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Stamford AFC manager Graham Drury signs a new two-year contract with the Northern Premier League South East Division club

A sense of unfinished business and the 'unbelievable' response of his current set of players in remaining committed to the Stamford cause has prompted manager Graham Drury to extend his stay at the Zeeco Stadium.

The long-serving Daniels boss turns 50 in April and he had initially indicated this would be his last season in football.

However, with Stamford looking unlikely to get their deserved shot at promotion from the Northern Premier League South East Division this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Daniels manager doesn't want to bow out just yet.

Graham Drury (44361936)
Graham Drury (44361936)

He held a Zoom meeting with his current crop of players this week and their reaction about future plans then prompted him to pen a new two-year contract which will keep him at the Zeeco Stadium until the end of the 2022/23 campaign.

Drury commented: "The players were quite shocked that I was even contemplating retiring from football, but I said that if the majority were looking to give it another blast and see where we go with it then I would be happy to do the same.

"I don't want a total rebuild again and, if that was the case, then I would have packed in.

"I didn't want to put them on the spot and I will still speak to them individually, but the response from the lads has been unbelievable.

"It's the first time that the club have offered me a two-year deal and they obviously want to build on what we're doing at the moment. The group of lads we have here are the main reason that I have decided to stay. There is no doubt on that."

Manager Graham Drury has had an 'unbelievable' response from his players. Photo: Dan Allen(44364240)
Manager Graham Drury has had an 'unbelievable' response from his players. Photo: Dan Allen(44364240)

Drury first joined the Daniels in 2004 from United Counties League side Harrowby United and led the club to promotion in his first season at the helm.

He then departed to manage Corby Town before returning in 2012 when his tenure was then ended after an offer to take charge of Boston United.

Drury returned to the Daniels for a third time after leaving the Pilgrims and led Stamford on their best-ever FA Cup run to the first round proper where they were defeated by Hartlepool United.

Stamford then reached the league play-off final the following season before being beaten by Bedworth in extra-time.

They were strongly placed to challenge for the title last season when the coronavirus pandemic curtailed their bid and were unbeaten in South East Division action this term before the suspension of the current campaign until March 6.

Drury added: "I have had 10 seasons with the club now over the three terms and it's part of my furniture.

"I have been fortunate to get promotions with other clubs as well as Stamford which has also been down to hard work so to go out after a season where we have been really unfortunate not to tick another promotion off would be a bit of a let-down.

"I have been managing for 21 seasons from starting at Harrowby so, if you have done it for such a long time, you want to go out on a high or make sure that your final season is a successful one.

"The FA Trophy was a success this season and I still sit back and think if we had been playing constantly we would have beaten Hereford.

Stamford claimed the FA Trophy scalp of Kidderminster Harriers this season. Photo: Alan Walters (44364244)
Stamford claimed the FA Trophy scalp of Kidderminster Harriers this season. Photo: Alan Walters (44364244)

"The lads were confident that, if they had been playing week in, week out, they could have beaten them but they all felt that jadedness and level of lack of match fitness.

"I did have a lovely message from Steve Burr at Hereford though after I congratulated him on their win at the weekend. He felt that we would more than hold our own in their division.

"We have proved over the last two seasons that we are good enough for our division and, with the sides we have beaten, we would more then hold our own in a decent top half area at the level above so there is definitely unfinished business."

Drury admitted that he was considering cutting his ties with the game after revealing he hadn't been on a family holiday for 21 years.

He explained: "The reason why I had planned to finish at 50 was so that I could start having family holidays again.

"I have sent my wife to America, Spain and Cyprus with my son in the past so I always said that I would holiday more when I turned 50.

"The reason that I haven't gone with them before is that I didn't want to miss out on signing players.

"I was away once when I had the chance to sign goalkeeper Mario Ziccardi but missed out on getting him because I wasn't about.

"I was completely fuming and it ruined the holiday so I didn't go any more as I didn't want it to happen again."

Stamford bowed out of the FA Trophy against Hereford. Photo: Alan Walters (44364242)
Stamford bowed out of the FA Trophy against Hereford. Photo: Alan Walters (44364242)

The Daniels boss has also rejected the chance of a higher level offer this season and feels Stamford is the perfect place to finish his managerial career.

Drury added: "A club did contact the chairman recently to see what my availability was, but he knew that the last club I wanted to manage was Stamford.

"The club wants to plan for the next couple of seasons. It's an honest, good club and I have such a bond with it.

"I enjoy working with the people who are there and it's just been really frustrating that the last couple of seasons have ended like they have. We still don't know if we will get kicked off again this year.

"If we don't then hopefully we can keep the majority of the squad together and keep on building because it is mainly due to the response from the boys that I am staying.

"Some of the messages which came through from them in support of my mum while she was in hospital with Covid-19 have been unbelievable.

"None of them knew about it right up until the Hereford game, but I have had messages from every single one of them.

"It gives you encouragement to know what I always expected from a fantastic group of people, not just players.

"I also couldn't do this job without my brilliant staff and I can't thank the players enough for being such a top group of people with a work ethic which matches mine.

"I have received tremendous support from the chairman and the board and, with the ambitions of the club, I had to stay.

"The work which is going on behind the scenes matches what I want to achieve. The fan base is growing and the hard work and dedication from the volunteers at the club is unbelievable."

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