Modest Ilkeston Town boss Lee Fowler shares award glory

Lee Fowler - MPL Manager of the Year
Lee Fowler - MPL Manager of the Year

Ilkeston Town boss Lee Fowler paid tribute to predecessors Steve Chettle and Martin McIntosh after being named Midland Football League Manager of the Year.

Fowler saw the Robins home to the title after taking over the hot seat four months from the end of a season in which he was the third manager in charge.

A modest Fowler said: “Don’t get me wrong it’s a good accolade and I will take it. It’s my first season here and I have won the league and got manager of the year.

“It’s nice, but I am under no illusions. I am a realist and I would rather be truthful to myself and others.

“I was only here for four months and over a longer period of the season others might have got it, so I thank them for that.

“As we won the league maybe it was easier for me to be the overall manager of the year, but Chets (Chettle) and Macca (McIntosh) have been there as well this season so we share the accolade anyway.

“You get egos in football where people say – it was me, I won that title. But the foundations were built before I got there and I just continued it through.

“We got there in the end and Macca played his part before he left and Chets had done the work the previous year as well as Deaks (Ian Deakin, assistant manager) and my staff.

“I am the one who gets the trophy but there are a lot of people who deserve to be mentioned as well.”

Fowler said, without winning a title, he felt other managers did as well as him with different budgets and squads.

“It’s one of those. There are other managers who deserve it,” he said.

“Different managers have worked under different circumstances at other clubs and their objective may have been to stay in the league on a small budget. That is just as successful as us winning the league with a little bit more money.

“It’s all conjecture to me. I thought the Romulus manager (Mark Swann) did really well. He went in there just before me – his first game was my first home game and we beat them 3-0.

“They caused us all sorts of problems and I think they lost just two games all season while he was there.”

He added: “Someone Tweeted me the other day saying it’s easy having the biggest budget in the league.

“But we didn’t have the biggest budget in the league. They think as we have the biggest fan base we automatically pay the biggest money.

“I know full well there are two or three other teams who had bigger budgets than us.”

And it is the club budget that will be on the agenda tomorrow (Wednesday) when Fowler finally gets to sit down with owner and chairman Alan Hardy and find out his objectives at the new step four level of the Evo-Stik NPL South East Division.

“We have a meeting organised at Meadow Lane and after that we should have a clearer picture of where we are,” said Fowler. “Everything has been on hold.

“We have agreed terms with the majority of the group from last season but we need a couple more little sprinkles into that.

“We did meet quite a few players early on and a couple of them have gone on to sign for other clubs now.”

Fowler has no idea if survival or a third promotion in a row is Hardy’s target.

“Without knowing the budget or our objectives it is hard to speak to players as we may be expected to produce a different kind of success next year rather than an actual promotion,” he said.

“Some people might want to join us because we are going to win the league.

“If we don’t get the budget for that then our objective may be staying up or mid-table. The budget will determine where we will be as a club.

“Initially you always want to sit down with players and see where they are and what makes them tick.

“I had a few phone calls from players higher up the league and nine times out of 10 they just want to get as much money as they possibly can.”

He added: “Pretty soon within a conversation if they start to talk about money early then they are not really the type of people that suit us.

“As a player you should talk about how you play and where do you see me playing? Talk football first rather than financial figures.

“But we do have players who will come in. Ilkeston is a good club with a good fan base so you’ll always get players in.

“We want people who live as close as possible to us as we don’t want lads missing training every week.”