Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Chat with Nicky Banger

Nicky Banger played for Oxford for two years between 1997 and 1999, but now works as Commercial Manager at Aldershot Town – our next opponents. Nicky was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his time at Oxford, and also about his role in the commercial side of the game.

So you joined Oxford in 1997, what were your first impressions when you arrived?

I had actually already been offered a three-year contract by Hearts in the Scottish Premier League. But I went to Oxford and trained with Malcolm Crosby and Denis Smith, I listened to their ambitions about where they wanted the club to be and the way they wanted to play and there was a good bunch of lads there – I think Phil Whelan was signing at about the same time. You've got to remember that the First Division was really strong back then. I was living in Southampton at the time so it was convenient for me, I thought it was a nice, homely club where I could easily settle, so it was the right move at the right time. Hearts was just too far for me at the time

So what were the highlights of your time at Oxford?

That Chelsea game in the FA Cup, we should have won 1-0 if not for that Kevin Francis penalty. I scored two goals away at Portsmouth in '98, I'm a Southampton lad so it was great for me to stick two past them. I think I had a good relationship with the crowd, they appreciated the effort that I put in, yeah I could maybe have scored more, but I was being played out on the wing for a lot of that time. We had some strong competition up front so it was good for me to get a good run in the side out on the wing and I made a lot of appearances there.

You mentioned the Chelsea game. Do you think it was a penalty?

Never in a million years. I'll tell you why he gave it though, Kevin Francis was not the most elegant player, shall we say, and he sometimes looked a bit clumsy. The referee saw that awkward challenge and that marred his vision of it. If those cameras back then were as good as what we have today they would show without doubt that he never touched him, we were the better team by a mile that night.

Actually my worst experience at Oxford was in the replay at Stamford Bridge. We were 1-0 up and I went on a mazy run, lost the ball and they took it up the other end and scored. Then in the second half I played a bad ball backwards, they intercepted it and their wonderkid Forssell struck it into the top corner, and I was hauled off. Looking back, it was probably the worst thing I could have done, conceding two goals like that in front of the Sky cameras and I was slaughtered for it for a while after!

Obviously we're used to seeing players go into coaching or management when they retire, so how did you end up involved in the commercial side of things?

Well I did actually get my coaching badges up to UEFA B standard, so I am a qualified coach. I was assistant at Eastleigh and we went from Ryman to Conference South in three seasons. I spent two years as corporate manager at Eastleigh, then spent nine months at Havant and Waterlooville before I was headhunted by Aldershot and that's where I've been ever since.

I was interested in the commercial side because the management of football is so volatile, especially in non-league. I was very good at the commercial side of it and it allowed me to get my life back too, I still enjoy the buzz of being around a football club but I can go on holiday if I want as well and it provides a bit of stability. I enjoy how football clubs work in the lower leagues, or at any level really, and it's my ambition to be the first person to really make money for a football club. You need to be frugal, maximise all revenue streams and you have to look at young players as assets and really invest in development. Lots of owners 'invest' heavily but they put money in and then take it back out again, so they're not really giving the club anything – they don't give, they lend. You can't buy success unless you've got billions to spare like at Man City, at our level if you get tied down to big contracts and then crowds drop you're in trouble. So I'm really motivated by making business work with football. Having a knowledge of the football side and the coaching side as well gives a bit of extra insight, when you've been in football you see things that everyone on the outside doesn't and so I have a better understanding of it than lots of other people doing the same thing.

Do you still speak to many people at Eastleigh? If so, what do you make of their recent takeover?

Interesting. Obviously it's good for the club, a bit of investment – when I was there there was a bit of money put in – but we'll have to watch this space and see how it goes. I just hope the owners don't get bored and that they put in some proper infrastructure so that if the investment stops the club won't crumble.

And finally, what's your forecast for this weekend's match?

It'll be a tough game, we [Aldershot] have been playing well and have been strong at the back but haven't been scoring enough goals. I don't think there will be many goals in it, so it'll probably be a draw – and I'm not just sitting on the fence! But we have to push up and go for the win, we're at home and should have good backing. It's Dean's [Holdsworth] first year at the club and he's learnt a lot, we're in a bit of a blip at the moment but we've been doing the right things and just need to start turning those draws into wins.

Obviously a draw would be a good result for me, having an association with both clubs. I've got some really fond memories of Oxford United, and really enjoyed my time there, I made lots of good friends while I was at the club and still get on well with the staff and directors there now.

Thanks again to Nicky for taking the time to talk to us and for answering our questions.


Thanks very kindly for adjusting the contrast in both those pictures so that the light reflecting off his permatan didn't burn my retinas out!

Post a Comment