Rel­e­ga­tion’s ugly but it makes you stronger

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY -

You learn a lot about hu­mil­ity when you are at the bot­tom of a League. It is not an ex­pe­ri­ence I have en­dured pre­vi­ously and it is cer­tainly not an ex­pe­ri­ence I would rush to en­dure again. But they say that you are not a ‘proper’ man­ager un­til you have ex­pe­ri­enced rel­e­ga­tion and I can truly see why.

When I re­turned to Steve­nage in April 2013, I in­her­ited a squad that had won 0.66 points per game over 18 games. And a squad that then lost its cap­tain as Mark Roberts un­der­stand­ably chose to move on last sum­mer. The harsh re­al­ity is that a squad that pro­duces that per­for­mance must be short of foot­balling or hu­man qual­i­ties. I was warned about the dense dif­fi­culty I would in­herit and, yes, things have been tough.

We didn’t have ‘budget’ to play with to change the squad around; in fact, be­cause of a lack of cup suc­cess last sea­son, I have largely had to elim­i­nate play­ers I didn’t want to work with and re­place them with free on loan or low cost play­ers. So the re­cruit­ment mar­ket for us has been nar­row and progress slow.We aren’t Wolves, Sh­effield United or Coven­try City. We aren’t Rother­ham, Brent­ford or Pre­ston North End.We don’t have sig­nif­i­cant trans­fer funds or at­trac­tive wages with which to build.We have to search for am­bi­tious play­ers look­ing for the op­por­tu­nity to step up and learn a new level; and we have to be pa­tient while they learn.

Yes we have im­proved; we have won 0.93 pts per game over 42 League games and 1.17 pts per game in our last 12 League games. But we are still bot­tom and people will tend to mea­sure our League po­si­tion not our im­prove­ment.

People talk sym­pa­thet­i­cally to you when you are bot­tom, as if you are a poor, in­ca­pable man­ager in need of pity. Some treat you with con­tempt, as if your point of view is no longer as valid as it was when you were win­ning, even if your abil­i­ties, with time and ex­pe­ri­ence, will al­most cer­tainly be bet­ter.

You can­not even start to de­fend yourself. There is no point. No­body lis­tens.You just have to take care of your own self con­fi­dence, face the neg­a­tive mu­sic and keep plug­ging away with a huge moun­tain of de­ter­mi­na­tion and a deep fo­cus. Pa­tiently be­liev­ing in your vi­sion.

As a man­ager, men­tal strength is a vi­tal com­mod­ity. It is im­por­tant that you are able to be hon­est and not make ex­cuses for yourself. One of my lads said to me this week that from where we were at 0.66 points per game, it was a mir­a­cle that we still had a chance of pro­duc­ing an es­cape with four to play. I know what he means. I know how hard­earned our cur­rent po­si­tion is. Daft as that sounds. With­out huge amounts of hard work, we would have been rel­e­gated long ago.

They say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Roberto Martinez was rel­e­gated last year and has shown this sea­son just how good he is at his job. So, too, has Dar­ren Fer­gu­son. And in­deed Phil Brown.

The op­por­tu­nity for any ‘proper’ man­ager is to show his met­tle in the way he re­acts to dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances.

My re­silience has grown this year. My strength of char­ac­ter has deep­ened. And my am­bi­tion for suc­cess has be­come even more deep rooted.

We may pull off the ‘im­pos­si­ble’. Or we may fail. Whichever is the case, the fu­ture is for those that at­tack it and seize it. For those that can take tough times on the chin, learn, stand tall and bounce back bet­ter. Not for those who dwell on any mis­for­tunes and wal­low in ex­cuses.

As Rocky Bal­boa said,“It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how hard you can get hit, how much you can take and keep mov­ing for­wards; that’s how win­ning is done.”

ONE of the lines of the­ory is that it takes 10,000 hours of rep­e­ti­tion of skills to de­velop pro­fi­ciency. An­other, is that it is more about the that is done on the most im­por-tant skills that re­ally counts. If you do 10,000 hours on the wrong things then take 1,000 hours on the right things can take some­one of equal abil­ity fur­ther. The re­al­ity is that the true cham­pi­ons do both; they work hard­est and they work at the things most likely to cre­ate mas­sive gains in per­for­mance

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