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Gary Mills (footballer, born 1961)

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Gary Mills
Mills, Gary.jpg
Mills in 2009
Personal information
Full name Gary Roland Mills[1]
Date of birth (1961-11-11) 11 November 1961 (age 53)[1]
Place of birth Northampton, England
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)[1]
Playing position Defender / Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Wrexham (manager)
Youth career
0000–1978 Nottingham Forest
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1978–1982 Nottingham Forest 58 (8)
1982–1983 Seattle Sounders 34 (5)
1982–1983 Derby County (loan) 18 (2)
1983–1987 Nottingham Forest 74 (4)
1987–1989 Notts County 75 (8)
1989–1994 Leicester City 200 (15)
1994–1996 Notts County 47 (0)
1996–1998 Grantham Town 66 (3)
1998 Gresley Rovers 7 (0)
1998–2000 King's Lynn 67 (3)
2000–2001 Boston United 8 (0)
2001–2002 Tamworth 41 (2)
2005 Glapwell
2005–2007 Alfreton Town 24 (0)
2007–2010 Tamworth 3 (0)
Total 722 (50)
National team
1978–1979 England U18 2 (0)
1981 England U21 2 (0)
Teams managed
1996–1998 Grantham Town
1998–2000 King's Lynn
2001–2002 Tamworth
2004 Notts County
2005–2007 Alfreton Town
2007–2010 Tamworth
2010–2013 York City
2013–2015 Gateshead
2015– Wrexham
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Gary Roland Mills (born 11 November 1961) is an English former professional footballer who is the current manager of Welsh club Wrexham.

Mills, who played as a defender and as a midfielder, started his career with First Division club Nottingham Forest. He became the club's youngest league player after making his first team debut at the age of 16 in 1978. He played in the victorious 1980 European Cup Final, which made him the youngest finalist in European Cup history. He joined North American Soccer League team the Seattle Sounders in 1982 and played for them as they were beaten by the New York Cosmos in Soccer Bowl '82. While with them Mills had a loan at Derby County, making 23 appearances for the Second Division club. He returned to Forest in 1983, and made 168 appearances over two spells at the club. He left for their rivals, Notts County of the Third Division, in 1987. Mills then joined Leicester City in 1989, and after two unsuccessful forays into the First Division play-offs he helped them win promotion to the FA Premier League in 1994. He soon returned to County, by this time playing in the First Division, after 232 appearances for Leicester. Here Mills earned the last honour of his playing career, winning the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1995. He retired from professional football in 1996 due to an injury, having made 159 appearances for County over two spells.

He started his managerial career as player-manager with Grantham Town in 1996. He left the club after leading them to the Southern League Midland Division title in his second season. He then served as player-manager at Southern League Premier Division club King's Lynn from 1998 to 2000, which was brought to an end after he resigned. He was appointed player-manager of Southern League Premier Division team Tamworth in 2001, before leaving to join the coaching staff at Coventry City in 2002. Mills was handed his first managerial role in the Football League with Notts County in 2004, but was sacked several months after the club was relegated to League Two. He managed Alfreton Town of the Conference North from 2005 to 2007 when he returned to Tamworth. The club was relegated from the Conference National before Mills led them to the Conference North title in 2009. He left Tamworth in 2010 to become manager of their Conference Premier rivals York City. Mills oversaw York's victories in the FA Trophy and Conference Premier play-offs in 2012, the latter resulting in promotion to League Two. He sacked by York in 2013 before taking over at Gateshead, and after leading them to the Conference Premier play-offs in 2014 he was named the Non-League Manager of the Year. Mills took over as manager of their divisional rivals Wrexham in 2015.

