How Dean Holdsworth went from Crazy Gang goon to non-league managerial hotshot
Having once been a fully paid-up member of Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’, it’s no surprise Dean Holdsworth is now making a noise in the non-league game.
Holdsworth is carving out his own managerial career in the lower leagues after masterminding Welsh minnows Newport County’s romp to the Conference South title in record-breaking fashion.
But the ex-Premier League striker claims there was no wild parties, no suits cut up and no all-night benders following their promotion to English football’s fifth tier.
It’s because Holdsworth, now 41, is a changed man.
Long gone are his playboy lifestyle reputation he earned from his playing days - along with the unconventional methods adopted by the Dons with their abrasive long ball style enforced by hardmen like John Fashanu and Vinnie Jones.
He said: “The game has moved on so I can’t recreate at Newport what happened at Wimbledon - that was a one-off.
“We would use our image to our advantage and push the boundaries. We’d rock up, turn on the ghetto-blaster full blast, and some teams just didn’t fancy taking us on.
“I remember going to Manchester United and winning - but the training session before the game was basically a fight.
“There was no set-pieces or tactics. We basically played a game of ‘British Bulldogs’ where you pick the ball up and run at goal.
“There were punches, elbows, kicks going in, it was just a free-for-all and players like Vinnie and Fash were in their element. That was our training session before taking on one of the best sides in the Premier League - if not in Europe!”
Since a brief stint as Phil Brown’s assistant at Derby County, Holdsworth was overlooked for top jobs and opted to cut his teeth with Football League exiles Newport.
In charge of the part-time side since May 2008, Holdsworth explained:
“Nobody from my time at Wimbledon is really involved in the game, which is sad.
“But football’s in my blood and as soon as I retired I knew I wanted to want to go into management.
“I haven’t produced a magic wand at Newport as everybody has brought into the culture. There’s no beer allowed at the club, we have ice baths and fat levels have to be 12 per cent or lower. It’s not a case of me thinking out of the box, but we try to emulate what the pros do.”
It’s not often the Ryder Cup, due to be staged in the city’s Celtic Manor resort in September, gets upstaged.
But in this corner of South Wales, the spotlight now is on the talk of titles rather than Tiger.
Having re-formed after going bust in 1989, the nursery club of John Aldridge - who is still among their costliest exports - have come back from the brink and worked their way back up the English pyramid.
Holdsworth added: “There’s people still here who remember the day when the club folded and everything had to be auctioned off. So this success is for them.
“We’ve been top since September and smashed all league and club records We’ve had an average home gate of 2,000 this season - that’s more than plenty of League Two clubs. We’re a big club, with a big fan base in a big city.”