I like to consider myself a glory hunter, I've only been going to Concord Rangers since the turn of the year. However someone who has been there for years is Danny Scopes, he is part of the furniture. Player, Manager and Joint-Manager, Fan, Ball-collector, Waiter, he's done it all.
I spoke to Danny to find out how his Concord journey began...
When did you first arrive at Concord, was it as a player?
I turned up at Concord in November 2005, Concord were in the Essex Senior League then under Eddie Grace, and I arrived from Tilbury as a player.
I did not really know anyone that well at the club, but came to watch a midweek cup game and signed after the game. They've been stuck with me since then...
Apart from Tilbury, where had you played previously?
I played most of my Senior football at Wakering Rovers, playing about 350 games over a 10 year period, it would have been near to 450 without suspensions my dad would say!
I left Wakering to join Tilbury for a season and half, and gained promotion there. Then I left to join Concord.
How did becoming Joint-Manager of Concord come about? Was it something you were always interested in coaching/managing?
I played the remainder of the 2005/2006 season as a player under Eddie and he asked me to be captain and help out with the squad for the following season in the Essex Senior League. Eddie had signed a few players and we were pushing to try and win the league - things did not work out as well and we finished about 7th I think that year. At the end of that season I was planning to stay on again as a player and helping Eddie to build a side to compete better in the league.
Then I received a phone call from the Chairman Anthony Smith saying that we needed an urgent meeting. I met with Ant (in the pub of course) and he explained that Eddie was leaving (long story) and he wanted me to take over as manager. Danny Heale (now Canvey boss) and Dan Trenkel (Wakering boss) were present at the meeting as they were both at Concord the previous season, and I was basically bullied into taking the job by the three of them....Bastards!!
Did you feel you could do the job?
I had always felt that I would become a manager or coach of a team once I finished playing, as I always felt I was a good leader on the pitch. I still thought I could offer something playing, so wanted to be player-manager. Maybe it came a little earlier than I was ready to be honest, but it is very very hard to say no to the Chairman!
So you were thrust into management..
It was two weeks after getting the job, and missing out on a few players that the best call that ever happened to myself and Concord Rangers came about...Danny Cowley asked to come in and help me as a coach with his brother Nicky coming in as a player. I would go as far as saying this may have saved my job as manager of Concord Rangers before the season had even started..haha!
Dan was just what I needed and we built a decent squad, it worked well with Danny coaching and myself playing and managing. The first season we won the Essex Senior League, then we decided to become joint-managers.
What was it like being a joint-manager? Did the working relationship with Danny take time to work, and for each of you to respect each other's thoughts?
Danny Cowley may say different!! However I would say it worked like a dream (pretty successful in the 5 years), we are different people, but we both like to work hard and compete in what we do. I think over the whole time we worked together we never had a cross word and managed to come to a shared solution or decision, which does not happen in many relationships.
The main reason it worked was the fact we stuck together the whole time, we must have spoken every day for 5 years. I knew he had my back, and I had his. That made us so strong as a pair.
Did you have any ex-players who were a right bugger to manage?
Danny Heale once thought he had seen a team sheet without him on it for a game, and decided to get his bag and walk off like a diva - until he realised he had read it wrong! That was just a one off for Danny, he was a great player.
Ashley Miller was like having a stroppy teenager to deal with some days, but he was a cracking player and was excellent for Concord.
There have been a few others I could have smashed around the changing rooms if I had not needed them at times. The bad eggs did not last long at the club...
So what was your best moment when you were managing the club?
It's hard to pick one as I had some amazing times - I would say the first year and winning promotion on the last day of the season away to Barkingside. This was followed by one of the best mini-bus journeys home (trust me there have been a few good ones!) and our presentation evenings afterwards at the club.
To celebrate that promotion after a hard season, with some cracking people, will stick with me for a long time.
So you departed as Joint-Manager, what is your role at the club now? Do you still have one?
