I’m sure he’ll laugh at that. We went into Northern Counties East League, but unfortunately the chairman got into some financial difficulty and suddenly it all went a bit wrong.”

Going It Alone 

“I went on my own then and managed at Southall City in the Central Midlands League Supreme. They had come through the local leagues in Nottingham and ended up getting into the Central Midlands League. I went there in 2005 and I had a good time there. We had three top of the table finishes and got to some cup finals. I met some wonderful people like Colin Abbott, the chairman. He has a big place in my heart and I have a lot of time for him. It is a wonderfully run football club which is in good hands with Jonny Upton who is the manager and was a player for me when I was there. He’s a really nice lad who has a really nice family. 

“I left Southall to go to a team called Kirkby Town who went into Saturday football. I had a great time there and at the time we were playing teams like Sheffield Parramore and Louth Town under Paul Walden. We had some good battles there. Me and him were at loggerheads for a long while. When Louth won the league they only lost a few games and we beat them home and away. I’ll always remember it, but we were playing them and I put a sub on and he scored from 40 yards. As I looked up Wally was storming out of the ground at Kirkby because he was so angry. He was last seen walking up Sutton Road. He’d won the league and I don’t know what more he wanted? He hated losing that much, but he was a diamond of a bloke. Since he passed away late last year I got in touch with his family. He typified everything I love about Non League Football. He was a genuine bloke. I didn’t speak to him week-on week-on, but if I had to pick out five or six people from Non League who really mean a lot to me he’d be certainly one of them.

“We managed to get promoted from the Premier Division into the Supreme Division. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the financial support to get floodlights so I left and went to Blidworth, another good football club.”

Winner Takes All Final Day (2010/11)

Brett Marshall during his time as manager of Blidworth

“We (Bildworth) finished runners-up that season, but it went down to the last game. We were playing Sheffield Parramore on a Saturday, but there was a storm. In the tunnel at the Don Valley you looked out and it must have been under six or inches deep in water. It was 1-1 and it got abandoned at half-time. They put that game to the last game of the season and it was winner takes all. We had a lad called Dean Rick upfront who ended up playing years later for AFC Mansfield. He’d scored 55 goals that season. We went 1-0 up and I’m not sure the order, but I think Parramore equalised and then Dean Rick got a penalty. We only had to draw to win the league and the goalkeeper saved the penalty. Parramore scored at the end to win 2-1 and win the league (and get promoted to the NCEL). Over the season, maybe they shaded it as the best team in the league.”

Move Back to Retford 

Brett Marshall’s Retford United only lost four games during the 2011/12 season

“Unfortunately the club (Blidworth) couldn’t get the ground improvements done so I left and in 2011 I went back to Retford United as manager. Retford had their own problems again. They’d been in the NPL Premier Division, NPL Division One and because they had a few financial problems they had been relegated to the NCEL Premier Division. I went there and the story commences. As I’ve said before, I could write a book on what happened at Retford. Going back to the club was wonderful as I had played there and managed there before, but this was different. I went there with an assistant manager called Graham Walker who was manager of Gedling. In a nutshell to put it together; he brought half a squad from Gedling who finished about fifth or sixth in the Nottinghamshire League and I brought the rest from Bildworth who finished second in the Central Midlands League Supreme League, plus one or two others.

“It is well-documented that I ended up fetching minibuses from Alfreton, paying for them myself and picking lads up. I don’t want to go too deep into the financial woes of the club, but it was an absolute disaster. How I’ll never know, but we had a terrific side. We certainly weren’t on paper the best side, but the mental strength was and we went on and won the league. I think it was my finest achievement. Winning the league was one moment of enjoyment following nine months of pain. We had a lot of luck, like any football club has, such as scoring a lot of last-minute winners.”

“I’ve got a TV Licence and a Dog Licence”

“I always remember the secretary of Retford sending me an email saying ‘I need to know all your (FA coaching) licences so I can send them off to the FA. I sent one back saying ‘I have a TV licence and a dog licence’ and I still have to this day. I’ve never been interested in doing any coaching badges and I don’t pretend I’m a good manager because I have a UEFA B. The dog licence has come in handy in the dressing room when I am been barking orders and the TV licence is useful to Staveley as Terry (Damms) needs about 12 with all the TVs he’s got in the bar.”

Carl Haslam

“We had some wonderful players and I don’t want to single anyone out, but I have to mention Carl Haslam. The lads will laugh when they think about him. He’s the most natural and gifted footballer I’ve been involved with, but the most difficult to manage. He’d turn up with his hair bright pink or turn up after going out dressed as a woman. He’d turn up with suspenders on and then go out and score two goals. Funnily enough we played Staveley and I always remember doing an interview for the Retford Times when it was going to be his debut. They said ‘what’s he like’? I said ‘if you could put him in the mould of a player from my era it would be Paul Gascoigne’. He didn’t have a good game and someone said ‘more like Sheryl’.”

