It’s fair to say that this season has not been going to plan. It’s pretty depressing this whole losing thing. We are still rock bottom of the Vanarama National, having picked up just one win all season. It’s just under a month since my last update, but something big has gone on.
On December 1, League One Millwall offered me a job interview. Now, I haven’t been looking to move club. The whole point of this save was to get the club where Charlie Austin first made his name up to the Premier League, and hopefully to play against him. The only offer I have had so far was in season 2 with Yeovil, and I turned them down straight away. I didn’t even turn up for an interview. But they were in the Conference, only a division above where I was at the time. Millwall are in League One. League One! I take a glance at the table. 13 points, 1 win, 23 games. I look at the squad morale. It’s getting to the stage where these players can’t be left in the dressing room by themselves. There’s only so many: “Don’t worry, it’ll all be better soon” chats that you can have. I order the kitman to unlace everyone’s boots just in case.
I pop in to town and buy myself a navy blue tie. That’ll impress them, I think to myself. I set my sat-nav to the Den and make the relatively short trip up to London. Now Millwall are sitting 15th in League One, and have just sacked Mick McCarthy…
… Yes, that Mick McCarthy (Come on, I had to include it!). I attend the interview and everything goes well. They want me to play attacking, possession based football and develop the youth academy. I like attacking football. I also like dominating the ball. I also like (better choose my words carefully here!) giving youngsters a chance. They tell me that I would need to achieve a top half finish, and ask me whether a budget of £2.3m would be enough. £2.3 million! I’ve never seen that much money. You could buy the whole of Poole Town for that, stadium and all. I modestly tell them I could do it for less, and leave feeling pretty confident.
5 days later and I’ve heard nothing back. I begin to think it won’t happen. Sure, I’ve won Manager of the Year twice in the Vanarama South, but League One is a completely different ball game. I barely notice our 0-0 at Lincoln, I’m just staring at my phone, waiting for the reply. Then I get an email, but not the one I expected.
Colchester United have sacked their manager, and they’ve invited me to come and have a chat. Well, that new blue tie is almost paying for itself now. Maybe I should go out and start applying for these jobs, but only for teams that play in blue. Colchester sit 16th in League One, one place behind Millwall. To be honest, I have no idea where Colchester is, so I blindly follow the sat-nav until I arrive at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. I weigh up whether I’m in the position to demand a name change for the stadium. I decide that can wait ’til the summer.
The interview goes well again, I think, and I give more or less the same answers, although I have trouble keeping a straight face when I say that I’m a loyal manager in what is my second interview in under a week. Then a complication. Top half finish – that’s fine. £270k transfer budget – it’s no Millwall, but that’s fine as well. They want me to play direct, attacking football. Now I have never played direct football in my life. I stick photos of Sam Allardyce on all the dartboards around the Poole training ground. Will I betray my philosophies just to land a job in League One? Do I hold out for the tiki-taka of Millwall? Then I think back to Poole, where my assistant is pulling his hair out trying to explain to Matt Roberts that he won’t play if he hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games. “Fine,” I say begrudgingly. “I’ll play direct”.
Two days later I get a call from Millwall. They loved what I had to say, but they decided instead to give it Giggsy. Ryan Giggs: the man who led Fulham to 15th in 2017. The man who left to join Brighton, took them down from the Prem, and then got sacked with them thoroughly mid-table in the Championship. “Fine,” I snap. “I never wanted to join your hooligan club anyway”. It was at this moment that I realised the middle-classness (yep, I’m going with that) of Poole was rubbing off on me.
But the next day, something amazing happened. Colchester wanted me. The offered me an 18 month contract on a very decent £725 a week. Well, decent for what I’m on. I bet Giggsy would turn his nose up at that. I agree to their terms and bring with me my assistant manager Jamie Gleeson, my goalkeeping coach Glyn Garner and my chief scout Nathan Smart. I pack away my red Poole Town tie and say goodbye to the lads. Now all I have to do is come up with a Colchester related name as witty as ‘Poole To Prem’.