Leaving Knaresborough Town was 'toughest decision' of Paul Stansfield's career

Paul Stansfield said that the decision to leave Knaresborough Town was the “toughest” he’s ever had to make during his entire football career.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 9:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 10:14 pm
Paul Stansfield has stepped down as manager of Knaresborough Town. Picture: Caught Light Photography

The long-serving former Boro player and manager’s resignation was announced by the Manse Lane outfit this week, and it was later revealed that he had accepted a role to head up League Two Harrogate Town’s new academy, which is set to launch this summer – subject to EFL approval.

Stansfield spent six years in the managerial hot-seat at Knaresborough, leading them to the NCEL Division One title and a record-breaking 100-point haul in 2017/18.

And, having helped the club go from strength-to-strength during his time in charge, he admits that he leaves with a heavy heart.

Paul Stansfield's assistant, Paul Clayton (right) has also departed Manse Lane.

“It was really difficult, the toughest decision I’ve had to make in 24 years of being involved in football,” Stansfield said.

“I live in Knaresborough and I love the place. I absolutely love the football club, the people involved there and the players in particular.

“So to leave something that you have quite literally invested blood, sweat and tears in was tough, but I know that it is the right decision for me.

“The opportunity to go and work full-time at a professional football club is one that I couldn’t turn down. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of.

“I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and I do feel really sad, but things change in football, people move on, the game moves on."

Although making the decision to step down at Knaresborough was hard for Stansfield, he admits that he was immediately tempted by the offer to join Harrogate Town following a phonecall "out of the blue" from Simon Weaver.

Yet, as much as he would have liked to have attempted to do both jobs, he insists that juggling the two roles was never a viable option.

"I was really interested [in the academy role at Harrogate Town] from minute one," he added.

"I wanted to get on board straight away but obviously I had a lot to think about with regards my position at Knaresborough Town.

"Realistically I couldn't have done both. I couldn't do justice to either job in that situation. I've worked as a deputy head teacher at a school while managing Knaresborough and balancing both things was really challenging.

"Trying to juggle both of these roles would have been impossible.

"It was hard to let go, but there’s no reason why this can’t be the start of an exciting new chapter for Knaresborough."

Having achieved plenty during his six-year spell at the helm, Stansfield is able to look back on plenty of fond memories from his time as Knaresborough boss.

"Winning the league title was obviously the big one and something that I am really proud of. To go on something like a 15-game winning run and end up with 100 points in a season is phenomenal," he said.

"There was the FA Cup run in 2018 [when the club reached the second qualifying round for the first time in its history] and the actual trophy coming to Manse Lane.

"If someone had told me when I first took the job that Peter Plews [chairman], my captain Will Lenehan - who I've known since he was a kid - and myself would be sat in our dressing room holding the FA Cup, I would never have believed them. It was quite surreal.

"Another moment that stands out was when we looked like we were in a bit of trouble at Christmas [2019] following a few bad results and then we beat a really good Handsworth team 10-1 at Manse Lane.

"That result was one that summed our lads up. When the pressure was on they always showed character and stood up as a group. I'm so grateful to all the players I had at Knaresborough for all their efforts over the years."

A statement released by Boro on Monday said: ‘Knaresborough Town want to thank Paul for all his hard work and commitment to the club as both manager and player and wish him every success in his new venture.’

Stansfield’s assistant, Paul Clayton, has also departed Manse Lane.