Greg Strong had a 20-year-long career in professional football playing in England, Scotland and Wales from Premier League to Non-League.
In this interview, we talk about his career as a player, a manager and life after football.
You started your career at Wigan just before Dave Whelan took over the club, What do you remember about your time as a youth player?
Wigan was a completely different place back then to what it is now, we were a struggling League Two club. I went there straight from school when I was 10 years old and training one day a week.
I was travelling with the first team at 15 years old and was offered a pro deal as soon as I left school. They had a good reputation at the time for bringing young players through which was one of the reasons I joined them.
Did you move to hometown club Bolton in 1995, where you a Bolton fan?
No, I’m a Liverpool fan but I had family and friends who supported them. I was a really good move for me, I want from the lower half of Division 2 to a team that had just been promoted to the Premier League.
You had a few loans spells at clubs like Bury while at Bolton.
I had been used to playing first team football and Bolton had some very good players and I didn’t want to play reserve football so I asked the manager if I could go out on loan.
They had some good players at the time, Stubbs, Mcateer and Thompson, How did you find the step up?
I wouldn’t say I struggle with the step up in training or ability but as you said they had some very good players and I guess they had built up trust over time and being a young player it was a difficult time. A lot of players like Per Frandson were bought for small amounts of money and did really well for the club and were sold for more.
You moved to Scotland with Motherwell in 2000 but the club went into administration while you there, that must have been a tough time
I loved it in Scotland and had a really good time there but it was difficult over that period. We won a game 4-0 on the Saturday and then we found out Monday who was staying and who was going.
I had a lot of good friends who stayed at the club and it was a really tough time for a lot of people there. It killed some careers, who knows what would have happened with some of the lads.
Some players never played at any real level after that, they got stuck into fighting legally for their money and missed out on playing.
Later in your career, you had a spell in non-league, how did you find the change from pro football?
I had a chance to join pro clubs but we thought do we move our family or do we find a base, we decided to move back to the North West and I said I will do whatever I needed to.
Strangely the money was better part-time than what was offered from some full-time clubs.
You joined Welsh side Rhyl in 2018, winning the league in a team of they good players, what was that like?
I was at Macclesfield at the time and I got a call from Rhyl asking if I wanted to go down for a chat. When I got there and saw the type of players they were signing I was really impressed.
I think the chance to play in Europe probably took me there, it was exciting and something different.
You later became their player-manager, did you enjoy the experience?
It was difficult and something I was thrown into really. We qualified for Europe and ended up playing Partizan Belgrade, following that the current manager left and I was told I was highlighted as someone they wanted to take over.
I didn’t have much preparation time and probably didn’t know what my own philosophy in football was, I knew what I liked in football but didn’t really have a true idea of how I wanted to play and how to get that message across to the players.
It was really enjoyable, we had some tough times financially and we lost all our best players but I learnt a lot in that first year.
You were there for six years? That’s a long time for a manager.
Yes, I think I’m the only manager at the club who has gone a full year with losing in a season and we broke a lot of records that year.
Is it something you would try again?
It is but I’m not sure I would get the chance at the level I would want to do it.
If you are asking at that level then the answer is no because the amount of time and effort that it takes to do it properly is not something that I would want to do. I believe to do anything properly you have to give it everything and that’s hard to do part-time.
If I got the chance at a higher level I would be interested because I felt I was quite good at it.
You had a change of role and became joined Plymouth Argyle as chief scout, what did your role involve?
I left Rhyl and within weeks Derek Adams got the manager’s job at Plymouth, we had played together at a few clubs and I think he said that I was his first call.
I did opposition scouting, making a list of transfer targets and speaking to agents. It was tough because I covered the whole country on my own and did a lot of miles but it was a really successful time.
What’s next for you in football?
I’m currently the head of recruitment at Salford City, its close to home and ticked every box for me really. They are an up and coming club and its good to be a part of it.
How do you look back on your career?
That’s a difficult one. Did I reach my full potential as a player? probably not. I played for England Schoolboys and got a move to a Premier League club at a young age but I guess I became a bit of a football journeyman.
It’s funny how you look at things but it seems like I have been preparing all my football career for what I’m doing now, the knowledge of each league, players I’ve played with and the contacts I have really put me in good stead for what I do now.
Do you think the move to the Premier League came too soon?
No, I think I was ready for it and when opportunities like that come around you snatch them with both hands because you might not get another chance.
Who is the best player you played with?
There are two, John Sheridan (Bolton) and Paul Lambert (Livingston), both were at the end of their careers and very similar players. John was mid-30s and was outstanding in training and in games, senior pros would look at him and say wow.
Paul, left Celtic where he was captain and joined Livingston as manager and then he realised he was better than everyone else put together and put his boots back on. Playing alongside him made you realise how good he was.
Who is the best manager you played under?
Billy Davies at Motherwell, he probably got the best out of me. He was very demanding and very intense but it seemed to work for me and got the best out of me.
Football-Wonderkids focuses on youth players, do you have any advice for young players just starting their career?
Believe in yourself, you’ll be forever told by people on the street or a coach that you’re not good enough and there will always be disappointments. Always work hard and believe in yourself.