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Gainsborough appoint vastly experienced former Football League defender turned manager

Gainsborough Trinity appoint vastly experienced former Football League defender turned manager Russ Wilcox, the club confirmed on Tuesday.

Wilcox, 59, comes in to replace Neal Bishop, who stepped down earlier this month citing personal reasons.

A full and thorough recruitment process over the last 10 days has concluded with Wilcox the chosen man to take them forward.

He helped Farsley Celtic avoid relegation on the last day of the 2022/23 National League North season but resigned less than a month later, after less than 18 months in charge.


Gainsborough Trinity are thrilled to confirm the appointment of Russ Wilcox as our new First Team Manager. Russ takes over from Neal Bishop who departed ten days ago, taking charge of training this week, ahead of a crucial run of games against sides around us in the Pitching In Northern Premier League. The Board have undertaken a full and thorough recruitment process over the last ten days.

The Board have been delighted by both the quantity and quality of applications as CEO Matt Boles explained, “That in itself was a welcome headache to have. We had some tough, extremely tough choices and shortlisted six candidates for interview. Again, this was a very thorough process that left the board with some difficult decisions. However, by the end of the process, we were unanimous in our decision to offer the role to Russ.”

Wilcox was the standout candidate from an impressive pool of applicants, as Matt continued, “We are absolutely delighted to secure a manager of the calibre of Russ. His experience and reputation within the game speaks for itself. We believe this is the right appointment for the club and are delighted that Russ has accepted our offer to become First Team Manager at Gainsborough Trinity. Having interviewed Russ and having a number of subsequent discussions, it is clear that his passion and vision to take our club forward is something we should all be excited about. I look forward to working with Russ and helping to deliver our objectives for the club and you the fans.”

During a long and distinguished playing career, the 59 year old made over a hundred appearances at four clubs, playing as a defender. Having hung up his boots in 2003, he had his first taste of management nearly two decades ago, in 2004, when he took over as Caretaker Manager for a short time at Scunthorpe United.

When not in charge, Wilcox was a very successful right hand man, occupying a number of Assistant Manager roles, working alongside Brian Laws both at Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley. A further role as Assistant saw him paired with Lee Bradbury at Bournemouth in League one.

Russ having bided his time as a number two, ahead of his next opportunity in the hot seat, a spell at York that was sandwiched between his second and third spells with the Iron, before joining Vanarama National League strugglers, Farsley Celtic.

At Farsley, the new Trinity boss twice defied the odds to keep the West Yorkshire based side at Step 2 of the Non-League Pyramid, prior to stepping down after his first full season at the club, before being replaced by last season’s Trinity top scorer, Clayton Donaldson.

Initially, having taken over at the Citidel, Farsley were rooted to the bottom of the VNLN, having failed to win in the three months prior. Following his arrival, he oversaw a turnaround in fortunes that saw Farsley stay up on the final day. Beating the drop for a second time to preserve the Celts’ status at their highest level, including their best run in the FA Trophy, losing to eventual finalists Gateshead on penalties.

The new Gainsborough Trinity boss cannot wait to get his teeth into the task in hand at DN21. In his first exclusive interview for the Gainsborough Trinity website, Russ indicated what drew him to the football club and outlined his vision for Gainsborough,

“We want supporters leaving with smiles on their faces. It’s ultimately a results business and we’ll be doing everything we can to get results. We have only had seven games so far, there are thirty-five games left to play, and anything can happen in football. I’ve seen a lot of the games, but I’m really looking forward to getting down to business with the group. Everyone starts with a clean slate – and the opportunity to impress.”

Describing the style of play he likes to adopt, coupled with his knowledge of the group of players here, it’s clear to see a clear plan in the new man’s head,

“I’ll be tough, I’ll be fair, I’ll be demanding. I want to get the basics right, I’m not all in for a philosophy, we will be flexible – and find different ways to win. If you have a predictable formation, a predictive style, teams will work you out. We’ll win ugly if we have to. The starting point is working harder for each other, the togetherness and spirit are important. Being compact and organised, we start work on that immediately.”

Welcome to Gainsborough Russ, we are all right behind you! Wilcox takes charge of training tonight (Tuesday) and Thursday, ahead of our home game against Atherton Collieries on Saturday. Kick off at 3pm. Let’s turn out in force, back the Blues and get the Northolme bouncing!

Words by Rob Hughes (@AATM_Media)

Wilcox returns to management after his departure from Farsley Celtic earlier this year.

Wilcox thanked the club for the opportunity, saying in his statement: “To go back to where it all started for me in non-league football was a fresh and exciting challenge. My first task after taking over in late January 2022 was to try to retain National League North status, with the team having not won in the previous three months and sitting firmly bottom of the league.

“We had to find ways to win football matches and accumulate enough points to earn the right to stay in that league. Thankfully, we ground out results against all the odds and achieved safety on the last day of the season, and we celebrated as if we had won promotion!

“In the 2022-2023 season we again managed to fight off the threat of relegation, finally finishing fifth bottom with our hard working and committed semi-professional squad.

“It doesn’t matter at what level you’re working at, the thrill and spirit of football remains the same across the levels from the Premier League to local grassroots leagues, and the feeling of retaining National League North status for all at the club for each of these two years has been fantastic.

“In addition, in 2022-2023 we reached the FA Trophy Quarter-Final stage, unfortunately being knocked out on penalties. This is the furthest that the club has ever progressed in this competition, and we were the lowest ranked team left in the competition.

“This was all testament to the hard work of all concerned, competing against professional and hybrid clubs with much bigger squads and budgets at their disposal. I am immensely proud of the team spirit we built with our semi-professional players and the memories we created for our loyal fans.

“It is now time for the next chapter for me. I have loved my time at Farsley and the opportunities that it has given me. It makes the job so very worthwhile to see players like the experienced Andy Butler with 700 league games fight like it’s his last ever game and to nurture the development of young loan players from the EFL in the tough world of non-league football, hopefully giving them the experience and a firm foundation for a career in football.

“A huge thank you to my assistant Steve Thornber and all the staff who have worked with me at training and on match days, you have all been a great support.

“And to all those who give their own time to enable the football club to operate on a day to day basis, what dedication and commitment you show for your football club; again, thank you. Finally, thank you to our fabulous squad of players and fans for giving everything to make this season a successful one for the club. Up the Celts.”

Here’s what Twitter users had to say as Gainsborough appoint the vastly experienced former Football League defender turned manager…

@JamesHa94149667: Good Luck ⚽️ Russ

@doddoneout: Brilliant appointment! Fingers crossed he can replicate his unbeaten streak from Scunthorpe!

@happyangler123: You’ve got a good un there

@ST220FCFC: All the best rus, got yourself a cracker there

@MUFCRazza: Welcome to the Holy Blues 🔵 #UTHB #GTFC

@pgjackson1: Like that

@SteveOnTrent: And we go again, c’mon Blues’. #Holyblues #TrinityFC1873

@thumpermaxie: Best to all at Trinity.

@SouthamPatrick: Quality appointment.

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