Confessions Of A Novice Football Manager

Alex StampCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2009

The day begins with the morning alarm, 8:00 am (early for a student on a Sunday) as I roll out of bed, bleary-eyed and facing up to what today is, my first as a football manager.


It has been two days since my house mate asked me to manage our Sunday League football team, as he was going to be under the weather (student speak for hungover).


Our team, Ship Launch FC plays in the North Gwynedd and Ynys Mon Sunday Football League. Thus far our season has been an almost utterly abysmal one, only two wins all season, an attack which plays like Arsenals, only in terms of the number of goals it scores, and a defence which leaks more than a water bed after meeting a hedgehog. I was hardly optimistic.


But to term the job simply as being that of 'manager' would do a disservice to all those who perform this role week-in-week-out in amateur football matches. The job is rather a mixture of Secretary, Manager, Kit Man and Accountant to say the least.


Indeed, up until now I had spent my weekday evenings making frantic phone calls, confirming with referees, players and opposition that our match was to go ahead.


And now as the world slowly awakes, recovering from the excesses of the night before so my day begins as I frantically shovel sodden-kit from the washing machine into a bag to take to the launderette for a last minute dry.


Having borne my heavy load to the launderette and back, I collect the nets, and resembling a man bearing all his worldly possessions, I begin my half a mile trudge to my next destination.


I stop off to collect the locker room key, pay my deposit, and arrive at the pitch an hour and a half before kick off, with the teams due in half an hour.


My fears over what lies ahead are hardly allayed as the locker room key snaps as I open it. Keep calm, everything will be okay. Then I realise I've left the team sheets at home, a frantic phone call home just catches one of my house mates before he leaves as I ask him to bring them down. Surely things must get better.


I deposit the kit in a changing room, reeking with the smell of deep heat and stagnated water, and set about struggling to place the nets in the goals.


10:00 am, and the team's arrive. But while the team's head straight for the changing room, so I struggle manfully with the nets. No tape, no matter, just tied up bin liners holding up the nets-ingenuity defined. Team members arriving late, no worries-deep breaths everything will work out well in the end.


Half an hour to go, the team begins to warm up, selection decisions to be made. Several of the team arrive bleary-eyed, some still rather worst for wear, regaling tales of the previous evening, and some even this morning. Things one really shouldn't hear as he prepares to send these men out as his selections, though one insists that alcohol makes him a better player.


Ultimately the team picks itself, as my phone buzzes with a couple of late pullouts, and as the team continue to stand idly by while their opponents are undergoing stringent warm ups I am busy pumping match balls up to be played with. Then there is the issue of the referee, being the home side it is our job (and by our job I mean my job) to confirm with him-fifteen minutes to go and no sign-relax everything will be okay.


Ten minutes to go, a rather half-hearted call to the players and they stroll into a circle. As I announce the team, the responses are mixed, some nod, some glare, but thankfully I receive little in the way of resistance.


Five minutes til kickoff, the referee arrives (hurrah!), teamsheets are filled in, now there is nothing left to do but kick off- after my morning's labour now the real thing begins.


In truth, once the match starts, it arrives almost as a blessed relief-the team have mostly turned up on time, we have an opposition, got ourselves a pitch, and a ball to play with, all things that I was supposed to organise.


As the match unfolds, I attempt to adopt a trial and error approach to management, the players will learn from making mistakes. Besides which, why should eleven men, most of whom are far larger and threatening than I, even think about listening to one stationary figure on the sideline?


I am after all simply known to them as the ex-team-mate, who were it not for a dodgy knee would be out there on the pitch making the same mistakes as them. What right have I to lecture?


So I watch events unfold, knowing full well that there is understandably little I can do.

Substitutions are made, and the half time team-talk is given, a talk rich with some of the finest in footballing cliches-"we're still in it", "it's still nil-nil" (when you're one nil down) and of course ending with the infamous "you can do it!"


Ultimately the team lost 3-0, to a team near the top of the table, the result itself seemed of almost secondary importance. The team played well, bar a couple of errors and ran a superior team close, and though it was mainly due to the eleven players I'll at least try and take some credit for my small part in it - go go gaffer.


But even then, my job is far from over, nets to be taken down, referees to be paid, subs to be collected, keys to be returned and food to be had. Messrs Ferguson and Wenger think they have it bad.


And as I finally, at 2:00 pm, some six hours after my day began, finally managed to take a seat, and reflect on what had occurred, I came to appreciate quite why managers are such a rare breed.


For today I had to trust my fate to a group of players, who will hate you if you take them off, expect you to play them regardless, and expect all the praise if the team wins. Sound familiar?


And so my brief, and temporary sojourn as a manager is over, thankfully. I finish with a record of, one played, one lost, but I won't mind. For come next week I shall return to my role as a humble spectator, free from the pressures, the thankless tasks and the player's attitudes, I'll leave all that to the real management men.


So next time you blame a manager, be it a fan, player, or even employer, just remember that while you think you can do a better job, in my experience—you wouldn't want to.