The man behind Steve Evans - the Paul Raynor interview Part One

Steve Evans  with his assistant manager, Paul Raynor.
Steve Evans with his assistant manager, Paul Raynor.

There may never be another Clough and Taylor, but the partnership of Steve Evans and Paul Raynor has few if any equals in the lower divisions.

The pair have achieved eight promotions in 12 years and, like Clough and Taylor, while Clough always used to be the one in the spotlight, Stags assistant boss Raynor is happy to stay in the background like Taylor but produce work that is vital to the success of manager Steve Evans.

Paul Raynor while at Leeds United.
Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

Paul Raynor while at Leeds United. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

So it is fitting that Raynor began his footballing career under the watchful eye of Clough at Nottingham Forest

“I was born in Nottingham and my dad used to play for Forest, so I was brought up in the football life,” he said.

“I was then fortunate enough to get the call to go and join Nottingham Forest as a youngster.

“Initially I played some games for Notts County, then I got ‘poached’, so to speak, by Forest at 14. Then it was apprenticeship at 16 and I was very fortunate that I got a chance to play under Brian Clough.

“He gave me an opportunity to play my first game. I didn’t play many games but the fact that he gave me that opportunity was fantastic.”

Working for Clough inspired both fear and adulation from his players.

“It was never a dull moment under Clough,” said Raynor “You never knew from one minute to the next how he’d react, what he would do and whether he was in a good mood or a bad mood.

“He certainly kept everyone on their toes. But he was a fantastic manager. He was very simple in his philosophy in terms of how he wanted things done.

“There were no grey areas of what he wanted from you on the pitch. He was very disciplined, but very eccentric as well.

“You didn’t know what to expect at times. Sometimes you’d think you’d done poorly and sometimes you’d think you’d done well and probably got told the opposite. It was a fantastic learning curve for me.”

Like other Forest players under Clough, his debut came as a shock.

Raynor said: “The highlight of my Forest career was making my debut. I was carrying the skips in away at Southampton.

“I thought I was going to be the odd one out as it was only the second time I’d been with the squad and he told me to put the skip down and threw me a No.9 shirt and that was how I got told I was playing.

“Unfortunately we lost the game, but it was a fantastic experience.”

Playing for Clough certainly stood him in good stead for the succession of clubs he went on to play for.

“Everyone lucky enough to play under Brian Clough, people know if he selected you to play in the first team in the Premier League, as it is now, then obviously there’s something about you,” said Raynor.

“Teams after that looked at my grounding and where I came from and that Brian Clough had trusted me enough to put me in the team, then these people thought I had got a bit about me and could play a bit. It was a great grounding and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”

Now Evans and Raynor try to employ a similar, simple footballing philosophy to Clough and Taylor.

“They probably talk about it as old school, that’s the way people describe me now. We try to keep things very simple, no grey areas,” said Raynor

“People can complicate football with formations and systems – and there is a place for that as people need to know what jobs they need to in areas of the pitch. But we try to keep it simple as Clough did.

“Partnership-wise, Clough had his strengths and Peter Taylor could always spot a player.

“The miles he did going up and down the country finding players that suited the manager’s style and what he wanted from a player, seemed to work for them.”

Like Clough and Taylor, Evans and Raynor do have their fall-outs along the way.

“It’s not all sweetness and light – there is plenty of debate,” he smiled.

“The gaffer is really opinionated and knows what he wants. But I don’t always say yes and agree.

“I will fight my corner if I believe it’s right and we bounce things off each other. Sometimes he will listen to me and sometimes he won’t. But it seems to work.

“I love being on the coaching field, that’s where I think I am probably best suited. I love getting out working with the guys and Steve gives me pretty much a free rein in doing what he wants me to do out there.

“We have been very successful with something like eight promotions in 12 years and great cup runs as well. It’s been fantastic with some great times and some great clubs and now hopefully we can replicate that with Mansfield.”

After so many years as a No.2, Raynor is still happy to not be the one in the hot seat.

“I am quite happy to do what I do,” he said. “I have had the odd opportunity here and there, but this has been so successful, why change it?

“We have a good vibe going on, a good partnership, and if it’s not broken you don’t need to fix it.

“I enjoy stepping away and letting the gaffer do all the media work.

“He loves all that and is very good at it and the PR side of it too.

“There is a good chemistry here, we both have strengths and putting them together we seem very successful.”

He added: “The gaffer here is the face and the PR and I know exactly what he wants from the players on the training field where I replicate that.

“You’ve seen us on the touchline. We kick every ball, we head every ball, we make every tackle, we galvanise the players and we try to galvanise the crowd.

“We’re not everybody’s cup of tea – but it seems to work.”

IN PART TWO NEXT WEEK: Paul Raynor on losing his place at Preston to David Beckham, on playing for ex-Stags Keith Alexander at Ilkeston, on his first ever meeting with an angry Steve Evans and also talking about his hopes for Mansfield Town.