I’m thrilled for all at New­port

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEWS -

MY LAST three sea­sons have been bizarre ex­pe­ri­ences. I could cer­tainly not have writ­ten the scripts!

In 2014/15, I led my de­pleted Steve­nage team into the League Two play-offs know­ing that my con­tract was not be­ing re­newed whether we were pro­moted or not. We fell just short in ex­tra­time af­ter a 2-2 ag­gre­gate draw against Phil Brown’s very strong Southend team in the semis.

I found that ex­pe­ri­ence very hard. Fight­ing for a prize that you know you will not be around to en­joy is un­usual. It didn’t make de­feat any eas­ier, though.

In 2015/16, I took over from Dave Robertson at Peter­bor­ough with the club in 18th place in League One.

I went on to pro­duce a 44 per cent win record of 18 wins in 41 games which helped the club into a mid-ta­ble fin­ish AND my work raised im­por­tant FA Cup money and mil­lions from the de­vel­op­ment and sale of Conor Wash­ing­ton (to QPR).

De­spite that, the chair­man (Dar­ragh MacAn­thony) and I just didn’t see the po­ten­tial of the squad in the same way (he be­lieved in play­ers as ‘League 1 Cham­pi­ons’ that I didn’t and vice versa) and I was fired.

I loved that job and am con­vinced I could have de­liv­ered the pro­mo­tion he said he craved this sea­son if my squad plan and ideas had been backed.

Hon­estly, I think in his heart Dar­ragh now knows that he thought cer­tain play­ers would pro­duce more/quicker and that my closer up judge­ments were bet­ter than he re­alised.

De­liv­ered

He’d never ad­mit that! It’s not in his na­ture. But it doesn’t mat­ter. That’s foot­ball. Opin­ions!

In 2016/17, I in­her­ited a New­port team at the bot­tom of the Foot­ball League, rid­dled with key man in­juries, with very poor fa­cil­i­ties, with de­part­ing ad­min sup­port and with one win in 24. It was a very tough sit­u­a­tion.

De­spite re­sign­ing in Novem­ber, I was per­suaded to stay on and in Jan­uary/Fe­bru­ary I cre­ated a high risk/low cost/to­tal over­haul of the squad, bring­ing in 14 play­ers and ex­it­ing 12.

I did not en­joy my time at New­port but I gave my all and my work in pro­duc­ing a new/re­con­structed squad and in get­ting that squad fit did give New­port the plat­form upon which to fight hard for sur­vival. That trans­fer win­dow and sub­se­quent in sea­son pre-sea­son was a huge turn­ing point.

The even­tual de­but of Ryan Bird in our 3-1 win over Hartle­pool in Jan­uary was a vi­tal mo­ment. His type of striker was needed on that Rod­ney Pa­rade pitch and re­sults like our sub­se­quent draw with Don­caster em­pha­sised that. Big play­ers like Mickey Demetriou and Mark O’Brien were signed and nursed to fit­ness.

Sim­i­larly, the re­turns to fit­ness of Joss Labadie and Sean Rigg from the bench af­ter longterm ab­sences in my fi­nal game were huge. Mas­sive credit to Flynny (care­taker boss Michael Flynn) for a fan­tas­tic end to the sea­son. I am de­lighted the club could con­vert the Jan­uary win­dow into a com­pleted job.

If I had a wish for 2017/18, it would be two-fold:

1. To get in early, build and work with a squad through pre-sea­son, and not in­herit some­body else’s squad ten games in.

2. To work where the plat­form for suc­cess is built be­cause a large part of any nec­es­sary ‘de­mo­li­tion’ work has been done.

There is noth­ing quite like join­ing a new club in the close sea­son. It gives a man­ager time to as­sess things, or­gan­ise things and put his own blue­print on an en­vi­ron­ment.

It mas­sively re­duces the chance of er­rors and mis­takes, and it al­lows great scope for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Ev­ery man­ager wants to op­er­ate at the high­est level he can. I am no dif­fer­ent. I have a 46 per cent win record in 889 games. My FA Cup win­nings topped the League Two man­agers’ chart last year and my player sales record runs into many mil­lions.

Pres­sure

Foot­ball is a tough busi­ness and I un­der­stand the pres­sures that lead own­ers, chair­men and boards to fire man­agers. It is the na­ture of the game, which is why I don’t bother with bit­ter­ness. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I am 49, fit as a fid­dle and both tough­ened and more learned from the events of my re­cent jobs. I am ready to go all out to win my fourth pro­mo­tion next time out. Whether that takes one year, two years or five.

Foot­ball is in my blood. So is win­ning. Sometimes your win­ning is not ob­vi­ous. We all know that ev­ery suc­cess has ‘fail­ure’ within it some­where.

Learn­ing from your ex­pe­ri­ences is the ul­ti­mate key and the big dif­fer­ence in those that are able to get bet­ter is that they are hum­ble enough to iden­tify their own fail­ings and cor­rect them. As the old say­ing goes, you can­not start to­day and cre­ate a new beginning; you can start to­day and cre­ate a new end­ing.

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