Gavin’s Right-hand Man

Interview By Andrew Warshaw

Behind every successful and ambitious manager, there is invariably a highly regarded and trusted No. 2.

None more so than at Enfield Town this season with Jon Nurse providing a crucial extra pair of eyes and ears for Gavin Macpherson.

It’s a partnership that goes back to their days together at Met Police and one built on trust, mutual respect and an almost intuitive chemistry.

Do they always agree? Absolutely not but Jon, who played professionally for Stevenage, Dagenham and Redbridge and Barnet (we’ll forgive him for the last of those!), says the key is all about complementing each other’s skills.

Having played under a series of managers including Graham Westley, Martin Allen and Edgar Davids, Jon picked up an enormous amount of knowledge about different ways of winning games of football.

“I was always intrigued by the whole aspect of coaching,” said Jon who recently passed his A license.  “Of course you can never get the same buzz as crossing that white line as a player on a match day but even before I was a pro, as a youngster I had this feeling coaching was inside of me.”

“I can’t affect the game on the pitch but I can do the work during the week and then trust the players to do what we ask of them.”

Notice use of the word “we”, meaning the entire management team but specifically the relationship between manager and coach.

“Gav and I are very different. I want things done at 100 miles an hour and am quite headstrong whereas Gav is calm, reserved and thoughtful. That’s why he’s a manager and I’m a coach. The fact that we’re opposites, I can get him to think about things in a different way. He always makes the final decision but he allows me to have an opinion.”

“At Step 3 you can’t expect the players to be professional footballers. What we ask them has to be realistic, we build a system around the players that we’ve got.”

The fact that Gavin also coaches, unlike many managers, helps rather than hinders their relationship.

“It means we can divide up training and get more contact time with the players which is difficult if you don’t coach,” Jon explained.

But they do have their differences. “I was a forward whereas Gavin was defender but we try to find a balance. If we always agreed, I’d be a yes man which is not what Gav wants. We are open and honest with each other.”

One thing they agree on with a passion is trying to play the ball on the ground.  Jon fervantly believes that just because he is coaching non-league footballers, that doesn’t mean they lack the ability to play in a certain way.

“If you keep the football, you control the game. I hear people saying ‘oh they’re only non-league players’ but what does that mean? You turn up to play football, not to crash the ball 100 metres simply because it’s the easiest way to get rid of it.”

But keeping possession can also mean sometimes accidentally giving the ball away at our level, surely. “Yes but we don’t jump on people for making mistakes, otherwise they’d never want the football,” Jon told me. “ We’re trying to get the group to feel comfortable.”

Not a lot of people know this but Jon has six international caps for Barbados, the country of his birthplace even though his dad is from Guyana and his mum from Jamaica.

“I had a choice when I was younger but I always wanted to play for my place of birth. Having said that I was shocked when the call came through.”

One highlight was playing against his brother Chris who chose to play for Guyana. “It was a great moment for the family but the other special moment was playing against the USA in Los Angeles. It was a World Cup qualifier and they had a host of Premier League players.  Unforgettable.”

Like many No.2s, John is the antithesis of a publicity seeker but is loving every minute of his partnership with Gavin and working with the rest of the Towners management team. Despite having to travel from south London for training and match days, he is relishing the role.

“I like to go about my business quietly but I can tell instantly whether I can work with someone or whether I can’t. As soon as Gavin got on the phone to me and told me about Enfield Town and how this club suited who we were as human beings, I immediately trusted his judgement.

“It’s down to morals, values and ethics. Gav’s and mine are very aligned. That’s 100 percent why the chemistry works.”