Title-Winning Game

“We beat Thackley 3-0 at home to win the league. The interesting thing is we played Thackley twice previously in that season. They beat us 5-1 in the League Cup and in the league they beat us 2-0. When we went into that last game we had to win (otherwise Bridlington would have won the league). We came in at half-time at 0-0 at Cannon Park and we’d hit the post twice. As people know I’m not the quietest, but it was a team-talk where you had to take a breath. I always remember saying ‘go and do the same and the goals will come’. We scored within 60 seconds. Warren Hatfield scored. Carl Haslam came off the bench and did some magic and bent one into the top corner to make it 2-0. Karl Slack scored to make it 3-0. We won the league and it was wonderful for the lads, considering they played for six and a half months for nothing. It was a wonderful achievement.”

Hucknall Town (2012)

Brett Marshall during a rare happy moment during his brief fling with Hucknall Town

“I left Retford and went to Hucknall and jumped into another financial woes situation. My choice of women has always been slightly better than football clubs. From day one you got that feeling the club was in problems. You could sense issues. Tracksuits didn’t turn up on time. Everything I want from a football club is; is the pitch right, are the kits coming? That’s paramount for me and nothing was in place. It wasn’t good. I left within eight weeks because I got the feeling it wasn’t going to work. It was awful.”

Chairman of Clipstone (2013-2015)

Brett Marshall with the NCEL Division One trophy during his time with Clipstone

“I had an itch and something inside me wanted to prove that you could go into a football club as a chairman and run it properly. A friend of mine Lee Tryner was the manager of Clipstone and he asked the club if they would be interested in me coming in as chairman. I went up and everything was agreed.

“Lee unfortunately left due to work commitments so I ended up being the manager and chairman with a week’s notice before the (2013/14) season started. To cut a long story short, we had a decent season and the success of that year was that we qualified for the FA Cup for the first time in their history. We managed to get a decent side together, but it was difficult doing both jobs. We were begging, stealing and borrowing. We were getting food from my work and a builder was bringing things to get the ground to a suitable standard. 

“I couldn’t carry on doing both jobs. I made the decision to bring the guys (Chris Millington, Stephen Whitehead and Chris Bullock) from Dronfield in. That worked out terrifically as they won the league and we had a great bunch of players. The financial burden on the football club was minimal. We were paying people peanuts. It was basically a win bonus, but for the travelling some had to do to come to Clipstone, they were probably some out of pocket. To end up winning Division One of the NCEL, I was proud of it and it ticked a box for me to say that within two years you could make a football club sustainable and achieve success on the pitch.”

Staveley (2015)

Terry Damms welcoming him Brett Marshall to Staveley in 2015

“I’ve known Terry (Damms) a long time and he spoke to me about going to Staveley. You always get people who offer you jobs, but it was too good to turn down. People didn’t think we’d get on because Terry’s Terry and I’m me, but to fair to him he never gets involved in the football side of it. He hasn’t from day one and he knows I wouldn’t stand for it. He’s the master of organisation and stability. 

“Over the five years we have done well. Apart from the 2016/17 season which was disappointing, we have had three top eight finishes. You’re always going to have one poor season over the longevity of 200+ games. We’ve had some good times like FA Cup runs and we’ve had some great players through the door.

“There’s been some great games and two stand out. One of them is beating Basford in the FA Cup on a Friday night at their place in September 2018 was a big one. It was a great evening and one to remember. Myself, Paul Ward, Ian Bowling and Terry went to Napleon’s nightclub after that. We went for a laugh and stayed there all night. I got in at 6am on the Saturday morning so it was a great night.

“People generally only remember games they won, but when we played South Shields in the FA Vase the year they won it stands out. We lost, but they were probably the best ever side I’ve ever managed against. With people like Julio Arca they were terrific. The people up there were wonderful. We had a great coach and a great laugh. I’ll remember the whole day. Yes we got well-beaten, but looking at their run to the final, 3-0 was quite good!” 

Assistants 

“I’ve known Paul (Ward) for a long time and he’s been a great support. He was a professional footballer in 1993 at Lincoln with my best mate at school, a lad called Jason Kabia. I met him Wardy then. It is the same with Ian Bowling, he was the goalkeeper at Lincoln then.

“People like Graham Walker was a brilliant wingman to me and Jamie Allan who is first team coach for me, I’ve known him a long time. He played for me in one of my old sides. You work with people you know and trust. I’ve trust them with my life. There’s no hidden agendas and I know they are not after my job! We have a good management team, along with Kay the physio who is great. I could mention a lot of people from over the years, but in the current time they are the people who are around me.”

Ejected from Clipstone (October 2015)

Brett Marshall has always been a familiar face on the Non League crowd circuit, apart from one night at Clipstone in 2015

“It was a bit silly. I live five minutes from Clipstone, it is a local club and I try to watch all my local teams when I can. I turned up, paid my £5 and the chairman who succeeded me said ‘give him his money back, he’s not allowed in’. It is well-documented that I wasn’t too happy about it and the chairman said (in the local paper) he wasn’t actually at the game so it couldn’t have happened, but then there was a nice photo from the game of him leaning on the railings. That’s the modern world for you, there’s always someone taking a photo.”

