Looking at the managerial merry-go-round the last few weeks, with eight managers fired in 24 days, you must wonder what keeps us coming back for more. I suppose the answer is the satisfaction you get out of it – not just winning a game, but achieving something like promotion or staying up. The buzz you get from that you can’t really put into words. The adrenalin it delivers can be addictive. That feeling you have when the whistle blows and you’ve done what you set out to do… you miss it when you’re not in the game. That is why I was tempted last week when Milan Mandaric asked me to consider taking over Sheffield Wednesday.
I’ve been fortunate most of the seven promotions I’ve won have been with sides I built from zero, so it is doubly rewarding. There is nothing to match being in the dressing room celebrating promotion after a long season with a group of lads you have put together. When QPR clinched promotion at Watford I was so overcome with emotion I couldn’t even finish congratulating them. To get the Clint Hills and Adel Taarabts, such different players, working together and appreciating each other’s talents was smashing.
It’s not all like that, of course. You do understand when you get into management that you will get the sack at some stage, but that never puts people off trying again. This week David Flitcroft, who did a great job last season keeping Barnsley up, then was sacked a fortnight ago, has taken over at Bury, and Richie Barker, sacked by Crawley late last month, has gone back into it at Portsmouth.
It is important for first-time mangers such as David to get back into work as soon as they can, because around 40 per cent of managers sacked from their first job don’t get a second chance. That’s terrifying.
For a lot of young managers, especially those who have not played at the top end of the game, there is also a financial need to work. Some of them could find employment in another field, but you can’t beat making a living out of something you really enjoy doing. I know there is the option of coaching, but I’ve always wanted to manage and I’m sure that applies to David and Richie. Then you can do it your way. You need good staff with their own opinions – Mick Jones has been a great No 2 as he’s not a yes-man – but at the end of the day the buck stops with you and the good managers are the ones who make more good decisions than bad.
Obviously, when one manager takes a job it means another must have left. So while I’m pleased for David – a good lad, whose brother, Garry, played for me at Sheffield United – I’m disappointed for Ronnie Jepson, who worked with me at Leeds and other clubs. Jeppo took over from Kevin Blackwell in October, lost once in the last seven league games, and by all accounts was playing some good football, but I suppose for the owner the opportunity to bring in David, a local lad and former player, was too good to turn down. And what an owner says, goes – including, in many cases, the manager.
So there is insecurity to add to the despair of losing matches, the drudgery of travelling, the frustration with transfers, and the 101 things a manager has to do. But when someone asked me last week how I could contemplate going back into management when I was enjoying the media work and spending time with the family, it wasn’t those things I thought of. It was the buzz, and the day-to-day patter with the players. Football humour is so different to what I have experienced anywhere else, you can’t replicate it, and you do miss it.
You do need humour around the training ground and in the dressing room. It helps put players at ease in what can be a stressful sport. There have been times when I’ve had a choice of players and gone with the one who was funny. The best example would be Rob Kozluk at Sheffield United. He was a decent full-back, but what a tremendous person and comedian. He didn’t pick on anyone in particular, they all came under his spell, but they all took it well and it wasn’t nasty stuff. There was also Dean Thomas at Notts County, and Gary Clayton at Burton. Those sort of players keep things going when results are not as they should be.
There are fewer players like that at the top level because there are so many foreign players. As well as the language barrier, they often have a different sense of humour.
I felt that was why Fabio Capello struggled at the 2010 World Cup. At the end of a long season, players need a bit of humour, not strictness.
QPR have great new grounds for optimism
The announcement of a new QPR stadium is great news for all Hoops fans. I spoke to chairman Tony Fernandes on my TalkSPORT show on Friday and he’s very excited.
We were talking about the need for a new stadium and training ground when Tony came to the club and he has really taken it on board.
I know we’ll miss the atmosphere of Loftus Road but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they can double the crowd in the right environment. There are so many more women and children likely to come to a ground with great facilities.
It promises to be exciting times for QPR. What is needed now is for Harry Redknapp to keep them on course for a return to the Premier League, which I am sure he will, and the club can go forward.
William’s wonder goal made the trip home easier
Last week I left Amy revising for her mock exams and went to Oxford to watch William play for Plymouth Under-13s. With five minutes to go it was 0-0, then Mikey went down the wing, beat two or three, pulled it back, and William whacked it in. It was a great goal and I was jumping up and down. I thought it would be the winner, but everyone knows when you’ve scored you often concede. Sure enough, Oxford equalised and Argyle’s goalie even had to pull off three saves to stop us getting beat.
It’s a long way home to Plymouth, and even further for some. One lad comes from Truro; his family set off at half-four. He’s been doing it since he was nine. The parents really have to be dedicated. Some people say Argyle should only play clubs nearer Devon but players need to be tested against other clubs. It’s the price you have to pay for living where we live.
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