Club career[edit]

Nottingham Forest[edit]

Born in Northampton, Northamptonshire, Mills played for a local village team before being spotted by a Nottingham Forest scout at the age of 11.[2] Aged 14 he broke into Forest's reserve team, which played in the Central League.[3] Mills also played for Long Buckby's youth team, and was part of the team that won a national under-16 competition.[4] He started his senior career at Forest under the management of Brian Clough, making his first team debut in a 2–1 victory at home to Arsenal in the First Division on 9 September 1978, and in doing so became Forest's youngest league player at the age of 16 years and 203 days.[5][6][7] Mills signed a professional contract with Forest on 13 November 1978, two days after his 17th birthday, after serving his apprenticeship.[1] He scored his first goal for Forest with the opening goal of a 2–1 win at Leeds United on 15 May 1979.[8] Despite not participating in the 1979 European Cup Final at the Olympiastadion, in which Forest beat Malmö FF 1–0, Mills became the youngest player to win the European Cup at the age of 17 years and 201 days on the virtue of having made one appearance in the competition that season.[9][10] He finished his first season in the first team, in which Forest were First Division runners-up, with six appearances and one goal.[8]

Due to an injury to Trevor Francis he started in the 1–0 victory over Hamburger SV in the 1980 European Cup Final, staged at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, and being aged 18 meant he became the youngest player to appear in a European Cup final.[11] Mills played more frequently in the 1979–80 season, making 20 appearances and scoring one goal, as Forest finished fifth in the league.[12] He played in the 2–1 home win over Valencia in the first leg of the 1980 European Super Cup, but was not selected for the second leg which the Spanish club won 1–0;[13] this meant Valencia became the first team to win the competition on the away goals rule.[14] Mills missed only one league match for Forest from February 1981 to the end of the 1980–81 season, and finished the season with 34 appearances and seven goals, with Forest placed seventh in the First Division.[13] He appeared more sporadically in 1981–82, making 17 appearances and scoring one goal, not playing more than seven league matches in succession.[15]

Seattle Sounders and Derby County loan[edit]

Mills left Forest shortly before the end of 1981–82 to join the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League in March 1982.[6] He made 31 appearances, scored five goals and recorded seven assists in the 1982 North American Soccer League season as Seattle finished first in the Western Division.[16][17] He started for Seattle in Soccer Bowl '82 before being substituted for Roger Davies, and the match was won 1–0 by the New York Cosmos with a 31st minute goal scored by Giorgio Chinaglia.[18] Less than a month later he made a temporary return to England by signing for Forest's local rivals Derby County on loan on 13 October 1982.[1] Mills made his debut three days later in a 1–1 away draw with Grimsby Town in the Second Division, before scoring his first goal with Derby's second in a 2–0 home win over Queens Park Rangers on 3 January 1983.[19] His loan ended in April 1983, having made 23 appearances and scored two goals for Derby in the 1982–83 season.[19] Early in the 1983 North American Soccer League season he had his leg broken by David Watson and was kept out of action for a year.[20] However, this acted as a wake-up call for Mills, who said: "It made me work really hard and that’s what made me go on and play until I was 47. I never stopped working on my fitness".[20]

Return to Nottingham Forest[edit]

Mills returned to England on a permanent basis by rejoining his former club Nottingham Forest in December 1983.[6] It was not until 7 April 1984 that he made his second debut for Forest, when he started the 3–1 home win over West Bromwich Albion.[21] He played in nine matches for Forest in the 1983–84 season, including seven outings in their last nine league fixtures, with the team finishing third in the First Division.[21] Mills' first goal in his second spell with Forest was the winning goal in a 3–2 home victory over Manchester United on 8 December 1984.[22] He was in and out of the starting line-up in 1984–85, ultimately making 31 appearances and scoring five goals.[22] Forest ended in ninth place in the First Division this season.[22]

Mills did not establish himself in the team in 1985–86.[23] After a run of eight successive league starts spanning October to December 1985, he went on to make only three starts in the remainder of the season.[23] In total he made 18 appearances, Forest finishing eighth in the First Division.[23] He started the 1986–87 season only making substitute appearances, but from mid-October 1986 onwards he started matches frequently.[24] He made 33 appearances, scoring one goal, with Forest again ranking eighth in the First Division.[24]

Notts County[edit]

After calling time on his Forest career, Mills was once again on the move, this time to Forest's neighbours Notts County on 14 August 1987.[1] His debut came one day after joining, starting County's 4–4 home draw with Wigan Athletic on the opening day of the 1987–88 Third Division.[25] He first scored for County with their opening goal in a 2–1 away win over Chester City on 3 October 1987.[25] Mills played in all of County's matches in 1987–88, making 60 appearances and scoring five goals, and was named the club's Player of the Year.[25][26] County reached the Southern Area final of the Associate Members' Cup, being beaten 4–1 on aggregate by Wolverhampton Wanderers.[25] With County finishing fourth in the table they qualified for the Third Division play-offs, in which they were beaten 4–2 on aggregate by Walsall in the semi-final.[25] He missed only three matches while a County player in the 1988–89 season, making 36 appearances and scoring four goals.[27]

