Manson is confident a deal can be agreed for next season
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Gary Manson is confident that he and fellow co-manager Stewart Ross will be in charge of Wick Academy whenever the new Highland League season gets under way, even though they have been unable to agree a contract while the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are in force.
Manson also confirmed that he is ready to prolong his 20-year playing career at Academy, albeit by providing cover rather than being a regular starter.
It was announced in February that Manson and Ross would be joint managers until the end of season 2019/20 following the resignation of previous boss Tom McKenna. No-one realised at that point that the new duo would have just one game in charge – the 4-1 derby defeat at Brora on March 7 – before the suspension of all football in Scotland.
“It’s so difficult at the moment because we can’t have face-to-face meetings and get round the table and thrash out a deal,” Manson said. “It’s very much the plan to be there next season – it’s just a case of when we can sort out the contract and the ins and outs of what’s going to happen.
“We’re essentially working with no contract at the moment but it’s very much my view, and the club’s view as well, that we’ll be there next season. It’s just a shame at the moment that we can’t get a face-to-face meeting. I’m confident that everything can be sorted out in time.”
Manson (36) made his debut as a 16-year-old in August 2000 and has gone on to rack up 663 appearances for the club, mostly as left-back. He says he won’t be hanging up his boots quite yet but would want to focus more on managing than on playing.
“I’ll probably be available,” he said. “I would be registered as a player as well as the other role I would do.
It’s just a shame we can’t get a face-to-face meeting. I’m confident that everything can be sorted out in time.
“How much I would play, I don’t know. I’ve seen people try and combine the roles before and I don’t think it really works that well.
“I think you’re either one or the other. But we’re relatively short in the defensive area, so if I can be there as cover I’m very confident I can still do a job.
“I’d be there if required – but whether I’d play every week, I very much doubt. The boots aren’t on the peg yet, put it that way.”
While the global pandemic continues, no-one can say when competitive football will resume and this makes it hard to plan ahead for next season.
“We were going to get eight weeks of a close season this year so I would normally have taken four weeks off and then started my own training after four weeks with a view to being ready to go back to pre-season,” Manson said.
“Just now the boys normally would be resting – recovering mentally and physically, just having a complete break from football and training. But with this longer lay-off we’re having, we’ve been asking them to keep themselves ticking over.
“There’s absolutely no clue as to when we’ll get back to playing football so it’s very difficult to plan anything. We can’t even get pre-season friendlies organised – you don’t know who’s going to be available to come up to play friendlies.
“Everything is just up in the air completely. It’s an unprecedented time – no-one has ever had to deal with this before. In terms of organising things it’s very hard.”
I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to coming to watch a game of football again.
However, he is looking forward to Academy’s first home game post-lockdown.
“Hopefully when we do get back to playing football then everyone will come out and support the team,” Manson said. “I’m really looking forward to the first home game after this, to try and get as big a crowd as we possibly can to welcome football back.
“I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to coming to watch a game of football again. It’ll be our first home game as a management team as well.
“It’s obviously well in the distance but I’m looking forward to that, the very first home game after this lockdown, and we can get everybody back watching football and enjoying playing football.
“Everyone needs something to look forward to. Not everyone will look forward to going back to work, but hopefully everyone will look forward to coming back and watching football again.”
Although left-back is his main position, Manson has been versatile enough to play in many other roles.
He reached a landmark in January this year when he scored his 50th goal for Academy – a penalty in a 4-1 home win against Fort William.
“I’ve played all over – I think I have actually played every single position apart from goalkeeper now,” Manson said. “I was quite pleased to get to that milestone [50 goals]. I was sitting on 42 or something like that for a good while and I started taking penalties then, so it was quite a good time to take them. I managed to get up to the 50 mark so I was quite happy with that.”