From geek to control freak! Boston United boss Craig Elliott was always destined for management, but a career-ending injury gave him additional drive to succeed

Craig Elliott. Photo: Russell Dossett (www.sportspictures.online).
Craig Elliott. Photo: Russell Dossett (www.sportspictures.online).

Craig Elliott is a self-confessed geek and control freak who always dreamt of making it in management since he was a kid memorising fixtures and formations from his notebook.

However, it was a career-ending injury in his 20s that gave the Boston United boss an additional drive and determination to strive for silverware.

Craig Elliott.

Craig Elliott.

“You can never guarantee success, but managing gripped me at a young age after having to retire through injury,” admitted Elliott, whose playing days came to an abrupt end when he was just 27.

After carving out a career as a non-league striker - picking up an NPL Division One promotion with Harrogate Town - it was a knee injury that forced Elliott, by then turning out for North Ferriby United, to face the fact the final whistle had been blown on his playing days.

But Elliott wasn’t ready to turn his back on the game which had always been a big part of his family’s life, instead turning his attention to the dug-out, beginning by taking the reins at Kellingley Welfare and then Glasshoughton Welfare.

“I think my injury escalated it quickly. I got my coaching badges and it started from there,” Elliott added.

Craig Elliott and assistant Darren Smith.

Craig Elliott and assistant Darren Smith.

“I was successful in my first season, four trophies. It just went on from there.

“I’ve talked to other managers who have had similar stories to myself. You feel like you’ve missed out on a bit in the game and I get my buzz from these wins. I feel like a player when I win.”

But while the 39-year-old can relish the highs and work hard on ways to bounce back from the lows, he says his experience has left him with little time for players who are wasteful with their talents.

“I do say this a lot in training,” he said. “It’s a precious career.

Craig Elliott.

Craig Elliott.

“It’s not long, it’ll fly by and an injury can just end it.

“You’ve got to enjoy it and embrace it. Week-in, week-out, give it absolutely everything you can.”

Elliott’s footballing path was paved out for him early on, as a youngster tagging along to watch his dad Ged manage Pontefract Collieries.

It was there on the sidelines he caught the bug and began an in-depth interest in the sport he still holds today.

Craig Elliott.

Craig Elliott.

He told The Standard: “I’ve known (I wanted to manage) since I was little. My dad used to be a manager in non-league and I were a bit of a saddo as a 10, 11-year-old.

“I used to take my book and do all the tackles, shots, formations and know all the teams and goalscorers.

“I was a bit of a geek, and it’s something I’ve carried on.

“It was Pontefract Collieries, in the North East Counties. I used to go every week and watch. Teams like North Shields and Spennymoor would come and I knew all the players.”

Old habits die hard and Elliott still jots down his plans, thoughts and targets.

“My assistants laugh at me,” he said with a smirk. “I’ve got a little black book and it’s getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s something I take great pride in. I am aware of all leagues, all players.”

While the United manager takes stick from his managerial team of Darren Smith, Lee Stratford and Rich Lawrence, recruitment is no laughing matter.

Indeed, it is something taken extremely seriously by Elliott.

“I do a lot of it myself, if I’m being honest. I’m a bit of a control freak in terms of looking for players,” the manager continued.

“Even if they’re recommended, I like to see them myself, get a good feel for them and go early, watch them in warm-ups, get a feel for body language and things like that.

“My assistants go as well. But I have to live and die by my decisions. You see a lot going to games early, watching players, how they carry themselves around the ground, their attitude.

“You don’t want to bring in bad eggs. It’s my decision at the end of the day, so I need to be 100 per cent sure they’re the right characters for us.”

It’s a method that has worked well. After leaving Glasshoughton for Ossett Town, Elliott’s next step was a move to Shaw Lane, delivering three promotions in four seasons with the Ducks.

But in November the chance of a fresh start saw him impress Boston chairman David Newton, who, following the resignation of Adam Murray, was looking for a manager to lead his Pilgrims out of the National League North’s bottom two.

Elliott did that and more, guiding United to a final position of ninth, keeping hopes of a play-off spot mathematically alive until the final day of the season.

But now, as Elliott prepares for his first full season at the Jakemans Stadium, he wants the club to be more than just also-rans.

He said: “I like to put myself under pressure to win games and to be successful.

“I think any manager can come, be mid-table and work week to week. But since day one I’ve been a manager I’ve been challenging myself to win things. I want to win every week.

“I’m proud of my record of never losing three league matches on the trot since I’ve become a manager. It’s something I’m keen to keep hold of.

“It’s important I stay hungry for that, and more.”