Leicester City[edit]

Mills signed for Second Division club Leicester City on 2 March 1989 as part of the deal that saw Phil Turner join County for a fee of £125,000, with over two months of the 1988–89 season remaining.[1][28] He slotted straight into the starting line-up, making his debut two days after joining in a 1–0 victory at home to Walsall.[29] He made 13 consecutive appearances for Leicester before missing the last two matches of the season, his new club finishing 15th in the Second Division.[29] His first goal for Leicester was the only goal in a 1–0 win at Stoke City on 25 November 1989.[30] Other than a spell out of the team from early-September to mid-November 1989, Mills was a regular in the Leicester team that ranked 13th place in the Second Division in 1989–90, making 30 appearances and scoring four goals.[30] He established himself as a popular player with the supporters,[31] and was named the club's Player of the Year.[32]

Mills made 49 appearances and scored five goals for Leicester in 1990–91, missing only one match all season.[33] Leicester avoided relegation to the Third Division by only two points, finishing one place above relegated West Bromwich Albion in 22nd place.[34] Mills went one better in 1991–92 by appearing in all 62 Leicester fixtures that season, scoring seven goals, and was named the club's Player of the Year for the second time.[32][35] This season saw an improvement in fortunes for Leicester, as they reached the Northern Area final of the Full Members Cup, in which they were beaten 3–1 on aggregate by Nottingham Forest, and the Second Division play-offs with a fourth-place finish the league.[35] After beating Cambridge United 6–1 on aggregate in the semi-final Leicester lost 1–0 to Blackburn Rovers at Wembley Stadium in the final.[35]

Mills captained the Leicester team that reached the First Division play-offs in 1992–93 with a sixth place league finish, and they beat Portsmouth 3–2 on aggregate in the semi-final.[36][37] However, they lost in the final for the second successive season, being beaten 4–3 by Swindon Town at Wembley.[37] He made 53 appearances this season, missing only three of Leicester's fixtures.[37] Mills featured regularly in 1993–94 before missing the last few months of the season with a foot injury, having made 25 appearances by then.[38] By finishing fourth in the table Leicester made the First Division play-offs for the third successive season, and Mills led the team out before the final despite being unable to play.[39] Leicester beat Derby County 2–1 and thus earned promotion to the FA Premier League.[40]

Return to Notts County[edit]

Mills returned to Notts County on 26 September 1994 after re-signing for a fee of £50,000,[1] having made one Premier League appearance for Leicester by that point in 1994–95.[41] Making his debut in a 2–0 away defeat to Reading in the First Division on 1 October 1994, he played regularly at right-back before moving to left-back towards the end of the season after Craig Short returned to the team.[42][43] He picked up his last playing honour this season as part of the team that won the Anglo-Italian Cup after County beat Ascoli 2–1 in the final at Wembley.[42] However, County were relegated to the Second Division after finishing 24th in the First Division, with Mills making 43 appearances.[42]

Mills started the 1995–96 season as County's first-choice right-back before losing his place to Tommy Gallagher.[1] He returned to the starting line-up in November 1995,[44] before his season was ended by a serious injury in December.[1] County finished fourth in the Second Division, and after being beaten 2–0 by Bradford in the play-off final, the club released Mills after he had made 20 appearances in 1995–96.[1][44][45] He retired from professional football in May 1996 as a result of the injury he sustained that season.[46]

International career[edit]

Mills was capped by England at Schoolboy level before making his under-18 debut in a 1–0 victory over the Soviet Union on 10 October 1978.[1][47] He won his second and last cap in a 4–0 victory over Belgium on 17 January 1979.[47] Mills' debut for the under-21 team came in a 3–0 victory over Romania in a 1982 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship qualifier on 28 April 1981.[48] He was capped again in a 0–0 with draw Norway in a friendly on 8 September 1981.[48]

