Warrington Town assistant manager Dave Raven says his return to Cantilever Park has been a huge learning experience, but one that he has thoroughly embraced.
The 37-year-old became a fans’ favourite during his time as a player at the Yellows, developing a formidable partnership in the heart of defence with the experienced Mark Roberts.
He left to continue his playing career at Marine in September 2020, before deciding to hang up his boots and return to Warrington Town in December last year.
The former Liverpool, Carlisle United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle man, who also boasts a number of other clubs from his playing days, is currently assistant to Mark Beesley, who took over as manager following the departure of Paul Carden midway through the 2021/22 season.
Although admitting it has been a whirlwind few months, Raven admits he has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“It was hectic, it was crazy and it was out of my comfort zone, which is exactly what I wanted,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself, about other people and about where we wanted to go as a club.
“You’re coming in halfway through a season and trying to help and improve what has already been done. The foundations were already there, and I was trying to help where I could.
“We eventually found something that worked in terms of personnel and shape towards the end of the season, and that’s testament to the work we’d done earlier on in the year.
“To get to the play-off final was brilliant, but to lose it in the way we lost it is still a bitter pill to swallow. We were good for the win as far as I could see.
“It’s been a hectic time but a fantastic learning curve personally.”
Raven almost enjoyed the taste of promotion upon his return to the club, but a 2-1 defeat to Scarborough Athletic in the NPL Premier Division play-off final dashed the Yellows’ hopes of promotion to the National League North.
However, he believes the number of players who are set to commit their future to the club shows a willingness to bounce back following a heartbreaking climax to the previous campaign.
“It’d be daft to start again on a fresh sheet of paper because of what the squad achieved over the last couple of seasons,” Raven said. “For the lads who have re-signed, there were no doubts.
“There’s unfinished business, and it’s as if they are ready to give it another good go. You can’t guarantee anything and it’s going to be another tough year, but the fact that we got that response from the lads was great.
“We can have that base and that core to build around. We’ll look to add three or four more and see where we go from there.
“Some of the lads can definitely play at a higher level, but there’s something there at the moment which is holding them back.
“It’s my job to unlock that and get them kicking on. It is great to be able to work with them.
“When you’ve got a group of lads who want to stick together, that’s a good start. Add a little bit of footballing nous to the mix, and you’ve got a chance of success.”
The 37-year-old’s return to the club saw him work alongside Beesley, who stepped up to the managerial hot-seat following Carden’s departure last November.
The duo both have a lengthy history within football; something which Raven insists is a real positive as they look to exploit the vast potential within the playing group.
“We both come from a coaching background and can talk about football all day long,” he added.
“But at the same time, we both have differences of opinion on what we think, and I find that really healthy.
“Bees wants me to be my own man, which is great. He doesn’t want to have ‘yes men’.
“We discuss things and I play devil’s advocate sometimes, and it’s a really healthy way of working.”
As the squad prepares to regroup ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, Raven has reflected on his first few weeks in the role, and admits he is excited about what the future holds.
“I was definitely excited,” he added. “When the opportunity came up, I was still playing quite well and enjoying my time at Marine, but my body was telling me that it was time [to stop].
“This is what I’ve been trying to do for a few years now. I’m coaching every day, but it’s not at the same level as Warrington.
“I needed to push myself and step out of my comfort zone. It was exciting and it was nerve-wracking.
“And to earn the trust of the players, it took a lot of work and preparation. I hope that I got there towards the end of the season with what we achieved.”
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