Sent Her Forward exclusive
Newly promoted Chichester City have lost the manager who led them to the Premier League just a month before their historic first season in the top division begins.
Liam Greenfield, who oversaw just two league defeats in his two seasons in charge, has quit the club for “personal and business reasons”.
He broke the news to the squad tonight at his final training session before handing the managerial reins back to club chairman Matt Wright, who was also Greenfield’s predecessor in the Chichester hot seat.
“This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in life, let alone football,” he said.
The bombshell has stunned the club, but Wright, who was manager for seven years before stepping down in March 2015, is a ready-made replacement for his protegé.
He is relinquishing all responsibilities as chairman of the ladies and youth sections to focus on coaching and managing, leaving club secretary Caz Henry-Evans to take on the role of chairman, in addition to her other duties.
Greenfield, who runs a business in the construction industry, says he can no longer devote the time required to continue the club’s journey through the divisions.
It’s a great shame to lose Liam, but as a club, we’ll keep moving forward – manager Matt Wright
He told Sent Her Forward: “I have prided myself on dedicating as much time as possible in the pursuit of success and demanded that of the players I have managed, also.
“Balancing a dual career has been very challenging over the past 24 months but now is the time to focus on developing my business… and with the promotion into the Premier League, I feel as though I’m no longer able to give up the time that the team requires and deserves.”
Greenfield’s decision has come as a shock, not least to Wright.
“He wasn’t expecting it to happen,” said Henry-Evans. “But when we looked to where we could take the club and who could take it on in the future… bringing in someone we didn’t know or someone who we did, who was one of our best managers ever, it seemed the right thing to do.
“He knows the girls. He can communicate with the girls.”
Chichester City: the key stories
Wright says he is confident of continuing Greenfield’s spectacular success.
He told Sent Her Forward: “I’m devastated that Liam has stopped. I think he’s a great manager, and he’s worked wonders for the club. But it’s come to a time in his life where he has decided that it’s not right for him any more, which is fine – I fully support him leaving.
“But obviously we have to find somebody very quickly to take his place. I was the candidate who was put forward by all of the committee, so I took it.”
Henry-Evans said Wright, who will appoint an assistant, would be manager for the entire season to ensure stability and would be given the chance to continue as boss beyond the coming campaign.
“If he decides to carry on, he will. If not, it gives us plenty of time too appoint a successor,” said Henry-Evans, who has played and worked alongside Wright for a decade and will head the committee that will decide how far to back him.
If precedent is anything to go by, Wright should get most – if not all – of what he feels he needs – he backed Greenfield fully as the talented coach transformed the first-team squad from a promising outfit to an all-conquering one, who finished second in their first campaign under him before winning the Premier League’s South West Division One last term with 19 wins and a draw from 20 unbeaten games.
And he will expect similar support from Henry-Evans and the board, who confirmed the pair’s appointments to their new roles at an emergency meeting this week.
Managing a team competing in the same league as the likes of Charlton Athletic, Coventry United and Portsmouth will be a demanding challenge for Wright, a sports lecturer, who stepped down as boss two years ago because he felt he needed a break – “football takes over your life,” he said at the time – and who also now has responsibility as manager of Chichester City’s new academy.
But Wright says he has no qualms about taking over again and is looking forward to the challenge.
“Back then I was manager, treasurer, chairman, kit man, physio, everything… Since stepping back and reorganising the committee, as chairman, we now have people in all of those posts,” he said.
“So now I will just be concentrating on first-team management and I won’t have to do any other roles within the club.
We will have discussions like we always have and probably still make decisions together – Caz Henry-Evans, chairman and secretary, Chichester City
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with the team that we’ve got. Hopefully, we’ll sign the players that we want to sign and we’ll push on in that division.
Wright added: “It’s a great shame to lose Liam, but as a club, we’ll keep moving forward. We’ve got the right support and structure behind the scenes, with Caz taking all of that on now, and I’ll just concentrate on taking the first team as far as I can.”
Henry-Evans also stepped down from her role as reserve-team manager at the same time as Wright left the first team two years ago, to focus more on her role as club secretary.
She told Sent Her Forward: “I took a step back from coaching in order to progress behind the scenes, and I have done that. We have progressed massively. The fact that I won the South East Counties administrator of the year, and we also won the youth award, suggests [moving] behind the scenes has worked.
“Now I will make the decisions and tell [Wright] what I have done. We will have discussions like we always have and probably still make decisions together. But I will also be around on match days.”
Chichester are finalising their playing staff for the coming Premier League Southern season, with tonight’s dramatic developments potentially influencing who goes and who stays.
Greenfield added: “Although a couple of players may have left, the vast majority of that fantastic squad remain and look hungry to continue their success. Along with that squad, I have also been extremely impressed with the new players that have been training with the team and fully expect them to make a big impact at the club.
“I’m leaving the club with some amazing memories and will always be a supporter of the Green Army.”
Greenfield’s Premier League record
Played: 38 Won: 33 Drawn: 3 Lost: 2 For 144 Against: 16 Points: 102
(adjusted after Shanklin withdrew from league)