Don’t get me wrong. When it’s good, it’s great.
When it’s not good, though, if you’ve got injuries and you’re struggling, it’s really, really tough. Only my resilience got me through the later years of my career.
I was obsessed with keeping fit – I still am now, at 50 – so I pushed myself to play when maybe I shouldn’t have.
I loved playing (above), but the pain became too much. I had to call it a day.
“In eight months there, everything imaginable went wrong”
I’d been in so much pain as a player that I found the transition to coaching pretty easy. Inside six months, I knew I enjoyed it far more than playing.
I started off in Watford’s academy in 2003, and I got a real buzz out of helping young people, both as individuals and as footballers. But before I knew it, an opportunity to be a manager came up.
I’d got to know Brendan Rodgers, and he got in touch to say a friend of his was taking over at Farnborough Town in the Conference. They wanted to talk to me about becoming the manager. I got the job in the summer and took on the biggest challenge of my career.
We were one of only three or four part-time teams in the Conference at that time. The club had recently been in administration and was fighting to stay out of more financial trouble.
I was working for a very good guy in Tony Theo, and we had a plan for how to move the club forward. We were punching above our weight and it was all going pretty well, but then Tony lost ownership of Farnborough after a legal battle and two other businessmen came in. They wanted me out, but because the team was doing well they couldn’t get rid of me.
It was an eventful time. Over my eight months there, everything imaginable that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
At one point, the owners hadn’t paid the players for three or four months, and I was getting calls from some of the young lads – who were only on around £150 a week, and football was everything they lived for – saying they couldn’t afford the petrol to get to training.
I wanted to show the players how much I cared, so I went to my wife – who was a bank manager at the time – and told her I needed a lot of money. She wasn’t very happy with me, but I told her I needed between £7,000 and £10,000 to pay the players’ wages.