Where Are They Now? Gary Bennett

Where Are They Now? This week - Gary Bennett
Where Are They Now? This week - Gary Bennett

Despite admitting to know little about Scarborough’s recent footballing ups and downs, former Boro defender Gary Bennett still reminisces about his two seasons at the club.

Bennett, who enjoyed two hugely successful seasons at the McCain Stadium back in the late 1990s after being enticed to the club by gaffer Mick Wadsworth, always chats about the good old days at Boro when he meets BBC colleagues Alastair Yeomans and Ivan Ash.

Bennett with fellow coaches Kieron Brady, Dean Gordon and Julio Arca at his new Academy, Back To Basics

Bennett with fellow coaches Kieron Brady, Dean Gordon and Julio Arca at his new Academy, Back To Basics

The former Sunderland legend, who now runs a football academy alongside former Middlesbrough aces Julio Arca and Dean Gordon, said: “Whenever I see Alastair or Ivan we end up chatting about those two years at Scarborough Football Club.

“They were two hugely enjoyable, hugely successful seasons down at Scarborough.

“Mick (Wadsworth) and I were at Carlisle together and he asked me if I’d like to come to Scarborough with him as a player-coach.

“It was a great opportunity for me to get some good coaching experience and for us to really build something at the club - and that is just what we did.

Bennett during his Boro days

Bennett during his Boro days

“Through my contacts at Sunderland from my playing days, we managed to get in the likes of John Kay, Steve Brodie and Chris Tate - all three did superbly well for the club.

“We already had some fantastic players in the ranks in the likes of Andy Ritchie, Ian Ironside and Jason Rockett, who I formed a great partnership with at the heart of our defence.

“The club was in good shape off the pitch with the likes of Mick, Ray McHale, Glynn Snodin and the spine of the team was good, we just needed to bring in some good young lads and we did just that - we had people talking about Scarborough Football Club.

“We had a couple of superb young lads in midfield in Gareth Williams and Michael McElhatton, they helped the side out as well.”

The club went on to enjoy two brilliant seasons.

He added: “We had two fantasic seasons. The first we narrowly missed out on a play-off place, but in the second we went one better and managed to get into the play-offs, which was a phenomenal achievement for a club and town the size of Scarborough.

“We really should have gone on and beaten Torquay United in the semi-finals and I think we would’ve got promoted if we had.

“It was bitterly disappointing for everyone associated with the club to miss out on the showpiece final.”

The defender formed a rock-solid partnership with Rockett at the heart of a Boro rearguard marshalled superbly by keeper Ian Ironside and added to by right-back Kay.

“Me and Jason enjoyed a superb partnership at the back, it was great playing alongside him.

“We actually scored a lot of goals from defence which really helped the side.

“Having Ian behind us and solid players at full-back also gave us a solid platform to go and attack sides as we played an attacking 4-3-3 formation while I was there.”

Looking back at his time in the Boro changing room, Bennett admits he got along with everyone in the playing and coaching staff, due to his role as player-coach.

He added: “We had a great team spirit in the side, I got on with everyone there as I was keen to make an impact as a player and as a coach.

“Obviously I had a foot in both camps, I was a player and got on with the lads, but Mick had brought me in to help out off the pitch as well, so I had to adapt to that role too.”

Bennett’s time at Boro came to an end after their play-off failure as he moved to Darlington.

“Darlo came in with an offer of £20,000 for me, which at the age of 37, the club couldn’t turn down,” added Bennett.

“Mick had left to take up a role with Bobby Robson at Newcastle United, and I had to think long and hard about things.

“I asked myself if the team could push for the heights we’d reached the previous two seasons, and the answer to that question was no.

“It was a shame but it was for the best that I moved to Darlo. I was travelling down from the North East maybe four or five times a week and anyone who does that drive will know that it’s not the best, so it started to get a bit much, despite us having a car-load coming down from up there.”

Bennett only speaks highly of the Boro fans who flocked to Seamer Road in their thousands during his time at the club.

“We had a great team spirit in the club and the fans seemed to latch onto it,” added Bennett.

“The players and fans would share a drink in the bar after the game, it was a great atmosphere.

“We had some great crowds down at the ground, up to around the 4,000 mark, which is superb given the size of the place.

“People maybe just think of Scarborough as a seaside town, but the people there love their football and they really got behind us while I was there.”

After leaving Boro, Bennett enjoyed a three-year tenure as player-coach at Darlington before taking over as manager.

The Sunderland legend has also taken on a wide range of jobs since hanging up his boots, reluctantly, aged 41.

Bennett added: “I worked at Darlington as a coach and then manager and also coached at Middlesbrough’s Academy as well.

“I set up a coaching school called Back to Basics, with Julio Arca and Dean Gordon just last year and that is going really well.

“I have coached the men’s and women’s sides at the University of Sunderland for about eight or nine years now and I also do some media work with the BBC and have been with the Show Racism The Red Card charity for a number of years now, so I keep very busy.”

Bennett admits he doesn’t know much of Scarborough Athletic, adding: “I used to try and keep track of Boro’s results until things sadly went downhill for them.

“I know that Scarborough Athletic were set up in the aftermath and play down the road in Bridlington, but that’s about it.

“Hopefully they can one day get back to the town as the fans deserve it.”