“It’s a dog eat dog world. Snoopy.”
I’ve never forgotten those words from Robbie Back as I sought advice on being a player-manager of a Sunday League side a few years back.
Despite having time for everyone, a list of contacts larger than an old version of the Yellow Pages, Backie knew he had to bite or he’d be bitten.
After 15 years of managing sides, this week has finally been the time for the former prolific striker to admit he’s bitten off more than he can chew.
The problem with people like Robbie Back is running a football team consumes them. It takes over their life. It becomes much more than just a hobby, more than just running a side. It’s like a second job.
This week Backie decided to walk away from his role as boss of King’s Lynn Town Reserves after three years. And it’s definitely the right move for his health and family.
A nasty bout of shingles was the warning sign that things had got too much for the man who enjoyed hugely successful stints in charge of Dersingham Rovers and Reffley Royals.
Working on the Linnets’ website and communicating with fans is barely scratching the surface of what he did. Backie has been the glue that has held everything together at times. Dealing with the press, helping introduce a women’s team and forming links with King’s Lynn Elite were some of the most notable achievements.
But behind the scenes he was equally impactful. Often the mediator; there to ease turbulent times or act as the go-between when hugely pivotal relationships broke down.
To many – with first-team boss Ian Culverhouse communicating to the press less than Gary Setchell did – Backie became the approachable face of King’s Lynn Town FC. It probably didn’t do him any favours in the long run, but it certainly helped the club. And boy will they miss him.
It’ll be the same for the many players who have flourished under his management and now, like Dylan Edge and Eoin McQuaid, play their football with a contract under their belts.
Managers come and go and Backie’s void has already been filled with Ashley Taylor taking over until the end of the season. Yet the Liverpool fan’s worth and efforts are pretty much irreplaceable.
He has gone above and beyond at Lynn and can walk away with his head held high. For a man who has been as ruthless in the dugout as he was inside the penalty box, the outpouring of warmth since the news became public shows that he’s got many things right.
Backie is one of football’s good guys. Even his rivals have plenty of complimentary words to say about him. Perhaps one day he’ll return to the hot seat somewhere.
But for now he should just take a step back, put his feet up, and feel proud of his achievements.
They say every dog has its day, well in Back’s case, he’s had plenty.
Local footy scene reacts
Shane Coldron (Whitton boss): One of the nicest managers I’ve had the pleasure to meet and always provides tough opposition.
Lee Stevenson (Lynn legend): All the best Backie lad. Top geezer! Once a Linnet, always a Linnet #footballfamily
Adam Mason (Joint Yarmouth boss): Top drawer chap. Well done for all your achievements.
Paul Neary (Downham boss): Sorry didn’t get to chat after our game, hope everything’s OK for you. Good luck for the future from all at DTFC.
Stephen Cleeve (Lynn chairman): Big thank you to Backie for all that he has done for the club. He will be missed. Hope Backie gets some much-needed rest and that we will see him at The Walks soon.
Ashley Taylor (Lynn Reserves caretaker): Gutted Backie’s stepping down as he gave me the opportunity to be involved at this football club and I’ve loved working with him. He’s done a fantastic job and I will do all I can to continue his excellent work.
Gary Setchell (Ex-Lynn and current Wisbech boss): Huge loss for Lynn. A great clubman with the club firmly in his heart. #topbloke
Did you know?
- Robbie Back scored more than 100 goals for Swaffham Town.
- Top-six finishes at Dersingham helped break a 106-year points record at the club.
- Won a total of four county cups as a player and manager.
- Backie is an ardent Liverpool supporter.