Cod Almighty | Article
by Mark Stilton
10 June 2010
DOB: 28 April 1975
As most know, Chris Casper was part of the Manchester United FA Youth Cup winning side of 1992 alongside players like Gary Neville and David Beckham. He remained at Man Utd for a number of years, playing only a handful of games for the club along with a brief England U21 cameo in Toulon in 1995 with team-mate Beckham and a young Grimsby defender by the name of Gary Croft. He moved to Reading in 1998 – first on loan, but after impressing in the first few months there, the club made the deal permanent – at a cost of £300k. He remained a key player for Reading, but was only part of the way through his second season with the club when a bad tackle in a Boxing Day match against Cardiff in 1999 left him with a double leg fracture. Two years later he retired from playing football.
While recuperating from his injury at the University of Bath he helped coach the football team (Team Bath) on a part-time basis, eventually making the role a permanent one in 2002. During his time there he'd helped manager Paul Tisdale (now at Exeter) to get the team promoted from the Western League Division One. It was the 2002-03 season which bought the club fame though – on top of finishing champions of the Western League, Tisdale and Casper helped Team Bath to the first round proper of the FA Cup – the first time this had been achieved by a university side since the late 19th century.
In July 2003, Bury – who had almost scrapped their youth structure until investment from a local businessman saved it – were in need of a new youth team coach. Casper was appointed and the youth team won the Youth Alliance League Third Division (North) title in his first season. As a result of this success, Casper was promoted to reserve team coach for the 2004-05 season.
After a poor start to the 2005-06 season, Bury sacked manager Graham Barrow and Casper was offered the post on a permanent basis. The team avoided relegation by four points in his first season in charge. The following season was little better – although clearly safe from risk of relegation, the club still finished not far off the bottom spot. A similar pattern in the 2007-08 season saw him lose his job in January 2008.
In June 2008 he was offered the role of developing the youth structure at Bradford City. Unfortunately, although there were signs that he had begun to make progress, the club's failure to make the play-offs by the end of the season meant that costs had to be cut. As a result Casper did not have his contract renewed.
He remained out of work until December last year when Woods made him his first permanent signing at the club. Casper was bought in to the club as 'First Team Coach' rather than Assistant Manager. The distinction, according to Woods, was that a major role for Casper (alongside general coaching duties) was the development and support of youth players making the transition from youth level to the first team. Woods felt that for too long youth players at the club had failed to successfully step up to first team level and many often ended up dropping out of the game altogether. Casper's role therefore was to work more closely with these players, offering a more focussed and player-specific approach to development.
In June 2010 Casper was offered an extension to his contract. At the time of writing there has been no clarification on the length of this contract, or if Casper has accepted it or not.