Danny Grainger insists he has no idea what his next job in football will be after deciding to end his spell as Workington Reds manager.

The Cumbrian says he will take time to look at his options after deciding he wants to pursue a new challenge in the game.

Grainger will leave Reds at the end of the season and admits it was a very tough call to decide to move on from Borough Park.

The former Carlisle United captain says he would like his next role to be something with the long-term in mind, but added that he’s open-minded about what that may be.

The 37-year-old told the News & Star that he will be keen for a position that “stretches and challenges” him as he looks towards the future.

Grainger, who memorably led Workington to Northern Premier League West promotion last season, said of his decision: “I wouldn’t say it’s been in my mind a long while, but it’s something I’ve thought about quite heavily over the last few weeks.

“Where we are as a club, things like that, I just think now is the right time for me to seek a new challenge.

“My contract’s up at the end of the season, and I could quite easily have waited until the end of the season and then come to a decision, but I feel now’s the right time. It gives the club the time to find a new manager.

News and Star: Grainger will leave Workington at the end of his contract after this seasonGrainger will leave Workington at the end of his contract after this season (Image: Ben Challis)

“It hasn’t been an easy decision – far from it. I’ve probably changed my mind three or four times, and only time will tell if it's the correct decision.

“As I sit here now I’ve got nothing lined up, nothing planned, and we’ll see what comes up over the next eight to ten weeks and go from there.”

Grainger has helped Workington establish themselves in NPL Premier this season following last term’s promotion, during his second spell in charge at Borough Park.

He has helped bring some good times back to the west Cumbrian club but is now looking for a different challenge – even if he does not know what that will be. Grainger has fielded some calls from interested parties after announcing his decision, but will take time to decide his next move.

“Hand on heart. There’s nothing where I’m sat here thinking, ‘If I leave Reds, I’m going to walk into this’,” he said. “I’ve genuinely got nothing planned.

“At the moment I’m quite lucky in that I’ve got my academy [the Cumbria Football Academy in Penrith] as well. It’s not like I’m walking away from football completely. I’m helping a couple of days in at Carlisle United’s academy as well.

“I’ve made this decision for myself, and also for the club [Workington] to give them as much time as possible. It means any interested parties can use this time to get in touch, they can watch games, assess the players, and start building for the future.

“After the success we’ve had over the last four or five years, the last thing I’d want is for them to be chasing their tails before next season, because then it becomes an uphill battle.

“I wanted to give them as much time to continue the work we’ve done and make sure it’s right for them.

“I just feel personally this is the right time to step away and seek a new challenge, wherever that is.”

Grainger set out his ambitions to be a manager when he retired from playing in 2019, but said his next position does not necessarily have to be a managerial role.

News and Star: Grainger, far left, led Reds to promotion last seasonGrainger, far left, led Reds to promotion last season (Image: Ben Challis)

“I’ve always said I’m open to anything as long as it ticks the boxes for me – whether that’s working with young kids, senior first-team, alongside someone I trust and know well – whatever that is,” he said.

“I don’t want to just do something and it be a short-term thing. Wherever I go, whatever I’m doing, I don’t want to see it as a one-year plan. I want to put things in place as we have done at Reds over a period of time.

“I’m in a [sport]l where the next phonecall could be that I’m losing my job – that’s part and parcel of football. You’ve got to accept that. If you go into any job worried about that call, you’re never going to push yourself and succeed. I’m ok with that.

“I work with kids from under-8 right through to 16s, I’ve been with Carlisle’s under-12s and 18s, Reds first-team…I’m open to whatever the next challenge is for me.

“As long as it’s right for me personally, I’ll have a go at it – I’ll put my full effort into it.

“I’ve had a couple of phonecalls already to ask what my plans are. But I’m not going to rush into anything. I’ve got nine weeks left with Reds and want to make sure we finish this season successfully.

“I’ll then look at anything that comes up –  andif it doesn't, I’m alright with that too.”

Grainger said he has always sought to be honest with Workington about his intentions.

“I’ve spoken in depth with the club about what I was looking to do for me personally,” he said. “It’s not for the want of trying [to keep me] by the club – it’s more for me, with what I want to achieve and do.

“I’ve got to be honest and say that this maybe is the right time for me to take a step back.

“I don’t want to be comfortable – I want to be pushed, I want to drive, and be successful as I can. I’ve done that at Reds, and I just feel now is the time to seek out that next challenge, whatever that is.

News and Star: Grainger says he does now know what his next role in football will beGrainger says he does now know what his next role in football will be (Image: Ben Challis)

“I don’t live with regrets. Everyone said when I retired that I was doing it too young but I’ve never once regretted that decision.”

Grainger says he will always reflect with pride on the achievements in recent times at Workington.

“At the club we’ve probably exceeded all expectations,” he said.

“There’s no hiding from the fact the financial game this year in the non-league system is absolutely crazy, and then there’s [the challenge of] where we’re based logistically.

“In one sense we’ve under-achieved this year because we’ve been so close but so far, but if you sit down and go through the things that have happened to us this season, with players retiring, injuries, assistant managers leaving, all these things added up…we’ve over-achieved.

“To be 17 points clear [of relegation] with nine games to go, we’ve given ourselves a great opportunity to stay in the division. We’re still in the Cumberland Cup as well…

“All I said the day I took over at Workington Reds was that, if I leave this club at any point and it’s in a better place than when I took over, I’ll be a happy person – and I feel like I’m doing that.”

Grainger says he will offer as much help as he can to Workington in what remains of his tenure, but does not expect any input on his successor.

“That’s the club’s decision, they’ve got to decide what way they want to go,” he said.

“I’m sure plenty of managers will want the job. It’s an attractive prospect for someone but the club have to make their decision.

“The club will make the decision they feel is best for the club, and fingers crossed they can bring in someone who can continue the work that we’ve done.”

Grainger was twice denied promotion by the Covid pandemic during his first spell, when the NPL West season was twice curtailed, before returning last term to lead Workington to play-off success.

He said he will never forget the good times.

“There are no two ways about it. I’ve absolutely loved my time there,” said Grainger, who split his two spells at Reds with a stint as assistant head coach at Falkirk.

“I’ve worked with some great coaches off the pitch, fantastic people on the pitch, the board has supported me, and we’ve created memories.

“That day we beat Runcorn in the play-off final will stay with me a long time – seeing the joy and happiness the fans had, and being able to share that with my friends and family and players, will last with me forever.

“It gives you that drive and taste of it – you want to do it again. But if the next challenge isn’t a results business as such, I’m ok with that. It becomes a different challenge to get that feeling.”

Seeking another club who will allow him to grow, and play a key part in long-term growth, appears to be the aim now.

“I’m open-minded to anything, as long as it ticks the boxes for me, and it’s not a knee-jerk, ‘let’s get him in because he’s done well at Workington’, etc,” he said.

“I want to go somewhere that wants to build something, and put foundations in place, make things better, whether that’s a professional set-up or a non-league set-up.

“The old saying is if you enjoy what you do, you don’t work a day in your life. I’m lucky enough that I’ve spent my whole life since I left school inside football.

“That’s what I want to continue doing. But it’s also got to be right for me. It would be easy to jump into something that’s not right and before you know it you’re at the bottom of the pile again.

“At the moment I’d like to think I’ve done well enough that I can have a look at things and see what’s right for me.”