Style of play[edit]

Mills played primarily as a right-back or as a midfielder.[1] He was comfortable on the ball, could play the passing game and was a good tackler.[1][43]

Managerial and coaching career[edit]

Grantham Town[edit]

Mills moved into management on the advice of John Barnwell when being appointed the player-manager of Grantham Town in July 1996.[46] Darron Gee joined him as his assistant,[49] and the two went on to frequently work together as a management team.[11] Mills' managerial and playing debut for Grantham was in a 3–0 home defeat to Grimsby Town in the quarter-final of the Lincolnshire Senior Cup on 13 August 1996, and he scored his first goal for them in a 3–2 win home over Evesham United on 21 September.[50][51] He led the team to fourth place in the Southern League Midland Division in the 1996–97 season, missing out on second place and thus promotion by one point.[46][52] He played regularly this season, making 46 appearances and scoring three goals.[51]

In 1997–98 Mills' Grantham won the Southern League Midland Division title, earning promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, having led the table from the start of the season.[46][53] Grantham also reached the quarter-final of the FA Trophy for only the second time in the club's history.[46] He appeared even more frequently in the first team this season, making 50 appearances.[54] However, Mills resigned a week after the season ended in May 1998 as the club's takeover by local businessman Reg Brealey would have meant dismantling the team due to budget cuts.[49][55] He joined Gresley Rovers of the Southern League Premier Division as a player in July 1998, making his debut in their 0–0 away draw with Bromsgrove Rovers on 22 August.[11][56][57] He appeared regularly for Gresley, playing in their first seven matches of the 1998–99 season.[56][57]

King's Lynn[edit]

Mills took over as player-manager at King's Lynn in September 1998 and was sent off on his playing debut, a 3–2 away defeat to Worcester City in the Southern League Premier Division on 26 September.[58][59][60][61] His first goal for the club came after shooting into the bottom corner from a Lee Wilson back-heel in a 3–3 home draw with Salisbury City on 6 March 1999.[61][62] He made 30 appearances and scored one goal in 1998–99,[61] as his side finished 10th in the Southern League Premier Division.[63] King's Lynn improved on their league performance in the 1999–2000 season, finishing in fifth place in the table.[63] Mills continued to appear frequently in the team, playing in 34 matches and scoring one goal.[64] He resigned as King's Lynn manager on 8 November 2000 due to major financial problems at the club,[65][66] and had made 16 appearances and scored one goal up to that point in the 2000–01 season.[67] He returned to playing just three days later by signing for Football Conference club Boston United, making his debut the same day in a 2–2 home draw with Scarborough.[68][69]

Tamworth[edit]

Mills made eight appearances for Boston before being appointed the player-manager of Southern League Premier Division side Tamworth on 12 January 2001.[68][69][70] He was not in charge for the following day's 3–0 home defeat to Boston in the FA Trophy, with Tim Steele continuing as caretaker manager for this match.[71][72][73] His first match as manager was a 2–2 home draw with Havant & Waterlooville on 20 January 2001, in which he played and scored.[71][74] Tamworth finished the season in 12th place in the Southern League Premier Division,[75] and Mills made 16 appearances and scored two goals.[72] Tamworth missed out on promotion to the Football Conference on the final day of the 2001–02 season, finishing second in the Southern League Premier Division, two points behind the title winners Kettering Town.[76][77] He played often for Tamworth this season, making 30 appearances.[78]

Coventry City[edit]

Mills left the club on 23 May 2002 to become first team coach and reserve team manager at First Division club Coventry City, as part of the management team of Gary McAllister and Eric Black.[76][79] In the 2002–03 season Mills' reserves finished bottom of the FA Premier Reserve League Southern Division in 14th place.[80] He spoke to Telford United regarding the managerial vacancy at the Football Conference club in May 2003, but decided to stay at Coventry saying he was happy at the club.[81] Mills later spoke of his regret at leaving Tamworth for Coventry, saying: "It was the biggest decision I've ever made in football. I was very happy at Tamworth and we were winning most games".[82]

Notts County[edit]

