East Harling manager Stacey Lawrence reflects on his 200 games in charge
When Stacey Lawrence’s playing days were cut short by an Achilles tendon rupture, he never had any intention of becoming a manager.
The former Diss Town Under-18, Dereham Town, Ely City and East Harling player actually lost a lot of passion for the game – particularly at non-league level.
And yet, following an unexpected turn of events, the 35-year-old took charge of East Harling for the 200th occasion last weekend during a 1-1 home draw with Norwich United Under-21s.
It has been a very much unplanned path that Lawrence has taken, but one that he has thoroughly enjoyed, having guided Harling to promotion to Division One of the Hadley & Ottaway Anglian Combination and three cup finals – one of which was played at Carrow Road – over the course of the last six years.
“When I done the injury and finished playing I lost a lot of love for football,” he said.
“I watched West Ham a little bit but from a non-league point of view, because I could not play it, I was not interested.
“A few years went by and I went up the club to watch some cricket and got talking to some people from the football club. They were close to folding and mentioned that nobody had applied for the manager’s job.
“I told them to come to me as a last resort and with no other interest, they did. I still only intended to take the job until they could find someone else, and yet here I am.
“It was hard at first, mainly because I had been out the game for a long time and did not know many people. I called in a few favours and after staying up that season we have grown.
“I actually enjoy it more than playing. It is challenging, it is hard work, there are a lot of hours spent on the phone and washing dirty kit, but there are rewards as well and we have had a lot of them along the way.
“We have taken what was a struggling Division Two club that was in serious danger of folding, given them senior football, three cup finals and a night out at Carrow Road.
“I loved playing for the club – it was where I was happiest playing – and I love managing the club. It has been a great journey and hopefully we will continue to build a stable platform.”
Lawrence’s 201st match at the helm tomorrow promises to be a tough task, with his men heading to Emerald Park to take on a third-placed Gorleston outfit that have won their last three games in a row, scoring a healthy 10 goals in the process (2.30pm).
It is the start of a tricky run of fixtures for Harling (6th), who during the next five weekends with will face four sides within the division’s top six places.
However, the long-serving boss believes that if recent history is anything to go by, his team are more than capable of picking up a big result or two.
“The Kirkley result (6-0 defeat on December 14) was a shock because we normally play well at Thurlow Nunn grounds,” he added.
“We really seem to be able to raise our game in those sort of matches in the bigger stadiums. We scored six at Fakenham and got a point at Norwich United.
“We usually get a performance and the fact that we will have pretty much the same squad to pick from is a big plus.
“Gorleston have been inactive recently with games being called off because of the pitches, so hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella