This week I spoke with the formidable four about their journey into football, a reflection on their first six months in the role and their ambitious plans moving into next season. WRITES ADAM TONES.
Tony Fawcett, Simon Moody, Wayne Buchanan and Chris Bannon came together as one at the back end of October 2021 for the first time against Seaham Red Star.
The foursome had never previously worked together as a four, but they have that one common goal of winning every game they play.
Since they arrived at the club, they have turned the First Mortgage Glebe into a fortress, the club have not lost a match at home since they took over the dugout.
Their work ethic, knowledge of the game and tactical ability has been there to see from the get-go.
Tony, Simon, Wayne, and Chris could see the squad’s potential from afar. They strive for success and push every player to reach their true potential.
The addition of a few new faces, extra training sessions and an open and honest approach has seen all the players buy into the vision set out.
You might see them regularly in the dugout but now it’s time to jump into the world of the Whickham management team and believe me, the experience these four have is unbelievable.
Firstly, we’ll start with the manager, Tony Fawcett, who surprisingly did not start playing senior football until he was 16 years of age.
Fawcett had a spell with Cullercoats Football Club but played most of his footballing career in the Northern Alliance divisions.
The Whickham manager knows all about winning silverware having collected several winners’ medals during his playing career.
Tony’s playing days were cut short due to a serious neck injury that required surgery.
Fawcett moved straight into coaching with no let-up in success, three promotions and a league cup with Lindisfarne were added to his already impressive haul.
When asked about his reason for making the step into management, he added: “It kind of fell on me, I’ve always been a bit of a leader when I played.
“At Lindisfarne, the manager stepped away, I said I would step in and help for a bit. I quite enjoyed it and had a bit of success.
“I was at university at the time, so I practised what I learnt at university on the lads. It was not something I said I would or wouldn’t do, it just happened.”
Fawcett’s management career like his playing career started with Cullercoats, before moving on to Lindisfarne where the club merged with Monkseaton Juniors to form Monkseaton Football club.
After a successful stint with Monkseaton, Fawcett moved to Ryton for three seasons a spell which he really enjoyed.
After ending his stay with Ryton, Fawcett took the manager’s job at Whitley Bay before joining Whickham in October.
Tony spoke about his experience as a manager, adding: “I’m not littered with experience in terms of higher-level stuff, but it’s been over 10 years or so.
“I’ve always coached, when I was a kid around 15-year-old my dad ran a team and I helped him run it.
“We ran my younger brother’s team for around 4 years and Wallsend Town for five or six years.”
Tony has a close bond with his dad, and it was his dad who give him the hunger to coach.
He said: “I would probably say so, I’ve had decent coaches but nothing that made me think I wanted to do it.
“I’ve done loads with my dad and brother, me and my dad are really close, and we’ve done a lot of football together.”
Fawcett has a passion for Northern League football and jumped at the opportunity to manage Whickham.
He added: “When I left Whitley Bay, I really wanted to do it again, I did not want to give up on coaching and management.
“I thought I still had quite a lot to offer, when the Whickham job became available I applied and had a good chat with the board.
“They felt like really good people, I sat down with Lynn (Ready), Ben (Riley), Danny (Henderson) and Ross (Gregory).
“They give off a good vibe and a family feel to the club which I liked.
“I love Whickham’s ground it’s quirky. It’s not the traditional big stands but I like that. It keeps your feet on the ground and gives you the chance to build upwards.”
Fawcett highlighted the importance of his coaching staff and the in-depth knowledge they provide.
He added: “I’ve worked with Simon for several years, he joined me at Lindisfarne.
“He has been fantastic, he’s my conscience and keeps me on the straight and narrow, his football knowledge is brilliant.
“His role is to figure out the opposition and talk about what is going to happen and question what they are going to do next.
“Whereas we’ll be watching Whickham, he’ll be watching the opposition, he makes you question everything.
“He’s supportive we’ve had some tough times in management together and he always picks me up.”
Fawcett met Chris (Bannon) while manager of Whitley Bay and spoke to him about joining the club after being appointed Whickham’s manager.
“He’s so clever, unreal. When he first came in as goalkeeping coach, I wanted him to work solely with the goalkeeper.
“As soon as we started playing games and he was tapping into the conversation on the sideline, I thought wow he knows a lot.
“Originally it was going to be a three with Chris as the goalkeeping coach, but with his input, he’s had to be put on everything.”
“His knowledge is phenomenal and he’s a good goalkeeper too. He’s probably one of my favourite additions I’ve done over the years.”
Tony met Wayne (Buchanan) at his current employer and tried to sign him after a spell out injured.
Fawcett added: “You can speak to anyone that has played football with him or knows him and they will tell you as well, he’s one of the nicest, caring, and honest guys.
“He’s got this big will to win which is massive, I suppose there was a reason he was a professional.
“When I started working with him it was a no brainer, originally, he was going to help when he could because he’s got children and a young family.
“But Wayne being Wayne he loves his football and he’s bought in massively.
“Wayne’s role is equal to Simon and Chris’ in terms of what we decide, how we pick teams, what formation we play and what tactics we use.
“On a matchday he will take part in the team talks, not loads but he’ll chirp in every now and then if he thinks I’ve missed something, or he needs to add to it.
“He helps lead the warm-up massively and helps in training loads.
“He and Simon run the majority of the sessions; he’ll also take part in some of the sessions which lift’s the rest of the lads.”
“His knowledge and the way he looks at the game is different from Simon’s and Chris’, he’s very much a player in the way he thinks.
“He brings so much enthusiasm, a will to win and his tactical side is brilliant as well.”
Reflecting on his first six months in charge of the Lang Jacks, Fawcett said: “I think it’s been a real position season, but I’m disappointed we’ve lost three games in the league.
“As a whole, it’s been a pleasing one, we’ve set the foundations for next year and I think we are going to be a good side and difficult to play against.
“I think already we’ve turned our goal difference to plus 13 from what was minus twelve.
“It’s been positive in terms of the league form, shaping the squad and putting our philosophy in there.
“Like any other person, I want to win trophies, leagues and cups.”
Moving forward into next season, Tony has big ambitions for the club with the aim to win the league.
“I’m, looking forward to our pre-season, it’s massively football-based rarely will we overrun the lads but they will get fit I can guarantee you that.
“The lads will enjoy their pre-season; we’ve got some decent games lined up.
“I want us to have a really positive pre-season, play some tough games and compete. Play teams that are above and below us.
“In terms of when the season starts, I want us to win every single game we play, I know it sounds naive and impossible, but I want to win every game we play, every single one.”
When asked about his main aim, the Whickham boss made his intentions clear.
He replied: “I want to win every game, if we win every game we’ve won the league, the Vase, Durham Challenge Cup, and the league cup.
“That would be my goal, otherwise I’m not doing my job properly.”
One area that has impressed Fawcett has been the way in which the players have bought into their vision and plans.
He said: “I love the way our lads have bought into our way; we’ve had to make some tough decisions with players and personnel which is not easy and difficult conversations.
“We’ve done them and told them we are not going to take any crap and the lads have bought into that too.”
The management team have taken charge of 19 league matches so far with a win percentage of 63.2%. Results include 12 wins, four draws and three defeats.
One thing is for certain this team has the right mentality, passion to succeed, abundance of knowledge and a will to win.
Four areas in which the formidable four will only continue to push.
The future looks bright for the Lang Jacks.
Manager Profile – Tony Fawcett
Occupation: Secondary school PE teacher
Favourite Team: Newcastle United
Favourite managers of all time: Sir Bobby Robson & Sir Alex Ferguson
Best advice you’ve received: “Don’t worry about it, no one’s going to die”
One word that makes a great footballer: Passion
Other interests: Boxing and coaching his son’s football team.