Cornard United boss Chris Symes lifts lid on 40 years of football management in East Anglia

Chris Symes

Chris Symes - Credit: Archant

Chris Symes is one of the best-known personalities in non-league football in East Anglia.

Always ready with an opinion, he’s successfully managed Braintree and Chelmsford City, among others, and is the current owner of Cornard United.

This book ‘The Life and Times of Symes’ is a great read.

However, he has grown disillusioned with many aspects of the non-league game and is in the process of stepping away from any major club role. But the memories he has amassed since being bought out of the Navy by then-Scottish Premier League club Arbroath have persuaded him to write this book.

Penned by former Green’Un sports writer Neal Manning, ‘The Life and Times of Symes – 40 years of football, fun and frustration’ is an action-packed tale of life in non-league.


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“I am 67 and I have more enthusiasm than the players playing for me,” says Symes.

“At one time you would have to turn the floodlights out on the players at training to get them in but it’s not like that anymore.

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“You ask them to hang the shirts up before a game or stick the corner flags in and you get ‘no’ but in not so polite terms.

“Nowadays, the players need a club tracksuit with their initials on it by the time they are 16 or they are not interested.”

The non-league world today is worlds away from what Symes experienced and what he had to do to launch a successful career in coaching and management.

“I was the youngest coach in Britain when Arbroath paid the Navy for me to leave,” recalls Symes.

“After leaving Scotland I came back down south and phoned the Green’Un newspaper in Ipswich and placed an advert offering my services as a football coach.”

Halstead became his destination and he then went on to manage Tiptree before joining Braintree where he was to become a legend, winning two Eastern Counties titles.

He was then head hunted by Chelmsford City and after relegation in his first season, got the club promoted with a record points tally.

“I have been threatened with a gun six times in my career so I have had to change a few names in the book,” Symes quips.

He’s made more friends than enemies though and even with those that have frustrated him, he can look back with a great deal of fondness.

“I remember being manager at Brantham and, through Ray Clemence, I managed to get Tottenham down to switch on our floodlights,” said Symes.

“I remember the bloke that was looking after the car park coming into see me just after the Tottenham players had arrived saying, ‘there’s a bloke in the car park driving a Mercedes claiming to be Terry Venables. Don’t worry, I sent him on his way. We managed to resolve the issue and let Terry, with Bill Nicholson and John Lyall in the car, into the ground!”

‘The Life and Times of Symes – 40 years of football, fun and frustration’, written by Neal Manning and published by Steve Green at Green Square Communications is out now.

Anyone wishing to buy a copy should send a cheque for £12 (includes postage) to Chris Symes, Cornard United Football Club, Blackhouse Lane, Great Cornard, Sudbury, CO10 0NL.

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