HAVING managed exclusively ‘up north’ in a career lasting two decades, the sight of Ronnie Moore turning up on the south coast at Eastleigh back in August was a surprise to many.
Not least to the man himself.
The former Rotherham United boss readily admits that he did not know where the Hampshire town was when he was approached to take over the Spitfires – his previous managerial port of call had been by the North Sea up at Hartlepool United.
But after navigating a course and making waves in the National League, Moore will now be flying the nation’s flag for the non-league underdog at the start of FA Cup first-round weekend tomorrow evening.
The Match of the Day cameras will descend upon the Silverlake Stadium in the hope of witnessing a cup upset when Eastleigh – eighth in the National League – welcome League One strugglers Swindon Town, with Moore and his men aiming to oblige.
The Liverpudlian, who has previously managed Oldham Athletic and Pools alongside two separate spells at clubs where he was feted as a player, Rotherham and Tranmere Rovers, may be long in the tooth in the managerial stakes.
But his enthusiasm ahead of tomorrow’s tie, which affords him and his side a rare share of the national spotlight, is positively boyish, with it representing a throwback to some halcyon days, particularly with the Millers.
On heading to Eastleigh, Moore, whose family home remains in South Yorkshire, said: “I did not have a clue where it was.
“But it is a nice place and I have an apartment on the marina in Southampton.
“I travel home at the weekend and then come back here. It is not ideal with the family life, but it is work and you have got to get on with it and enjoy doing it and that is what I am doing.
“With two defeats in 14 games, you have got to be enjoying it, haven’t you?
“You always take a chance when you drop out of the league, but it has been fantastic.
“The chairman wants to go places and wants to get the club up in two years.
“If we can do that, we will be up and running and he is so ambitious, it is unbelievable.
“All of a sudden, I am shopping at Marks & Sparks for players. I am more used to being at Aldi.”
He will turn 64 in January, but Moore is hopeful that he can sample a few more select occasions alongside tomorrow’s marquee date – while stressing that there is room for plenty of miles yet on his managerial clock.
Few would begrudge Moore his moment in the sun again, moreso given a tough year which saw him lose his job at Hartlepool and face up to the reality of being an out-of-work sixty-something manager – when the phone invariably does not ring.
Moore, whose first post as a boss was at Southport in 1996, after being part of John King’s coaching team at Tranmere for a number of years, added: “It is not easy. When you are out, you are out. You think you have mates in the game, but no one gives you a phone call.
“Tony Pulis did call me and two Colemans to be fair, John at Accrington and Chris with Wales.
“I did a bit of scouting and while everyone thinks you are shot, when you are 63, you only have to look at the Premier League and there are a fair few who are doing alright. There is a lot of fight left in the old dog yet.
“I would love to get to 1,000 games and I am at something like 920 now and it would be nice to have that in two or three years after playing 700 games.”
It is cup matters that dominate this weekend for Moore, whose record is rather mixed.
As are his dug-out experiences in front of the TV cameras too.
Moore is eyeing rather more of the good than bad tomorrow in his quest to progress in the cup and take a stroll down memory lane – if fate lends a helping hand.
Moore – whose squad contains former Millers players Jason Taylor and Ryan Cresswell and ex-Sheffield Wednesday favourite Reda Johnson – said: “Nine times out of 10, I’ve had bad in the cup, although we did beat Southampton in the cup with Rotherham.
“When I was a player at Tranmere, I remember we went out of the cup at Farsley Celtic and we nearly went out to Emley one year at Rotherham. Then at Hartlepool last year, we almost went out to Salford City.
“The cameras are coming here because they think there is a chance of an upset. I have said to the lads, ‘don’t be nervous, just enjoy it – go and play, the pressure is on them’.
“I have had ups and downs in TV games. I got done by five at Rotherham on the telly at Chesterfield and lost my job and lost four on Saturday (at Barrow).
“But between that, I had three games on the TV with Hartlepool and won all of them. This tie is great for our lads, it puts Eastleigh on the map.
“And it is about time that I had a decent cup run.”
Just just like every other non-league manager worth his salt, Moore is dreaming of a glamour run to round three in the new year.
He added: “Everton (Moore’s boyhood club) or Liverpool would be great, although we played at Liverpool with Rotherham.
“Although to be honest, I would like to get through and get Hartlepool here in the second round and then Rotherham in the third.
“Sometimes it is written in the stars and you just never know. Football is so funny and comes up with the unimaginable.”