Spalding United

Former Congolese footballer Gabriel Zakuani has stepped down from this role as manager of Spalding United.

The ex-defender was appointed as joint caretaker manager of the Tulips in October 2020 alongside Neal Spafford in what was his first football managerial role. He was later given the job on a permanent basis with Spafford as his assistant and former Premier League striker Lomana Lualua brought in as his attacking coach.

Zakuani, whose signings as Spalding boss included Nile Ranger and Marcus Maddison, has resigned due to his increased business and media commitments. Assistant manager Bruno Porfirio will take charge of the squad for Saturday’s fixture against Coleshill Town.

Spalding United, who play in the Norther Premier League – Division One Midlands, issued a statement saying: “First team manager Gabriel Zakuani has today stepped down from his role due to his increased business and media commitments.

“Everyone associated with Spalding United Football Club would like to thank Gaby for his commitment to the club and we look forward to continue our working relationship with him in a different role moving forward.”

Zakuani said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as manager but in recent weeks it’s become more of a challenge with my commute and my other commitments I have outside of the club.

“After a good and honest conversation with the owners we agreed this was the right thing and right time to do this for both of us, the ongoing development of the club is the main priority.

“I still want to play a part in that and I’m looking forward to attending a game very soon but this time watching from the stands rather than the dugout. The squad we’ve built is great, I cant wait to see them kick on and they are in safe hands with Bruno and the team.”

Spalding United’s CEO Leigh Porter added: “Gaby is a part of the club and always will be, he knows what we all think of him, this is right for him and the club and we look forward to helping Gaby develop.

“Our focus as a club is now on Saturday and continuing to work towards the goals and objectives we set ourselves at the start of the season.”

Notoriously outspoken footballer Marcus Maddison has opened up on his shock move to non-league Spalding United, after several years in the professional game destroyed his mental health.

In an interview with SPORTbible, Marcus Maddison said he was in a very dark place during his time as a professional footballer, and the 27-year-old is hoping to fall back in love with the game now that he’s gone part-time.

The Durham-born attacking midfielder was tipped for big things during his six-year spell at Peterborough United, but he admits that his love for football was slowly fading throughout.

His career seemed to be all but over after a number of unsuccessful stints in the football league, but last month Marcus dropped four divisions to join part-timers Spalding United in the Northern Premier League South/East Division.

He said: “In Peterborough I became a villain for no reason. My car got keyed on my drive, I’ve been punched on nights out – all because of the way I play football.

“People can’t differentiate between the man that’s a footballer and the man who is a normal person.”

Marcus is exactly that, a normal guy. The night before each match at Peterborough, he would eat a chicken tikka masala, and on the day of the game he’d buy a £3 Tesco meal deal.

He references one particular incident where he planned to crash his car in an attempt to get out of training. “I just didn’t want to be there”, he said.

After leaving Peterborough he had disappointing spells at Hull City, Charlon Athletic and Bolton Wanderers, which all factored into the downward spiral of Maddison’s mental wellbeing.

His move to Bolton was cut short after just ten appearances, and Marcus says it left him questioning what direction his career and life were going in.

He added: “I’ve tried to fit in and be happy but if I can’t be happy in a winning team fighting for promotion it’s clearly something deeper.

“Football has a very specific kind of banter. And if you don’t fit into that category, and you don’t enjoy that sort of banter, you’re not going to have many friends.”

Off the pitch he has developed a negative reputation among football supporters, and spates of online abuse have really affected Marcus to the point where he’s at a crossroads.

He revealed that he gets abusive messages on a daily basis on social media, something which has contributed to his loss of love for football.

Maddison surprised everyone in the English footballing world when he dropped down to the eighth tier to join part-time Lincolnshire side Spalding United in May, aiming to first and foremost remember why he plays the game of football.

He joined the club off the back of his relationship with former Peterborough United teammate and current manager of Spalding United, Gabriel Zakuani.

Marcus said: “Gaby is a huge thing for me. He reached out to me first. It was literally that. It was like a first-come, first-served kind of thing. I know him well. He’ll let me play how I kind of want to play. He’ll give me free rein.”

Nile Ranger, the 29-year-old controversial former Premier League striker, has left Spalding United after just one appearance to rejoin League Two side Southend United.

Ranger, who only joined the Northern Premier League Division One South East club in October, scored in his only competitive appearance at the Lincolnshire side.

The goal came in a 3-3 draw with Belper Town on October 31, before the season was postponed due to coronavirus lockdown.

He will now look to revitalise his professional career in the EFL, with Southend United, where he spent two years between 2016 and 2018.

The 29-year-old has joined Southend on an incentivised month-to-month contract.

Ranger is a player who has been hailed for his abilities, but criticised for his conduct, regularly having run-ins with the law during his life.

When he was just 15-years-old, the former Newcastle United striker spent 11 weeks in a Young Offenders Institute for a robbery charge.

As well as this, he has been charged with being drunk and disorderly, assaulting a man in Newcastle, and served a prison sentence in 2016 for conspiracy to defraud and commit money laundering.

Ranger previously tweeted denying rumours that he was joining Southend, but the deal has been finalised.

He has been included in their 25-man squad for the rest of the season.

Southend boss Mark Molesley said that Nile Ranger has been training with the Shrimpers for two months to keep himself fit.

Molesley said: “Nile has still got to earn the right to play for this club and he knows that himself. Everyone has to earn the right.

“He has got to repay the faith I have shown him on the pitch, and I am excited to see a fully fit Nile play for this football club.”

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