Before I get into the self-demonisation I should point out that there are a lot of things that make me a half-decent football coach. I’ve spent plenty of time and money attending various coaching courses and seminars, am a member of a pricey website that gives me thousands of video drills from the world’s top clubs and I have a good laugh with the players. Yet I am also human. When I took over a development team two years ago (we lost 15-0 and 11-0 in our first two matches), I vowed to be a happy-clapping paragon of virtue who would, in time, be beatified. It didn’t happen.
Getting drunk the night before matches or training
This didn’t happen on purpose, but after the age of 30, you rarely go out to get leathered anyway. What happens is you break your self-imposed pint rule, end up staggering around London and just make the last train. Then, of course, you wake up in Dover, spend £150 on a cab home and turn up to be greeted by 14 screaming 10-year-olds with a head like a badger’s arse stinking of aftershave and wearing sunglasses in the winter.
Having a go at refs
Before my knees gave up the ghost over a decade ago and stopped me playing at a decent competitive level, I was the refs worst nightmare. My teammates probably hated me as much as the refs did. But coaching kids is different; respect has to be taught even if the ref is a one-eyed, biased, seven-toed cousin of the opposition. Although it wasn’t very edifying, and possibly linked to point one, when I went, I went properly. Once were playing an incredibly good academy team in a tournament. Not only did they ping it around like a young Barcelona, they were also absolute filth - like Graeme Souness’ seven dwarf sons. When my lad got hit by a second flying elbow to the temple I went absolutely beserk. I know I didn’t swear, well not until I was whispering in his ear, but I gave it the full running on, pointing, calling him a disgrace and questioning his parentage. Chests were bumped, threats whispered and nostrils flared.
After about a year of getting whipped by teams who had been together since Under-6, we turned a corner and started winning games and playing good football. If I had a team full of hard little kids who live for football, this would have been the spark to league and cup success. The problem? I’ve got a team of really nice kids, which 99% of the time is brilliant - but it’s that one percent that can drive me potty. It was a tournament six months ago and we needed to win our last game 1-0 against inferior opposition to get out of the group. We scored early on and I expected a rout. I didn’t get it. What I got was a sudden meltdown in to backheels Maradona would’ve filed under impossible, flicked passes and slalom dribbles out of play. The opposition scored with a minute to go, we went out, and my stopwatch, propelled with the classic West Indian cricket throw, nearly decapitated our left-back’s Grandad.
Descending into cliché
I’ve spoken to ST’s gaffer James about this as he also coaches, and the fortunes of the team you manage become more important than the club side you follow. You can’t help it, you become a fan. In training, we work on communication a lot and various calls that make it easier. Start again / go home, angle, pressure and cover etc. 90% of the time you stick to these, but when you’re loud and easily excitable, and become completely lost in the game at times, it’s not long before the full book of footballing clichés get an airing. From second ball to mixer on to early doors and the rest, you look, sound and are a total berk. Special mention for an opposition coach who once shouted “Johnny, pick and roll…” which as far as I’m aware is something to do with basketball.
Celebrating like a madman
Like most people who love football, it’s the one game that turns me into a full-blown loon. Mainly I keep the celebrations to a minimum but, on occasion, when a crisp passing move or something you have worked on in training results in a goal I can’t keep a lid on it. I’ve given it the full Mickey Channon arm whirl, The Mourinho knee slide, the Dalglish double arm raise and, my personal favourite, a quick sprint followed by the Brett Lee chainsaw while on one knee. Idiot.