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Tuesday, February 21, 2012
To put it simply, Micky Chapman is Mr Lowestoft Town.
In an age when a footballer’s loyalty is normally directly proportionate to his wage packet, Chapman is a refreshing throwback to a time when playing and managing your hometown club actually meant something.
When the Blues travel to Bury tonight in the semi-finals of the Alan Boon Cup, it will mark the 1,000th time Chapman has taken charge of the Trawlerboys.
Yet Chapman insists he was anything but a natural manager in waiting during his playing days.
“It never entered my head while I was playing,” said the 50-year-old. “All I ever wanted to do was play. It was an honour to play for the town and I loved it.”
Such was Chapman’s desire to keep playing that his first full season in charge was as player-manager in the 1994-95 season.
He admits he found the transition difficult in the early days and, difficult though it is to believe now, with the club pushing for a place in the Blue Square Conference, there followed a time when lack of silverware prompted letters calling for his head.
The detractors looked to have got their way when he was summoned to a meeting by chairman Roy Harper in January 1996.
“I know at one point they were considering sacking me,” he said. “I was called to a meeting with the then chairman Roy Harper – he was a close friend of mine, god rest his soul. He was a nice man, a club stalwart.
“He rung and asked me to come to an urgent meeting as he wanted to talk to me. I think the intention was to sack me but we had a chat and in the end he decided against it.
“If Roy had gone with what I’m led to believe quite a few people on the committee wanted then he would have sacked me. But he was big enough to make his own decision and he stuck by me. I’ve got a lot to thank him for.”
Harper’s good judgement was rewarded in 2000 when the club won the Suffolk Premier Cup – their first trophy in 16 years. Chapman believes it was a watershed moment.
Four years later Chapman was joined on the coaching staff by Ady Gallagher, whose recruitment he describes as “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made”.
With Chapman and Gallagher in tandem the club embarked upon a golden period which saw them win two Eastern Counties league titles before a run to Wembley in the FA Vase – where they lost to a late goal against Kirkham and Wesham.
“There have been a lot of highlights, but leading the team out at Wembley, seeing 15,000 Lowestoft people there, will always live with me,” he said.
“It was the proudest moment of my life. The saddest moment of my career was 90 minutes later when we lost. It was a feeling that we had let them down. The players hadn’t let anyone down – it was just how I felt personally.”
Despite getting to Wembley, Lowestoft struggled in the league and there was again talk that Chapman might consider his future.
Chapman, however, was already planning bigger and better things – by bringing in former Canaries star Craig Fleming and physio Dave Carolan to complete the management team.
“It was a fantastic move,” he said. “I would have to describe Flem as the best signing I’ve ever made. We’ve gone on and gone higher and hopefully it’s not the end of it.”
Back-to-back promotions followed and the club now finds itself at step three of the non league pyramid and Chapman admitted he will not rest until he believes he has taken the club as far as he can.
“I’m ambitious for the people of Lowestoft,” he said. “This town needs something like this. There’s a lot of doom and gloom with a lack of jobs and the recession. A town this size should have Conference football and I would love to bring that to the people of Lowestoft.”