I don't really have an official role at the club now. They just can't rid of me!!! - I will do anything to help from getting balls that go out of the ground (although that's Cliff's job really), serving the food to the players after the game, I'm just happy to do anything for the club.
I like to try and be noisy and loud on match-days and help the players to get the result for the club on the pitch. We need to get more noise and atmosphere sometimes, as it does help the players.
I do have the tag of "the thug" which is a bit harsh...
That must come from somewhere..come on fess up. Have you lamped someone at a game?!?
I can't fess up completely but will just say I get a little excited at away games! Haha
I kick every ball when I watch Concord, it's like I'm still playing, and I'm desperate for the team to win, so it can get emotional for me at times.
Anyway I think Lewis Taafe's dad is taking my crown this season. He is an aggressive little man haha!! but he's very funny with it.
You mention creating an atmosphere, what can Concord do to increase their match day support?
We are getting there slowly, I see more regular faces at home games now and I think the word is spreading. We have people bringing their family over, and friends bringing their friends along, and that has helped this year. More people are coming home and away now, which is a great commitment from them. Personally I think once you come a couple of times you're hooked
Yes I agree...
You are so close to the action and you can feel the passion from the benches and the players, you don't often get a game without drama at non-league so it's well worth the money.
We need a few more Canvey supporters to realise that they're watching the wrong team on the Island, and need to come over and support the bigger club!
Saying that would Canvey Island be better served by having just one semi-pro football team?
I think if you were asking me as a neutral, yes of course combined resources would make for a better club all-round and certainly help with competing at this level. As a Concord supporter however, I would say we have worked hard to become the Number 1 club on the Island and if there was to be any coming together, they would have to work on our plans and structure as it has proven to be working.
How different is the Concord Rangers you took charge of in 2006 to the Concord Rangers of 2015?
Wow - apart from the obvious league status and to the team competing at Conference South level on the field, is there for all to see. Off the field the whole set-up of the club has improved every year - the work on the ground from the first year I started has been excellent, new changing rooms, new pitch surroundings/fencing, new dugouts, the tea-bar, plus new stands and seating, and it's all carrying on again next year with more clubhouse and extensive pitch-work planned. The off the pitch structure that all the committee, Ant Smith and Danny Cowley have put in place with the community work and academy next year, will again move the club on. It is truly amazing the progress which has taken place.
To sum it all up - my first game as manager we played Sawbridgeworth at home in front of 57 people. This season we had over a 1000 watching a 1st round FA Cup replay against Mansfield. THAT IS PROGRESS.
How far can Concord Rangers go though?
Concord Rangers have come a long way in a very short space of time, so you have to be realistic, budget and structure wise, we've already done amazing to compete for two seasons in the Conference South. Therefore staying in the league for as long as possible would be a great achievement on it's own at present.
In the current Concord side, what needs improving to possibly push on next season?
I try not to say too much about the playing side other than to Dan himself - I think the side is strong and with a couple of additions and more importantly holding on to the 15/16 we have then we can have another push in this league. Personally I would love to see Harry Elmes get a pre-season and get a chance to prove himself in the Conference South, as he was a massive part in helping the team get to that level. He will be a great asset to the team once he's fully match fit next season.
Who is your favourite current player and why?
Alex Woodyard has been my player of the season this year, he's vital in the midfield. He links defence to attack with his energy and passing...maybe a few more goals from Woody next year haha!!
I have a soft spot for James White also in the midfield and believe they have formed an excellent partnership. I played with James when he was breaking through at Wakering at 16/17, and I can't believe he still doesn't know how to tackle or use his elbows....Haha!
Finally Danny, are you interested in managing a football club again?
You can never say never in football, but it would take a lot for me to get back involved in football management again. I have my own business and two boys that are playing football, so I need to give my time to them. I run my boys teams and would like to progress with them - I'm working my way through the coaching badges every season, I love coaching kids and work for a local academy as well. Maybe in the future I can help push some of these players through into the Concord first team.