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Monday, January 17, 2011

Moving On Up

With Dean Holdsworth swapping Conference side Newport County for League Two Aldershot Town, Nobes looks back at other managers who have made the leap from Non League to Football League.

Dean Holdsworth managed Newport to Conference South glory last season

Good things come to those who wait, so say a famous Irish stout company, anyway. However, it's even better when you don't have to wait. Instead, you can simply grab the first opportunity that comes your way.

That's the scenario Dean Holdsworth faced, when the 42-year-old boss of Conference high-flyers Newport County was approached to fill the vacant post at League Two Aldershot Town after Kevin Dillon's dismissal.

As soon as the Hampshire club came calling, Holdsworth was, appropriately enough, off like a shot. Swapping one phoenix club for another as he looks to establish himself in the 92 club.

He's not the first Non League boss to be in charge of a Football League club without having earned it via promotion though. Here's a look back at some of the others and how they fared or are faring.

Mark Yates

Yates served his apprenticeship in the Conference with Kidderminster Harriers - making steady progress towards the top five over two and a half seasons.

He was given his opportunity in the Football League with former club Cheltenham last term with the Robins struggling towards the foot of League Two.

Steered them to safety and, this term, has the Gloucestershire outfit competing for a place in the play offs.

Verdict: So far, so good.

Mark Cooper

His first job came at Tamworth where, although overseeing their relegation from the Conference, he took the Lambs on a memorable FA Cup run.

Achieved success at Kettering, winning the Conference North title and established them back in the Conference.

The Kettles also enjoyed two fine runs in the FA Cup.

After being linked with various League Two jobs, he was a surprise choice to fill the job at Championship Peterborough.

However, poor results and an ugly style of football saw him last just three months.

Now back in the Conference rebuilding his career with Darlington.

Verdict: Posh were the wrong club for Cooper to take the plunge with. He could still do a job in the lower reaches of the Football League some time.

Martin Allen

With Barnet challenging in the Conference's top five in 2004, Allen got the call from League One strugglers Brentford to help them avoid the drop.

He did just that, and then took them to successive play off finishes, albeit both times the Bees fell short and failed to gain promotion.

His next job came at League Two Milton Keynes, when he again came up short in the play offs.

A short spell at Leicester followed before returning to League One for Cheltenham's battle against the drop in 2008.

This time he failed to win it though and a poor start to last season cost him his job. He's still searching for employment.

Verdict: Downhill since leaving Brentford. His route one style of football aside, at the right club he could do well in the Football League.

Lee Sinnott

Farsley Celtic were in Non League obscurity before Sinnott took them to three promotions in four seasons to help them into the Conference Premier.

In 2007, he was offered a break in the Football League with Port Vale, who were struggling against relegation in League One.

He couldn't prevent Vale from slipping into League Two and he had departed after a few weeks of the next season - less than a year after taking the helm.

Returned to management in the Non Leagues at Northern Premier League side Bradford Park Avenue but was dismissed after failing to challenge for promotion despite a heavy spending spree.

Verdict: Lee Who? Short Football League tenure never likely to be repeated.

Mark Stimson

Stimson was hot property in 2007 after a spectacular start to management.

He had taken Grays Athletic to promotion to the Conference before successive FA Trophy wins and a place in the end of season play offs.

Failing to win promotion with the Essex outfit, he moved to Stevenage where he made it three FA Trophy successes on the bounce.

His penchant for an attractive, attacking based game also won him admirers.

However, when he made the leap up to League One Gillingham he found the going tough. The Gills were relegated - although he led them straight back up again via the play offs 12 months later.

A failure to win a single away win last season saw Gillingham relegated back down again though, and Stimson sacked.

He moved to Barnet over the summer, but left them at the start of the year with the London side rooted in League Two's drop zone.

Verdict: Once a rising star, but two relegations and a torrid time at Barnet have ensured the star has faded. A Non League return surely beckons.

Russell Slade

Gained fame by guiding cash-strapped Scarborough to the FA Cup fourth round where they faced Chelsea.

It earned him a crack in the Football League with Grimsby.

He took the Lincolnshire club to the League Two play off final in 2006, but they ended up on the losing side.

He then moved to League One Yeovil, who he also took to the play off final, only to lose once again.

Departed Huish Park in 2009 and joined Brighton - engineering a miraculous escape from the League One drop.

Was fired last season only to turn up at Leyton Orient, where he remains today after orchestrating another great escape from relegation to League Two last term.

Verdict: Made a niche for himself in the League as a fine fire fighter with an ability to work on a small budget.

Nigel Clough

The son of the legendary Brian spent a decade at the helm of Staffordshire side Burton Albion.

He guided them into the Conference Premier, establishing them as a top five side.

He left them in 2009 top of the table and in pole position to win promotion to the Football League - which they did.

However, he couldn't turn down the advances of Championship side Derby County, where he helped keep the Rams in the division before achieving a mid table finish last term.

With Derby occupying a top half place for the majority of this season, he is making slow progress towards their goal of promotion.

Verdict: Needs to keep progressing or the patience he has been afforded by Derby will begin to run out.

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