CHRIS IWELUMO admits his role as Chester’s assistant manager couldn’t continue but is delighted to have returned as first-team striker coach.
The former Scotland international was appointed as Jon McCarthy’s number two back in November, after Ian Sharps left to join Walsall, and the 38-year-old’s arrival was seen as a real coup by the Blues.
Iwelumo had made it clear to both Chester and the fans that he would be continuing in his role as a pundit on the Football League show, and would be forced to miss some of the Blues’ fixtures during the campaign.
However, as results nosedived during the second part of the season, Iwelumo feels he became a ‘scapegoat’ for the fans as his absence was cited as having a negative impact on performances.
The former Burnley, Colchester and Wolves striker believes that criticism was unfair but accepts the fans were ‘understandably’ looking for someone to blame for the Blues’ poor run of form.
“I’ve still got my media commitments, that was one of the big factors last year. I understood that when Chester approached me about the job last year and they understood my commitments,” he said. “I’d gone back to university and got a degree, the media stuff was going well, and with Chester being a part-time club they couldn’t afford to bring me in on a full-time wage, which is completely understandable, but the fans have to know that we’ve all got bills to pay and mouths to feed, and my media roles are a key part of my income, it’s my living.
“I stressed to the board that I didn’t want any negativity coming to the gaffer when I wasn’t there, but when results went against us then it's only natural that people look for reasons. ‘Why has that happened? The assistant isn’t there’. I was an easy scapegoat for the fans.
“It’s understandable but I felt bad. I felt bad for taking on work. I’d been told by the club and the gaffer that whenever work came up, I was free to go and do it, but I felt so bad for Jon because I knew what the reaction would be if there was a negative result.
“I could’ve missed every Saturday game from November onwards but I felt I had a responsibility and a duty to be there as often as possible. Of course, you get criticised but you can’t please everyone all the time.”
Tom Shaw has since been appointed as Chester’s player assistant/manager with Iwelumo taking on a new role as a first-team striker coach and the ex-Stoke frontman admits the new set-up is ‘perfect’ having wanted to avoid a situation where he had to leave what he describes as a ‘fantastic club’.
“I’m in a good place now. When media comes up, I’ll go and do it, Jon knows that and he’s been a legend in allowing me the flexibility to go and do that,” he explained.
“I’ll be at matches, but at least this season the fans will see Shawsy on that touchline each week and they won’t miss my ugly face!
“Being striker coach is a fantastic role at a fantastic club and I am delighted to be here. I want to be part of it and I believe there will be great things happening here.
“The fans now have that focal point in Tom which is fantastic, but I’m still here and I’ll give as much input as I can to help. We’re such a united group and we’re all working towards the same goals.
“It’s a perfect situation now. I can have peace of mind that I can go and work when I need to, but also I’ll try to be with the group as often as I can on matchdays. The gaffer ticks so many boxes. It’s all about progression, taking steps in the right direction and for me he’s the right man for this club and will take it a long way.”
See full story in the Chester Leader