Forgetting to Fill the Staveley Minibus Up

Apart from the time he forgot to fill the Staveley minibus up, Brett Marshall has been a very successful and prolific Non League minibus driver

“It was a pre-season friendly, I’m sure it was at Cleethorpes. I looked down at the gage and I’m sure it said 50 miles and all of a sudden it went down quite quick, 45, 35, 22 and it was chug, chug, chug so I pulled in. One of the guys Ricky Hanson, we gave him the job of running up and down the M18 to get some fuel. He managed to get a lift back to the minibus so we could put the diesel in. That was a good story and I got some stick for that, but we all make mistakes.

“I don’t know how but I’ve always driven minibuses (at clubs). I always remember a great line by a good friend of mine called Lee Dawson. He said to me when I took over at Retford ‘the difference between you and Peter Duffield is he never drove a minibus’. Maybe that’s why I always got jobs!”

2019/20

“You can null and void all you want, but those results are still there. But 2020 is a memory people will always remember and people will want to know who were involved and how people did in the Coronavirus year. It is memories and we had some terrific games. The Bridlington game (5-2 win) stands out, but there were other games we played this season which meant more to me. The odd 1-0 win after a defeat means more to me than what we did at Bridlington.”

2020/21

“It has probably been the most frustrating season I’ve been involved in. I’ve said numerous times that I wanted a clear picture and I knew we would have problems once as we played our first pre-season game at Rainworth when we couldn’t even have a shower and couldn’t get changed indoors. The fact we were going to week to week not knowing if games were on and then having positive cases was tough. We had seven players who ended up with covid and a couple off-the-field, including myself. It has been really difficult and cloudy for me. 

“We brought some very exciting younger players to the club and it has been difficult because we haven’t been able to properly get together. All clubs have had the same problems, but we weren’t able to play any pre-season games at home because of the 3G pitch development. Then we were suddenly thrown into it and it has been tough. It (the season) has been really murky and whatever happens (with the season), happens.

“Whatever happens, whether we restart or start afresh, all I want is a full season; a full league campaign plus the League Cup, the FA Vase, the County Cup and the FA Cup. Anyone is organised wants that. Anyone who only looks at the league doesn’t because they are here today and gone tomorrow. I try and plan constantly, not just the next week, but the week after and the week after that. With the structure of how it was like this season it was pointless to me because it was never going to finish. It was almost like you were playing games for the sake of it. It is like anything, there is no point starting something if you’re not going to finish it. I didn’t enjoy any of the games and I’d have rather not started it. We haven’t had a great start. It has been a mixed bag, but that’s football. We’ll see what happens going forward. I hope we can have a clear run at it in August, but who knows.”

Future

“I honestly don’t how long I’ll manage for. I’ll be honest with you, depending where the season went I was contemplating finishing last year (at the end of the 2019/20). I’d still be involved with the Football Club because I want to repay the faith Terry showed in me. When we had our poor season, 99% of chairman would have got rid of me, but he didn’t. I don’t forget things like that and he knows that. As long as I’m enjoying it (I’ll keep going). The day that I’m not bothered is the day I don’t want to be a manager. You know when the time to finish is. 

“I’ve said this a few times, but you know the time to finish when you haven’t polished your boots on a Thursday night ready for a Saturday. I think that is the same with management. If you’re moaning about this, moaning about that, then it is time to pack in. Don’t take it seriously. It is a part-time hobby and if you’re lucky to achieve something then great. If not, at least you can walk away and say you’ve worked hard. There’s too managers at the moment who come in and win a cup and think they should be managing in League Football. That’s not the case.

“I’ve never felt that. I’ve done what I have wanted to do. I still like building a side and getting the camaraderie right. If it becomes a meat-market and you have to disregard footballers because someone better has come along, that is the day when it doesn’t appeal to me. 

“As I say to people who come to the club, we don’t make wholesale changes. Pre-season is a silly time because you have managers who contact numerous players and end up with five right-backs, seven left-wingers and seven left-footed centre-halves. What they do is cast the net and think nobody will come. They then promise they’ll play every week and they can’t guarantee this. So they don’t give the truth and it goes on and on. The bottom line is be straight and honest and all the older managers will agree with that.

“If you have money, don’t tell them you have money because if you attract players for money, they’ll leave for money. It is as simple as that. If they are short of £10, I’d rather give it to them myself. But I won’t have players who are like that because it upsets the rest of them. 

“We charge £4 to get in and that must be the lowest in the country at Step 5 and it is because it is all about the supporters. How can you throw money at a certain player who doesn’t give two hoots about them? It is all about the players stopping for a drink after and they do (at Staveley). At some football clubs, once as they get their wage packets they are gone within five minutes. 

“I’ve had 20 years in management, I have some unbelievable memories and I’ve really enjoyed it. Anybody who believes it is about more than memories at this level is clueless. It is Non League Football and I love it, but don’t take it too seriously as it is over in an heartbeat.”

If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page. There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.

NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams. When we properly return to ‘action’, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.

We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.

We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.

You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.

Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.

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