By Will Bailey
Thirteen months ago, the world of football stood still as Coronavirus decimated our country, stopping the game at all levels and ending many seasons early.
Clubs lower down the pyramid struggled the most, with the absence of matchday supporters threatening their very survival. Hanley Town have seen the lockdowns as an opportunity to rebuild after the resignation of the club’s former defender and manager Mick Morton.
Morton was replaced by former Stoke City and Port Vale defender Carl Dickinson, as the current Yeovil Town man gets set to take up a player-manager role this summer. The club have also moved fast to bring in Dickinson’s assistant, his former assistant boss at Vale, Dave Kevan.
The former Stoke City and Notts County midfielder has been away from the game since parting company with Port Vale in January, and he has opted to take up the role on a temporary basis.
Kevan said: “I've been out since January and it’s been very frustrating for me personally. The opportunity hasn’t come around and I’ve been missing it.
“It was a very out-of-the-blue, unexpected phone call from Carl. I was his first youth-team coach at Stoke, obviously known him a long, long time, and he just said 'would you be interested in giving us a hand?"
“At the end of the day, that’s why I’m here, to assist Carl, and hopefully he can learn a few things off me which can assist his new career as a manager.”
The former Stoke and Notts County caretaker boss has also enjoyed stints as a coach at the likes of Burnley, Stockport County and Hereford United. He retired from playing in 1994 at the age of 26, having played briefly under Tony Pulis at Bournemouth.
He would later become the Welshman's assistant during his first stint at Stoke. More recently, Kevan was John Askey’s number two at rivals Port Vale, but Askey's sacking also left Kevan without a job - until Dickinson got in touch.
He admits he is still looking for a full-time role, however.
“I have kept in contact with John, with me working with him for so many years. I really did enjoy my time working with him.
“I’m hoping that a time like that will come again. As I’ve said to Carl and everyone at Hanley Town, if the opportunity of going back full-time does come about, then it’s something I’d have to be looking at.
“In the meantime, however, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity here and to get stuck in here, get cracking and hopefully not only be able to help the manager Carl, but also help Hanley Town Football Club.”
The NWCFL Premier Division side came under new ownership in the summer of 2019 when Ron McIlreavy took over the club. During his debut season as chairman, they enjoyed a record-breaking FA Cup run, reaching the second qualifying round, as well as the fourth round of the FA Vase.
On the chairman, Kevan said: “You always see him about the club, he’s very enthusiastic, he’s got tremendous ambition for the football club, and we will try and do our best for it and take it as far as it will go whilst we are here.”
Kevan was at the ground for his announcement on 23rd April, getting a look at the facilities Hanley have to offer. Although the Scotsman has been around League football for the majority of his career, he was hugely impressed by the community feel at Potteries Park.
“The pitch is in fantastic shape and it’s a lovely set-up with the ground. You can really tell that there is a community spirit behind the club.
“Just by stepping through the gates today, I get that feeling, and that is of course very important. Hopefully when we get cracking, that feeling only grows.
“When we get a good team on the pitch, and the fans of the football club are enjoying what they are watching, there truly is no better feeling than that.”
The club have also been busy behind the scenes bringing in a huge amount of gym and physio equipment to aid them going forward. It was this kind of thought process that Kevan found attractive.
“Like I said before with Carl, he knows what I’m about, he’s worked under me as a player, and he knows the type of coach I am. I don’t need to go through my expectations, as he knows what I expect already from the players and their standards.
“With him now transferring over to the other side as it were, I think I’ll be a good foil for him. We can certainly bounce off each other.
“As an assistant, you have to find the balance of what the manager needs sometimes. Of course with Carl, he knows my strengths, he knows how I like taking the training, seeing what the players are about.”