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Football: Peter the great is on a High as the fortunes are transformed at Tythe Barn Lane; Inside View HIGHGATE UNITED.

Byline: By Nick Pullen

PETER Frain has performed a massive transformation at Highgate United.

He took over at Tythe Barn Lane when the team consisted of just seven players which had accumulated next to no points in the process.

Frain called in a few favours from some of his mates and managed to steady the ship in time as Highgate recovered and finished the season 14th in the Midland Combination Premier.

Last season, Frain got his side into third behind champions Coventry Sphinx and local rivals Castle Vale.

This season, there's been no stopping them. They lead the Combination by seven points this week and are currently enjoying a 22-match unbeaten run.

Frain is quick to lavish praise on his players and claimed: "They don't get paid a penny for playing, yet they've all remained loyal. Now I feel I must repay that loyalty by taking Highgate up to the next level.

"Many of them have received offers to play for bigger clubs, but instead they choose to stay with me."

Highgate United were once one of the powerhouses of Birmingham non-league football who have suffered lean times of late.

Frain - with the help of chairman Tony Clancey - has helped fire an air of optimism back into the Shirley-based side to the extent that crowds have already tripled under their stewardship.

An upbeat Frain admits: "The club was on its backside when I came in, almost to the point of turmoil. But I was always confident I could turn things around.

"At the time there were hardly 20 people watching us. Last season we were getting more than 100 spectators for some games but it would still be nice to see a few more faces down there.

"I still feel we should have done better than third place but we blew it at the death.

"I've been in football quite a long time but I learnt quite a few things from that season.

"That's the thing about football - you never stop learning!"

Frain's playing career never hit the heights he was hoping for.

He represented England four times at Under-18 level and followed that with five years at West Bromwich Albion where he never played a first team game. The best he managed was a spell with Mansfield Town in the old Division Three while on loan from the Baggies.

It was his brother John Frain who became better know from his time with Blues and Northampton Town.

Instead Peter spent two years playing in Iceland before taking in the local non-league circuit.

He then cut his managerial teeth at Knowle, with some success, before being snapped up by Alvechurch - who then sacked him.

Frain still admits to being bitter over his departure from Lye Meadow and said: "I still believe my departure from Alvechurch was quite unfair - but there were other factions that wanted me out.

"However, I still keep in touch with chairman Peter Heathcock. He's fine, I've moved on now."

Not surprisingly, several players followed Frain out of the Church, including Steve Darlington, Liam O'Shea and Neil Kitching.

Frain boosted his ranks further by bringing in experienced central defender Jimmy Conway - who also helps out with training. Frain has no doubts his defender will become future management material.

Conway was instrumental in enticing top striker Tom Thacker away from Midland Combination rivals Nuneaton Griff. But Frain's cause wasn't helped this week when goalkeeper Perry Cox broke his hand while playing Sunday football for Birmingham Irish in the Coronation League.

Frain has since brought in shotstopper Sean Edwards on the recommendation of Stratford Town boss Micky Moore.

But like any good manager, Frain has another card up his sleeve, with top non-league goalkeeper Tony Rowe offering to help out when work committments allow.

Frain believes his Highgate side will be first past the winning post this time and reveals: "I've set the lads a target. We've got 16 games left. If we win 12 of them - then we'll win the league."

The club was on its backside when I came in, almost to the point of turmoil. But I was always confident I could turn it around.

CAPTION(S):

PULLING IN THE SAME DIRECTION... Highgate United manager Peter Frain with club chairman Tony Clancey at the club's Tythe Barn Lane home.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jan 19, 2008
Words:713
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