steve castleFollowing on from Frank Soo, three other individuals have been manager of St Albans City on two separate occasions. Sid Prosser had spells during the 1960s and ‘70s, while John Mitchell did likewise during the 1980s and ‘90s. Since the turn of the century Steve Castle has added his name to that illustrious list. Steve joined the Saints as a player in the summer of 2002 after a short stay with Stevenage Borough.

Prior to Boro, he had spent most of his career in the Football League playing for Leyton Orient, Plymouth Argle, Birmingham City and Peterborough United. City had a joint manager pairing at the time that Steve joined with Gary Roberts and Steve Cook at the helm. As a player, Castle’s time at Clarence Park could hardly have got off to a better start as we won his first six games. Unfortunately, we were unable to maintain that run and, at the opposite end of his 61 games as a player; it took his final 27 games to produce six wins.

Roberts was dismissed just before Christmas 2002 and Castle started the following season as assistant to Cook. When Cook was dismissed in October 2003 Castle stood in, initially, as the interim manager. It was a baptism of fire. His reign started with 4-3 Herts Senior Cup win over London Colney and was followed by a goalless draw at home to Braintree Town and a 9-1 drubbing away to Grays Athletic. Steve was manager for 32 Isthmian League Premier Division games that season, of which seven were won and 16 lost. The record was not great but it, just, enabled us to partake in the play-offs for a place in Conference South that was to be launched the following season.

The two play-off games produced 16 goals with City edging both. We had the experienced New Zealand international Chris Zoricich sent off in the first game at Heybridge Swifts. Even so, a hat-trick by Adam Parker carried us to a 4-3 extra time victory in Essex and set the scene for a truly absorbing final away to Bedford Town. From 3-1 down, City stormed to a last minute 5-4 victory courtesy of five different scorers; Greg Deacon, Adam Parker, Lee Clarke (p), Miguel de Souza and Steve Watts.

The win gave Castle the honour of being our first manager in the newly formed Conference South. But, after an opening day win at Sutton United, a run of one win in 14 league games prompted him to tender his resignation; something that he decided upon when making a swift exit after a 3-0 midweek defeat at Weston-super-Mare. It came four days after his final appearance as a player.

He, however, remained close to the club as he was head coach for the PASE scheme (Programme for Academic & Sporting Excellence) at Oaklands College. A number of the students on this course later played for the City Reserves and some played a handful of games for the First team.

Steve was called in to become City manager for a second time in January 2008 after, firstly, Ritchie Hanlon and, then, Dave Anderson had been sacked after just 10 and 16 games respectively in charge of the Saints.

Just five points were collected from Castle’s first 11 Conference South matches when he struck gold in bringing goalkeeper Paul Bastock back to the club for a second spell. Bazza’s ‘cajoling’ over the final 11 games of the season played a significant part in a seemingly certain relegation being averted while the goalkeeper himself collected the Player of the Season trophy.

Castle remained in charge for the next three seasons but this was a troubled, uncertain, period in the history of the club with Steve’s hands tied by off the field problems that were out of his control. His final season, 2010-11, saw the club finish well adrift at the foot of the table, a situation not helped by a league-imposed transfer embargo, a ten-point deduction and a £7,500 fine (plus v.a.t.) from the Football Association for financial irregularities. Steve was relieved of his position at the end of the season and since then has been manager of Royston Town.