As part of the Robins relationship with the Sports Journalism course at the University of Gloucestershire, second year students recently took part in producing a special feature focused on our very own Commercial Manager and club legend John Finnigan. The entries were whittled down to a final three and Charley Reynolds work was selected as the winning feature, as chosen by John himself. Congratulations to Charley whose feature is available to read below.
The toughest part of a player’s career can be once it’s over. For some, life after football is easy to come by, planned and worked for. A lot of players transition into management or coaching, utilising the skills and knowledge they’ve gained over a matter of decades. And some turn their attentions to outside hobbies and interests and away from the game completely. But for former Cheltenham Town captain John Finnigan it was a whole new adventure.
The former Nottingham Forest, Lincoln City, Cheltenham, Kidderminster Harriers and Bishops Cleeve midfielder returned to Whaddon Road in 2015 six years after leaving to face one of his toughest opposition’s yet – an unlikely brand new behind the scenes role as the club’s commercial manager.
“Cheltenham got relegated to the National League four years ago and Marie Carter was the commercial manager and she decided to leave,” said Finnigan.
“The club were making a lot of cutbacks and they wanted someone to come in part-time to do Marie’s job.
“I was doing a lot of coaching in local schools and Paul Baker and Colin Farmer (chairman and director at the time) gave me a call and asked me if I fancied coming in to do some sales which I’d never done before.
“A couple of people who were well known in the town and were well connected really helped me out and the role has just grown from there.”
With his footballing career spanning upwards of 16 years, the 42-year-old became accustomed to the pressure footballers face from supporters and media alike, but he insists what he feels now is incomparable.
He said: “I get a little more uptight now, putting pressure on myself because it’s something that was alien to me as a role whereas football was something that I’ve always done.
“When you come into a new environment all together you end up questioning yourself all the time and I’m trying to improve obviously.
“I’ve just done an online marketing business in football course and I’m looking to go into the next step now, into marketing.
“So, I’m looking to develop myself personally which will hopefully benefit the football club.”
While Finnigan is enjoying his new role, he regrets not considering his post-playing career sooner but is glad he didn’t take the conventional coaching route after he took on a caretaker spell at Kidderminster when Mark Yates left to join Cheltenham in 2009.
“I was playing for a long long time,” said the former Nottingham Forest Academy graduate.
“I remember my parents throughout my career saying go get some qualifications and something under your belt for when you finish, and I was one of the silly ones who thought it was just going to last forever.
“By the time you know it you’re in your thirties and with no qualifications but luckily the club have got me in and I’ve started my education again.
“I think everybody naturally thinks when you’re a player at a club that you will go into coaching.
“I’ve played under coaches that weren’t great and didn’t inspire me to do better and I didn’t want to be one of those.
“You can’t get to football management level without being fully confident with your coaching.
“I’ve got the knowledge but don’t put it across very well.”
The 42-year-old served the club on the pitch for seven years, but now he’s hoping to hit the back of net and his targets off it as they look to climb the English Football League.
He said: “The main things that I do are sponsorships, partnerships, hospitality.
“So, when you go up into the lounges on a matchday that’s all been taken care of by myself.
“It’s getting people in through the door and then keeping them here. It’s bringing in the money on the corporate side.
“A lot of that depends on what’s going on out there (on the pitch) which is out of my hands, but we’ve got to make sure we give them as good value as possible and get a good return on their investment.”
When asked where he sees himself in ten years’ time, Finnigan was hopeful for both the club and his role as commercial manager – for his decision to try something new.
“I’d love to be here still, either in this role or something similar,” he said.
“I’d love to see the club more established at a higher level.
“There’s no reason, when you look at what other clubs are doing, why we can’t be in League One.”