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Ducks sack manager ahead of promotion run-in

By Doug O'Kane, Sports Editor Wednesday 12th February 2014
Simon Houghton.

Shaw Lane Aquaforce are looking to appoint a new manager in the coming week after sacking Simon Houghton on Saturday following a 1-0 loss at lowly Dinnington.


Houghton – who was appointed in July with the sole target of gaining promotion – was informed of the news over the phone by director of football Doug O'Connor who had made the decision along with owner Craig Wood. The Ducks – thought to be the wealthiest club in Barnsley and one of the richest in the league – are currently third in Division One, one point off promotion. But Saturday's loss, against a side they beat 9-0 earlier in the season, was their fourth in six matches.


"It was a very, very tough phonecall to make," said former Barnsley FC player O'Connor, who is now interim manager.


"I told Simon over the phone on Saturday then went to see him on Monday and we both had a tear in our eyes. I would like to thank him for everything he's done for us. He is a good man and a good manager. He took us a long way and has left us with a good chance of promotion. If we go up, he will have played a big part.


"But four losses in six games is not acceptable. It is relegation form not promotion form. We were unplayable at the start of the season then the wheels came off. Losing to Dinnington was the final nail in the coffin and we decided to finish with Simon. We will see at the end of the season if we have made the right decision. Hopefully the new manager will shake things up and give us that final push over the line."


The Shaw Laners have already received 26 applications, including many from clubs in higher leagues. O'Connor has already met several candidates and the decision could be made as early as today. He said: "We hope to appoint someone very soon. It has to be someone with knowledge of this league and the league above who is willing to come in now and work with our current squad and someone who can hit the ground running."


Cudworth man Houghton – who works for Barnsley Council as a stores manager – was sacked in similar circumstances by Pontefract in 2011. After that he helped both Glasshoughton Welfare and Barnsley club Athersley Recreation to promotion from Division One.


He admitted he expected the decision on Saturday and added: "I am trying not to be bitter although I am very disappointed but what I feel most is relief. I want to enjoy my football and I haven't been enjoying being Aquaforce manager, although I will miss the players because they are a great group of lads. I had been put under a lot of pressure to win games. I am not a miracle-worker.


"I wasn't my normal self in the last few months because of that pressure and it affected the team's results. The club want to go up this season and I think I would have got them up and I still think they will go up, whoever the manager is.


"I have made a lot of friends at the club. I could tell it was hard for Doug O'Connor to tell me on Saturday and he's helped me a lot.


"I have tried my best but the club is not united. If we lost a game or I didn't play a certain player, I felt it was frowned upon by certain people behind the scenes.  It's been very cutthroat and I don't think local football should be like that.


"If they appoint a manager this season and he loses four out of six before the end of the season, will they sack him? It's not how you should run a football club. I don't think the players are very happy about the decision but I have told them to go and get promoted. If they do go up then I think I deserve credit because it's my team.


"We were third in the league, one point off the promotion places, with the top-scorer in the league, the most goals as a team and the second best defence.  It boggles the mind that I have been sacked. "We have lost four in six but we only lost three of the other 23. If people want to see things negatively, then that's how they will see them."