Mills took over as manager of Second Division Notts County on 9 January 2004 after the resignation of Bill Dearden, with the club lying 23rd in the Second Division table.[26] His first match in charge came just a day later, in which Marc Goodfellow scored a stoppage time winner for Bristol City as County were beaten 2–1 at home.[83] After a run of good form from late-February to early-March 2004 County rose out of the relegation zone, but a run of one victory from the last 12 matches of the 2003–04 season saw the club relegated to League Two in 23rd place.[84] Despite having a healthier playing budget and a reorganisation of the squad during the summer of 2004, County made a disappointing start to the 2004–05 season.[11] As a result Mills was sacked on 4 November 2004 with the club 21st in League Two,[85] and he declined the offer of a lesser position with the club.[86] He resumed his playing career during early 2005 with Northern Counties East League Premier Division team Glapwell, playing under Lee Wilson, who Mills had previously played with and managed.[87]

Alfreton Town[edit]

He was appointed as manager of Conference North team Alfreton Town on a three-year contract on 25 May 2005,[88] becoming the first full-time manager in the club's history.[89] Alfreton went into the 2005–06 season with a reduced playing budget and Mills was able to keep the club on an even keel.[90] His first match as Alfreton manager was a 2–1 home defeat to Vauxhall Motors on 13 August 2005,[91] and having flirted with relegation the team finished the season in 17th place in the Conference North.[92] Mills was registered as a player in 2005–06, and made 21 appearances after his debut came in a 2–1 home win over Redditch United on 10 September 2005.[93]

Mills made large-scale changes to the squad over the summer of 2006,[94] although a few months into the 2006–07 season more budget cuts were made and this limited his ability to add to a squad lacking in depth.[95][96] When he left Alfreton the team were 13th in the Conference North, and he was playing less frequently, making five appearances in 2006–07.[97]

Return to Tamworth[edit]

After an undisclosed financial settlement was agreed Mills left Alfreton to return to Tamworth, who at this time were in the Conference National, for a second spell as manager on 26 January 2007.[98] He joined with the team 24th in the table and following his appointment he said: "It feels fantastic to be back. It is an amazing football club that means a lot to me".[99] He was in charge for the home match against Crawley Town the day after his appointment, the visitors winning 1–0 with a 54th minute Mark Wright goal.[100] Mills was unable to keep Tamworth up, the club being relegated to the Conference North with a 22nd-place finish in the Conference National.[75] He stated his determination to get the club back up, saying: "The disappointment will go away because this is a great football club to be at. We all need to stay proud and positive and I will now prepare a squad for the start of next season."[101] Tamworth spent most of the 2007–08 season in mid-table, eventually finishing 15th in the Conference North;[102] the Tamworth Herald claimed it was "among the poorest campaigns in the club's history".[103]

Mills was given time to rebuild the squad over the summer of 2008, bringing in players like Bradley Pritchard, Alex Rodman, Chris Smith, Tom Shaw and Michael Wylde.[103] He was named the Conference North Manager of the Month for September 2008, in which Tamworth achieved three straight league wins following a draw away at in-form Alfreton.[104] He won the award again for March 2009 after Tamworth were top of the table with five wins and two draws, including a 1–0 victory at title rivals Southport.[105] Mills led Tamworth to promotion back into the Conference Premier after winning the Conference North title in the 2008–09 season[106] and this was confirmed with a 1–0 victory over local rivals Hinckley United on 21 April 2009.[107] The final match of the season, a 0–0 draw at AFC Telford United, saw Mills come out of retirement after he came on as a 90th minute substitute for Rodman.[108] He was given a standing ovation from the travelling supporters in the process.[108] After the end of the season he was named the Conference North Manager of the Year.[109]

Tamworth started the 2009–10 season season in good form, and by late-September 2009 were occupying a play-off spot in the Conference Premier.[102] Mills' team eventually finished in 16th place in a season of consolidation;[102][110] this represented the second highest league placing in the club's history.[75] He made the last appearance of his career aged 48 after starting Tamworth's 4–3 home defeat to Ebbsfleet United on 24 April 2010, before substituting himself for Des Lyttle in the 55th minute.[111] This was his third appearance of the season.[112] In the Conference Premier Tamworth were playing against a number of clubs with Football League pedigrees,[113] meaning they were not able to offer contracts as lucrative or long as many clubs.[114] Mills complemented the competitiveness of his team in this division, saying: "For a small club like us, it's great to be mixing with these teams. But, while we may be smaller, like last year, we will make sure that we are capable of getting results."[113] Tamworth had a strong start in 2010–11; they were again in a play-off position by late-September 2010, and by the time Mills had left the club they were 12th in the Conference Premier.[102]

