And, with the turnaround in coaches and managers quicker now, you have to maximise your time with them. That means taking notice of all the issues that exist around the first-team group. Being emotionally intelligent, aware of the mentality of your players – and respecting that it is a bigger part of the job than it has ever been.
In my first full season at Brighton, we came within touching distance of automatic promotion to the Premier League, missing out on goal difference. We then had less than a week to prepare for the first leg of our playoff semi final against Sheffield Wednesday.
We lost it 2-0. And, despite playing some of the best football we’d played all season for 30 minutes of the second leg at the Amex, we drew that game – meaning that, despite losing just six league games all season, our hopes of playing Premier League football the following year were over.
The question then was, having got so close to promotion and put so much into achieving that aim, what would the reaction be like from the players next season? Would they be as determined to go through it all again?
The honest answer is that, at that moment, you just don’t know.
All you can hope is that the disappointment will drive them on, and that you’ve instilled enough into them to give you the best possible chance of success.
“I’ll always remember Newcastle’s promotion as my first achievement, but this one was probably the most emotional”
As soon as pre-season started, though, I could feel we had a group of players who were desperate to go again. We were playing in a division that had a lot of strong teams, but thankfully we started the season well – we lost just twice before the turn of the year.
With four games of the season to go, we were top of the league. By that stage, I was quietly confident that we were going to achieve promotion.
Going into our game against Wigan Athletic – at home, where we had a strong record – I was equally confident of getting a result. But that belief doesn’t take anything away from the emotion of what you feel inside once the job is done, and promotion is secured.
At that stage, it becomes not so much about yourself but what it means to the club, the fans, to the people who employ you, and to a group of players who were desperate to be Premier League footballers.
A lot of people ask me about the difference between that promotion and the one I had with Newcastle. In all honesty, if I look at where the team was when I took over, I think it was a harder job to do it with Brighton.
I’ll always remember Newcastle’s promotion as my first achievement as a manager, but this one was probably the most emotional.