Getting to grips with life at Bedford. Gary Setchell, left, and assistant Darren Edey share a laugh with their players.Pictures: BEDFORD TOWN.

Ex-Linnets player and boss GARY SETCHELL rolls back the years by answering Gavin Caney’s questions for the first time since 2016

You took a non-League route to becoming a professional footballer at Rushden & Diamonds. Did your semi-pro background help when you got there?

To be honest I don’t think my non-League background helped me too much as it’s a totally different world going full time.

What did help was how lucky I felt. I couldn’t get my head around senior players moaning about starting at 9am, finishing at 1pm and feeling hard done by.

Non-League players are a totally different breed. It’s tough working on a building site, travelling to play, getting in at midnight and then the alarm going off at 6am for work.

What are your favourite memories from your playing days? Big play-off finals and an FA Trophy final at Wembley must be pretty high up there.

The semi-final of the FA Trophy is the biggest game in football as a non-League player.

It gives the chance to play at Wembley, so to play the game, score the winner and know you and your team-mates are going to play at Wembley is some feeling. Then the build up to the final, the walk on to the pitch across the old greyhound track is something I’ll never forget. I was nervous, proud and trying to take in as much as I could.

You started out in management at Wisbech Town in 2008. Had you always expected to progress to the dugout?

Later on in my career I was captain of the teams I played for.

You seem to be a leader on the pitch so it’s an obvious progression to move into management. I was playing at Wisbech when Steve Taylor got sacked and was asked to take the reins for a while. We picked up a couple of results, I got the bug and the rest is history. What I love is the competition, the winning and the challenges.

As a Lynn lad, what was it like to pull on the famous blue and gold as a player and then fill the dugout for almost 400 games too?

When I got called up for the club’s u18s it felt like a major break. It was the same when I then got the call up to the reserves – it was huge. When John Gidman gave me my first-team debut it was a massive honour, especially for me as a Lynn lad.

I’ve had four promotions with Lynn – one with Peter Morris in 1996, one with Biff (Darren Bloodworth) and Boony (Kevin Boon) in 2004 and two as manager (2012 and 2013).

The playing days were great, the managing days were a mixed bag as the highs were higher but the lows so much lower. Either way I loved my time at Lynn as both player and manager.

Coalville were 17 points clear in 2013 and we all know what happened next. Looking back, what stands out from that incredible title-winning season? 

From that season there was three standout games.

The first was Coalville at home. After them beating us in the FA Vase semi-final in two eventful games in 2011, we owed them one – and they got it, 3-1 in front of 1,100 on a Tuesday night. We didn’t know at the time it would be us two fighting for the title.

The second was in the FA Trophy. We got to the last 16 from Step Four by beating Step One (National League) Telford at The Walks 3-1. It was an amazing day.

The third was that night against Sheffield. Winning the title with a late goal from Shane Tolley and lifting the Evo-Stik (Northern Premier League) Division One South trophy with the home supporters was a brilliant feeling.

You were shown the exit door at The Walks in 2017. Now the dust has settled how do you feel about that decision?

I was bitterly disappointed because at the time I felt we were doing okay and getting the maximum out of the budget that Buster (Keith Chapman, previous owner) had set and then Steve (Stephen Cleeve, current owner) had put in place.

In that respect it was tough because there was a lot of noise about Steve coming in. More money for players, big ideas, big ambition and I never got to see the bigger budget and in turn never got the real chance at Step Three with a top-end budget.

Saying that, after what the club have achieved since, Steve will say it was the right decision as he gained two more promotions. It would be difficult to argue the fact. But I went and got my head down, added another promotion to my CV with Wisbech and I’m now at Bedford Town, which is a great club with a great owner who is looking to take the club forward. We want to be a Step Two club, which is where I believe I am capable of managing.

After leaving Lynn you returned to Wisbech before taking a short break from management? Do you think you’ve been better for that time out?

Going back to Wisbech was mainly because I missed being in football.

It was hard at first because after the big games I’d had at Lynn, it meant I felt I was selling myself short. We got a run going and the dressing room was amazing. We got a promotion had a good FA Vase run and I got my love back.

The season after I’ll still say was probably one of my biggest achievements. With by far and away the smallest budget in the league (Step Four) and with a group of Step Five players basically, we finished outside of the relegation zone, purely on hard work, determination and togetherness.

Back in the hot seat. Gary Setchell is enjoying life at Bedford Town.

You’re flying now at Step Four with some familiar faces at Bedford Town. It’s only November but is the title your aim?

Yes, we want to be a Step Two club in three of four years so our aim is to get promotion.

It’s still early but there was a good base there and I have recruited five or six players and the backing of my owner, and my recruitment with help from Sam Gaughran, has been very productive. I’ve brought in the likes of Pedro (Alex Street), who is a serial promotion machine, as well as players like Rory McAuley, Rene Howe and Craig Mackail-Smith – these fellas are not going to be left wanting in crunch games.

On top of that we’ve got 12 to 13 players aged 18 to 24 so we play with lots of energy, have got good youth, good experience and hopefully can stay lucky with injuries and hopefully get that first promotion.

The facts are…

Name: Gary Setchell

Date of birth: May 8, 1975

Birth place: King’s Lynn

Grew up in: King’s Lynn

Club played for (selected): Kettering Town, Rushden & Diamonds, King’s Lynn, Tamworth, Swaffham Town, Wisbech Town, Fakenham Town

Clubs managed: Wisbech Town (twice), King’s Lynn Town, Bedford Town (current)

Sporting hero: Growing up, Bryan Robson, and more recently Tiger Woods

Twitter: @garysetchell

• Gary Setchell, more commonly known as Setch, has enjoyed 11 senior promotions in football – eight as a player and three as a manager.

• Setch once ran a lap of Ascot Racecourse for a bet while working at the track.

• In 1993, Setchell played for King’s Lynn’s youth, reserve and first team all in the same week. John Gidman gave him his senior debut at Racing Club Warwick.

• The most starstruck the former Linnet has been was when he met Manchester United icon George Best.

• Setch once climbed Snowdon with King’s Lynn Town director of football Robbie Back.

• In 2015, on top of being first-team manager, Setchell took on a full-time role of general manager at King’s Lynn Town.

Quickfire questions

Restaurant or takeaway?

Film or series?

Bath or shower?

Tea or coffee?

Sweet or savoury? Both

Summer or winter?

Day or night?

Holiday or staycation?

Favourite food: Italian

Least favourite: Vegetables

Favourite TV programme: Peaky Blinders

Least favourite:
Any DIY programme

Favourite band/musician: Oasis

Least favourite:
Anything country

Favourite film: Shawshank Redemption

Least favourite: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Answers in italics