SCUNTHORPE star Dave Syers has revealed the secret of manager Russ Wilcox’s success – keeping the hairdryer unplugged and the teacups unsmashed.
The 50-year-old saw Iron draw 0-0 with Wycombe last Saturday to take his unbeaten run since he took over to 24 games, breaking a record set by Preston’s William Sudell in 1889.
It is a sequence that has seen the Iron climb to second in League Two, seven points clear of the play-off pack and to within touching distance of a return to League One.
Incredibly, Wilcox had never managed a club before, being asked to replace the sacked Brian Laws in December. But Syers says the former centre-half’s career as No.2 is serving him well.
“Everyone knows that the assistant usually has a bond with the players,” said the midfielder, who joined Scunny from Doncaster in January following a 15-game loan spell at Glanford Park.
“He’s the link between the manager and the team. Commnication-wise, we all felt very close to Russ and I think he knew exactly what was going on in the group.
“Throughout this run, he’s known intuitively when the lads are on it and when they need to be left alone to do their stuff. And by the same token, he sees when things are slipping or minds are elsewhere.
“He’s a big old-fashioned centre-half and there have been times in changing rooms down the years when he’s had to say a few harsh words. But one of the things he’s done so well now is to make sure it never gets to that point. He sees the problems coming, cuts them off. He’s never had to raise his voice.
“The only time you need to be tough on a player is when he isn’t working hard enough for you. Everyone has off games and the quality can dip. But the work rate should be constant – that’s what gets you results.
“Russ has been so good at making sure laziness never creeps in and I can’t praise him enough for the way he’s kept everyone level-headed.
“Twenty-three games is a very long time not to have an off-day and I think that’s down to the fact that Russ is so in tune with the players.”
Syers also says Wilcox’s understated arrival and initial insistence on being a stop-gap was the catalyst for the unbeaten run.
“When Russ took over as caretaker manager, he gave the impression he wasn’t in the running for the job,” adds the 26- year-old.
“He always said he was just looking after the lads in the interim. With that in mind, he didn’t let any pressure get to him. And he transferred that to us as a team.
“In his first game, against Portsmouth, it was a case of ‘Listen lads, you’re all good players. I’m not going to say They do this, they do that and try to stop them’. You’re all quality players and whichever 11 I send out will play quality football’.
“It was the simple basics of football, and obviously it worked. We’ve played with a lot of freedom ever since.”
Syers won promotion from League One with Doncaster last season and was a regular under boss Dean Saunders. But the arrival of Paul Dickov saw him slip down the pecking order and the midfielder decided a two-division drop was required to revive his fortunes.
“It was disappointing not to get the opportunity at Doncaster,” says Syers, who has ten goals in 30 games for Scunny.
“But a football career is very short, and for someone like me, who came to the pro game late, you have to make the most of it.
“That’s why I came here and if it end ups with back-to-back promotions on my CV, it will have been a brilliant result.”