York City[edit]

Mills before his first match in charge as York City manager on 16 October 2010

With a compensation package agreed Mills left Tamworth after being appointed the manager of fellow Conference Premier team York City on 13 October 2010.[115][116] He replaced Martin Foyle, who resigned the previous month, and at the time of his appointment York were 16th in the table.[116][117] He was not registered as a player at York, although chairman Jason McGill would refuse Mills a playing contract on multiple occasions.[3][110] After his appointment, Mills said he believed he had left Tamworth for a club with greater potential and that his aim was to return York to the Football League.[110]

Mills' first match in charge was a 1–1 draw at home to Bath City on 16 October 2010, and with results improving he was named the Conference Premier Manager of the Month for November 2010 after York recorded four wins and three draws, including a 3–0 home win over Rotherham United in the first round of the FA Cup.[117][118][119] In the third round of the competition Mills' York played Premier League team Bolton Wanderers, who won 2–0 with late goals from Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander.[120] York made a push toward the play-off places, and by mid-March 2011 were sixth in the Conference Premier, just one place outside the play-offs.[117][121] York eventually finished the season in eighth place in the Conference Premier,[117] The Press claiming Mills "restored pride and belief into the club" with his "unbounded optimism and positivity".[122]

Mills made a statement of intent to win the Conference Premier title in the 2011–12 season.[123] His summer recruitment was focused on signing players who would improve the team's goalscoring record, and he succeeding in doing this when signing Matty Blair, Patrick McLaughlin and Jason Walker.[124] York consistently occupied a play-off position throughout 2011–12, eventually securing one after finishing fourth in the table.[125] The team played a passing style in the first half of the season, before often grinding out results with The Press saying they "compensated for a loss of craft with bundles of graft".[126]

Mills with the victory parade that followed York's victory in the 2012 Conference Premier play-off Final

After beating Mansfield Town 2–1 on aggregate in the play-off semi-final,[125] York were 2–0 victors over Newport County at Wembley Stadium in the 2012 FA Trophy Final; this was the first time the club had won a national knockout competition in its 90-year history.[127] Eight days later Mills took his York side back to Wembley for the 2012 Conference Premier play-off Final, and following a 2–1 victory over Luton Town with goals from Ashley Chambers and Blair, York were promoted to League Two, ending an eight-year absence from the Football League.[128] This was the first time any club had won the FA Trophy and the Conference Premier play-offs in one season.[126] This on-field achievement, combined with the approval for a community stadium to be built for the club, led to The Press lauding "an unsurpassed nine days in the Minstermen's proud existence".[129]

Mills's signings for 2012–13 proved to be less influential than his signings the previous summer, a number of new players being left out of the team with little playing time.[130] York were in mid-table for most of the first half of the season,[131] and his signings in the winter transfer window had little impact on the team.[130] Having been 14th in the table on 1 January 2013, York went on a run of 11 matches without a win, and this left the team four points above the relegation zone in 18th place.[131] Mills was sacked by York on 2 March 2013, an hour after the last of these matches, a 2–0 defeat at home to Bradford City.[130]

Gateshead[edit]

Mills returned to management with Conference Premier club Gateshead, signing a one-year rolling contract on 3 September 2013 to replace Anth Smith who resigned in August.[132] At the time Gateshead were 19th in the table, one point above the relegation zone.[133] His first match was a 2–1 home win over Hereford United on 7 September 2013, and both goals were scored by Josh Walker.[134][135] This was the first time Mills had won his opening match as manager at a new club.[134] Mills was named the Conference Premier Manager of the Month for October 2013 after Gateshead won all five matches that month, conceding only one goal.[136][137] Gateshead's form continued to improve and by mid-January 2014 they had moved into a play-off place;[135] Mills commented in February that "When I came in, I wanted everyone here to believe that we could win promotion – I think they're starting to now".[138]

