Curly’s Redditch reign gets off to explosive start

Redditch United assistant manager Curly O’Callaghan found his new club in the media spotlight last Saturday after striker Josh McKenzie was arrested following Reds’ abandoned Evo-Stik Southern Premier League clash at Chesham.

McKenzie lashed out at referee Chris Wicks after receiving a second yellow card for a challenge on Rob Bartley which resulted in a penalty award for the hosts.

The game was subsequently halted with Chesham leading 1-0, with the former Alvechurch, Boldmere and Atherstone forward later questioned by detectives from Thames Valley Police.

Within minutes of the incident, Redditch chairman Chris Swan said the club had cancelled McKenzie’s registration and revealed the player would never play for the club again.

“We pride ourselves on fair play and will not tolerate this kind of behaviour,” said Swan.

“The team has worked very hard over the past few weeks and we will not let this one individual tarnish the reputation of our much-loved club.”

However, O’Callaghan, who was only three games into his new role after leaving Stockton, said the incident was something no one could have foreseen.

“In the two games I’d had at the club I didn’t see it in the lad at all - he totally lost control,” said O’Callaghan.

“The club’s released him, but in life you’re all responsible for your own actions.

“He’s a young boy and he knows what he’s done. He’ll know he’s made a massive mistake and he’ll dust himself down and learn from it.”

The controversy could not take away from an amazing turnaround for O’Callaghan, who felt his chance of being involved again at Southern League level had gone following a 14-month battle with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

The former Woodford, Southam and Stockton manager had consigned himself to weekends at garden centres and running about his son Tom, who is just starting to make his way in the game.

However, he said the opportunity to get back in the game at a good level was a difficult one to turn down.

“It’s a good chance for me,” he said.

“I had a phone call out of the blue from the chairman, had a good think about it and decided to take them up on the offer.

“I thought I was done at that level.

“When you’re out for a length of time you lose a bit of passion for it and I didn’t know if I would get the passion back.

“But I’m back and I’m enjoying it.”

The keen Brakes fan refused to look ahead to his side’s league visit to the New Windmill in the new year, bringing out the cliched ‘one game at a time’ response.

But he did concede that a place in the dugout on January 2 would be something worth celebrating for the Premier Division strugglers.

“We’re slowly turning the corner. We’re bringing in players with experience at this level and we had a great victory against Cambridge.

“If we get to the Leamington game I know we’ll have been doing something right.”