“This is the way the world ends. / Not with a bang but a whimper.” (TS Eliot)
And so it was for Neil Young. On a slow, rainy Wednesday in January things were looking ok. Three decent performances in a row and resigning the excellent Ross Killock on a season long loan the day before. So it’s something of a shock that he’s gone, but, of course, it’s not that shocking overall. After all, the team are in the relegation places with the teams around us beginning to pick up points.
And that’s the long and short of it; he’s left the club because we’re not in the best position at the minute. It’s a simple truth but one that really needs to be looked at within the context of Young’s whole time at the club, which has been, however you look at it, an unqualified success.
He joined us way back in May 2010 when there really wasn’t a lot of Chester FC to join. Just a supporter’s trust with the keys to a stadium and little else. We weren’t even sure what league we’d be in at that point, yet he somehow managed to first build a team for the Evo-Stik North, and then a title winning team over the course of the season which led to that insane day at Garforth and our first championship win as Chester FC. Then, not satisfied with that, he rebuilt the team and took the Evo-Stik Premier by storm. And then, he did it for a third time to gain promotion to the Conference from the Blue Square North and picked up a Cheshire Senior Cup win on the side too!
I’m sure these achievements will long be poured over and written about (I’d expect something in the next issue of the fanzine about him if I were you!), but there are parts of this decision that seem a bit, well, odd. Firstly, why has it come now, 7 days into a 17 day gap in our fixtures and a nearly a third of the way through January? From this I think we can ascertain that the decision probably was mutual (a sacking would have occurred before January, a resignation after a depressing defeat I think), but what has changed between the start of the month and now? Budgets, players available, or perhaps something to do with his Merseyrail job? Whilst I don’t think that fans should be told everything that happens at the club (that would be mad and unwieldy), it might not harm to have a bit more clarity over what happened here.
Apart from that, it’s almost needless for me to say it, thank you Neil Young. It’s been a fantastic. I never thought I’d have such excellent afternoons in Stalybridge, Stocksbridge or Solihull, be absolutely thrilled with single goal victories over Prescott Cables, Witton Albion and Brackley, or see us put six past anybody. For me though, there are two highlights of his time in charge. The first is that night against Trafford. Our first home league game since reforming was emotional enough, but that performance and putting six on the board was joyous. The second is obvious: beating Wrexham. Beating full-time Wrexham. Beating full-time Wrexham away. Beating full-time Wrexham away with a part-time team.
In short, Neil Young helped to remind every Chester fan of why we follow this little club of ours; because, occasionally, it’s fucking brilliant.