Gateshead qualified for the Conference Premier play-offs for the first time in their history after finishing third in the table in 2013–14, which represented the club's highest league placing since being voted out of the Football League in 1960.[139] With a 4–2 aggregate win over Grimsby Town in the semi-final, Gateshead played at Wembley for the first time in the play-off final; despite entering the match on the back of a 14-match unbeaten run they were beaten 2–1 by Cambridge United.[135][140] Mills said after the match that "I told the lads that they'll be better for it. My job next year is to emulate or better this season".[141] He was named the Non-League Manager of the Year for 2013–14 at the National Game Awards, ahead of John Still, who led Luton to the Conference Premier title.[142]

Wrexham[edit]

Mills was appointed as manager of Gateshead's divisional rivals Wrexham on a one-year rolling contract on 28 April 2015.[143]

Style of management[edit]

Mills' management style was influenced by a number of managers he played under, including John Barnwell, Brian Clough, Alan Hinton, Howard Kendall, Brian Little, David Pleat, Russell Slade and Neil Warnock.[144][145] He learned simplicity from Clough, saying: "He never did complicate anything. Football is a simple game and Cloughie was no coach, he didn't confuse us with sessions straight out of the manual".[144] Like Clough, Mills has been praised for his man management skills and Daren Fulford, his reserve team manager at Tamworth, said: "If he felt you had made a mistake, he would give you a rollicking but if he was pleased with you he would always give kind words".[144][146] Fulford also commented on Mills' thoroughness, saying he wanted information on each players' performances after the reserves played.[146]

Mills sets his teams out to play a passing game, and affirmed this when stating: "My philosophy is to play football with the ball on the deck, to play attacking football, to be disciplined with and without the ball".[145] He prefers to employ a 4–3–3 formation, explaining it allows his teams to play entertaining football and makes them hard to beat, and it brought him success when at Tamworth and York.[110][147][148] He has stuck with this formation despite charges from some of being tactically stubborn, saying: "I'm not going to change the way my teams play, the systems. I've not even had a thought about that".[130][149]

Personal life[edit]

Mills was born to Roly, also a professional footballer who spent his entire career playing for Northampton Town, and Jean (née Frost).[11][150][151] He is married to Sue.[152] As a youngster Mills displayed talent in multiple sports, being capped for England Schools in both football and rugby union, and showed promise as a sprinter, running 100 metres in 11 seconds as an English Schools Championships finalist.[11][20]

Playing statistics[edit]

