Rejection? It’s got to make you stronger...
IT’S been a long and lonely footballing summer for me. For a third successive year, I have felt like a sun with no sky to shine in. There is nothing quite like a good pre-season, during which you can prepare a squad for the long journey ahead on all the levels: technically, tactically, teamwise, physically, personally, professionally, mentally and culturally.
It is a very complex puzzle and six long pre-season weeks create a good platform without which you can only really play catch up.
In my last pre-season in 2014-15, Stevenage reached the League Two play-offs.
My managerial story is nearly 900 games long, with more than 46 per cent of those games being wins. I’ve won promotions, won cups, sold players for millions, helped clubs escape relegation and enjoyed prosperous cup runs.
I've managed down in the Ryman League and been promoted up through every division into League One’s top six.
But none of that has counted for anything this summer (does the August weather really count as summer?!) as I have failed to even get a single interview in applications for jobs at eight clubs.
People ask me if I am frustrated at that. The truthful answer to that is yes. But, because I don’t believe in living with negative emotions, I would answer no. And I always just reflect, learn and move on.
When jobs don’t come your way, you have to look at yourself and understand how you need to change or evolve. Rejection doesn’t kill strong people. In many cases, I have seen first-time managers appointed to jobs I have been interested in.
I guess there shouldn't really be frustration from an experienced man when that happens because the terms of engagement do not involve being proven, which I do believe has value.
Knowing how to win an FA Cup game puts pounds in the bank and memories in the mind. Knowing how to market and sell a star player for big money can create a legacy of infrastructure. Knowing who to sign and who not to sign can create a promotion or a relegation.
Like a fighter getting ready for his next bout, an out-of-work manager needs to prepare thoroughly. It is about watching games, talking to agents, tracking players, talking to people about football, particularly player issues/strategies, and learning/developing coaching methodologies.
When you are back in a job, you can capitalise on all that work and, if you haven’t done it, you will be found out.
I began and ended last season without a job. In the meantime, I signed 14 players (many unfit) in January for Newport as I contributed to their survival in the Football League.
Two of those signings (Mickey Demetriou and Mark O’Brien) scored on the final day to keep the club up and our 3-1 home victory over Hartlepool in January was ultimately the decisive six-point game.
Football is a funny old game and you never know what is going to happen next. Whatever happens, you have to make happen.
SAVIOUR: Mark O’Brien