Greene draws inspiration from Martin O’Neill

Hunts Post Sports Reporter CARL FIELD gets the lowdown on 44-year-old St Neots Town manager Dennis Greene’s career in the game.

ALREADY approaching almost 30 years in football, Dennis Greene has certainly had his fair share of good and bad luck along the way.

As a player, he was snapped up by Martin O’Neill and experienced back-to-back promotions and two Wembley triumphs with Wycombe Wanderers before tasting success overseas and playing in Europe.

Then, as a manager, he’s been sacked twice, coached abroad, suffered the agony of two gut-wrenching penalty shootout losses before bouncing back at Saints last season.

Born in Bethnal Green, centre-forward Greene’s football journey began as a 16-year-old at Essex Senior League outfit Sawbridgeworth in 1982.

Based in Essex, he then went on to play for the likes of Harlow, Stansted, Epping, Bishop’s Stortford, Stambridge and Chelmsford over the next eight years.

It was his spell at Chelmsford under Danny O’Leary, then of the Southern Premier, that brought him to the attention of O’Neill in 1991, who signed him for then-Conference side Wycombe.

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He was part of the side that won the Conference and FA Trophy double in 1992/93 and also played his part in Wanderers’ promotion from Division Three (now League Two) via the play-offs the very next season.

Then, at the end of that 1993/94 season, Greene turned down a contract extension at Wycombe – who were about go full-time – and opted to return to the Conference, signing for Dagenham & Redbridge.

He explained: “At that time I had a good job as a salesman selling photocopiers and was earning around �30-40,000 a year and Wycombe were only offering me another �100 a week to go full-time.

“I’d have loved to have stayed but I was then 28 and was never going to make a League career at that age. Had I been 21 – or 23 maybe – I may have taken the plunge.

“Financially I think I made the right decision, because I would have had maybe four years and then would have needed to find another job.”

On his time playing under O’Neill, who went on to manage the likes of Celtic and Aston Villa, Greene recalled: “I often delve into my reserve tank and try and remember things that Martin said and how he approached things.

“I used sit in the stands sometimes with Martin when he would watch games and he’d tell me how he looked at players and what he looks at when he signs players and I learnt a lot from him.

“Martin was a very honest manager, had a very dry sense and humour, but you knew exactly where you stood with him and he didn’t lie to you.

“If you were out of the team, he’d tell you why you were out of the team and you made sure you worked on them things to get yourself back in the team.

“He didn’t really coach, but was a very good motivational man-manager, knowing what players were right, what mood they were in and was very methodical in how he picked his teams.”

After leaving Wycombe, Greene spent nearly three years at Dagenham under manager John Still – who he still maintains a good relationship with to this day.

He then returned to Harlow to play under twin-brother David, before heading out to Finland to sign for FC Haka.

During his time at Haka, he helped the team win promotion into the Finnish top flight, as well as winning the Finnish Cup and then playing in the old European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998/99.

Greene played for Windsor & Eton on his return to England and, after quitting playing at 37, took over as manager at then Ryman Division One outfit Windsor in 2001/02.

He guided the club to the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy in 2002/03 – losing out to Aylesbury United on penalties – before jumping ship to join then-Conference South Maidenhead four months into the 2004/05 season.

But things quickly turned sour, as Greene explained: “I’d cut my teeth in management and, having had a decent amount of success at Windsor, I felt it was time to move on.

“I went to see the chairman of Maidenhead, who gave me this vision about going full-time and a new stadium for the club.

“But, after four months, I found out the club were actually �180,000 in debt, weren’t moving to a new stadium and I’d be losing all my players and my budget was being cut from �3,500 to �1,000 a week.

“There was now no money at the club. �1,000 a week is equivalent to S&L Corby at St Neots’ level last year and you can’t pay players �40 a week in the Conference South and expect to win football matches.”

Greene was sacked by Maidenhead seven games into the 2005/06 season – having kept them up against the odds on the final day the season before – but was back in management three months later, at Southern Premier outfit Chesham.

However, he was again let down by broken promises and was sacked shortly after taking over.

In 2007, Greene dropped everything and moved his family out to Spain to run a Charlton Athletic youth academy in Alicante, but returned two years later when funding dried up due to the Addicks’ relegation from the Premier League.

A short stint at Ryman Division One North outfit Ware followed before taking over at Southern Premier side Hemel Hempstead Town, who he guided to the play-off semi-finals in 2008/09, losing out to Farnborough on penalties.

Greene left Hemel by mutual consent shortly into the 2009/10 campaign, following a disagreement with his chairman over a player and joined St Neots as Steve Lomas’ number two just before the turn of the year.

The rest, they say, is history.