Club statistics
Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Nottingham Forest 1978–79[8] First Division 4 1 0 0 1 0 1[a] 0 0 0 6 1
1979–80[12] First Division 13 1 0 0 3 0 4[a] 0 20 1
1980–81[13] First Division 27 5 3 0 3 2 1[b] 0 34 7
1981–82[15] First Division 14 1 0 0 3 0 17 1
Total 58 8 3 0 10 2 6 0 0 0 77 10
Seattle Sounders 1982[16] North American Soccer League 31 5 31 5
1983[16] North American Soccer League 3 0 3 0
Total 34 5 34 5
Derby County (loan) 1982–83[19] Second Division 18 2 3 0 2 0 23 2
Nottingham Forest 1983–84[21] First Division 7 0 0 0 0 0 2[c] 0 9 0
1984–85[22] First Division 26 4 0 0 3 0 2[c] 0 31 4
1985–86[23] First Division 14 0 1 0 3 0 18 0
1986–87[24] First Division 27 0 1 0 5 1 33 1
Total 74 4 2 0 11 1 4 0 91 5
Notts County 1987–88[25] Third Division 46 5 3 0 2 0 9[d] 0 60 5
1988–89[27] Third Division 29 3 2 0 4 1 1[e] 0 36 4
Total 75 8 5 0 6 1 10 0 96 9
Leicester City 1988–89[29] Second Division 13 0 13 0
1989–90[30] Second Division 29 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 30 4
1990–91[33] Second Division 45 5 1 0 2 0 1[f] 0 49 5
1991–92[35] Second Division 46 6 2 0 4 1 9[g] 0 61 7
1992–93[37] First Division 43 0 2 0 3 0 5[h] 0 53 0
1993–94[38] First Division 23 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 25 0
1994–95[41] FA Premier League 1 0 1 0
Total 200 15 7 0 10 1 15 0 232 16
Notts County 1994–95[42] First Division 34 0 2 0 3 0 4[i] 0 43 0
1995–96[44] Second Division 13 0 2 0 2 0 3[e] 0 20 0
Total 47 0 4 0 5 0 7 0 63 0
Grantham Town 1996–97[51] Southern League Midland Division 32 3 4 0 10[j] 0 46 3
1997–98[54] Southern League Midland Division 34 0 2 0 14[k] 0 50 0
Total 66 3 6 0 24 0 96 3
Gresley Rovers 1998–99[56] Southern League Premier Division 7 0 7 0
King's Lynn 1998–99[61] Southern League Premier Division 25 1 4 0 1[l] 0 30 1
1999–2000[64] Southern League Premier Division 28 1 2 0 4[m] 0 34 1
2000–01[67] Southern League Premier Division 14 1 2 0 0 0 16 1
Total 67 3 8 0 5 0 80 3
Boston United 2000–01[69] Football Conference 8 0 8 0
Tamworth 2000–01[72] Southern League Premier Division 16 2 0 0 16 2
2001–02[78] Southern League Premier Division 25 0 5 0 0 0 30 0
Total 41 2 5 0 0 0 46 2
Alfreton Town 2005–06[93] Conference North 20 0 0 0 1[l] 0 21 0
2006–07[97] Conference North 4 0 0 0 1[l] 0 5 0
Total 24 0 0 0 2 0 26 0
Tamworth 2006–07[153] Conference National 0 0 0 0
2008–09[154] Conference North 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
2009–10[112] Conference Premier 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 0
2010–11[155] Conference Premier 0 0 0 0
Total 3 0 1 0 0 0 4 0
Career total 722 50 44 0 44 5 10 0 63 0 883 55
  1. ^ a b Appearance(s) in European Cup
  2. ^ Appearance in European Super Cup
  3. ^ a b Appearances in UEFA Cup
  4. ^ Seven appearance in Associate Members' Cup, two in Third Division play-offs
  5. ^ a b Appearance(s) in Associate Members' Cup
  6. ^ Appearance in Full Members Cup
  7. ^ Six appearances in Full Members Cup, three in Second Division play-offs
  8. ^ Two appearances in Anglo-Italian Cup, three in First Division play-offs
  9. ^ Appearances in Anglo-Italian Cup
  10. ^ One appearance in Lincolnshire Senior Cup, eight in FA Trophy, one in Southern League Cup
  11. ^ Two appearances in Lincolnshire Senior Cup, four in Southern League Cup, eight in FA Trophy
  12. ^ a b c Appearance in FA Trophy
  13. ^ One appearance in FA Trophy, three in Southern League Cup

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of match played 25 April 2015.
Team From To Record Ref
G W D L Win %
Grantham Town July 1996 May 1998 111 65 17 29 58.6 [46]
King's Lynn September 1998 8 November 2000 106 45 30 31 42.5 [60][61][64][67]
Tamworth 12 January 2001 23 May 2002 71 40 20 11 56.3 [72][78]
Notts County 9 January 2004 4 November 2004 40 10 11 19 25.0 [156]
Alfreton Town 25 May 2005 26 January 2007 76 21 27 28 27.6 [92]
Tamworth 26 January 2007 13 October 2010 189 75 50 64 40.3 [102]
York City 13 October 2010 2 March 2013 136 58 45 33 42.6 [156]
Gateshead 3 September 2013 28 April 2015 103 46 32 25 44.7 [156]
Wrexham 28 April 2015 Present 0 0 0 0 [156]
Total 832 360 232 240 43.3

Honours[edit]

As a player[edit]

Nottingham Forest

Notts County

Individual

As a manager[edit]

Grantham Town

Tamworth

York City

Individual

  • Conference North Manager of the Year: 2008–09[109]
  • Conference North Manager of the Month: September 2008,[104] March 2009[105]
  • Conference Premier Manager of the Month: November 2010,[119] October 2013[136]
  • Non-League Manager of the Year: 2013–14[142]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]