If I could live that summer again, there are a few things I’d do differently.
First, I’d be harder on the players. I’d set them a target of 100 points the season we won the league. We got 87. I should have recognised then: we’ve won the league, but we’re not as good as we think we are.
Second, I wouldn’t change as many players. That might sound contradictory, given what I’ve just said. And we made some really good signings – Dan Burn, Nick Powell, Nathan Byrne – but by bringing them in it upset the group we had and the spirit we’d created.
I should have just brought in one or two, stuck with the rest until January and done it all a bit more slowly.
I never felt my job was in danger that season, though. The first moment I got an idea something was up was when I got a text from the chairman: “Can you meet me at the stadium tomorrow?”
I’d never had that before. In the morning I met with the club doctor at training. He was close to Dave Whelan (the club’s former chairman and grandfather to the current one) and always knew what was going on. As soon as I spoke to him, I knew: I’m getting the sack here.
Anger is probably the first feeling. Then you start to think, this is wrong.
“It felt like I was holding my finger in the dam to try and stop the water, but it just kept flowing out. I couldn’t stop it”
When I spoke to the club psychologist Lee Richardson – who I’d brought into the club – he told me that getting sacked is “like a death in the family. You have to grieve, then think about what you did, try to learn from it and move on.”
That’s a bit strong, I thought. But he was right.
It’s a really difficult time. Overnight you go from being 100 per cent motivated to waking up and thinking, I can’t be bothered doing anything. You try to go to the gym and go through the motions, but your motivation levels are at zero.
I should have taken more time to do what Lee said. But I got job interviews straight away. I wanted to right the wrong.
I went to Chesterfield. They were 22nd in League One at the time, but I got on well with their director of football, Chris Turner, and believed the team had potential.
Ched Evans was a striker who I thought could get goals at that level. We had Gboly Ariyibi and Jay O’Shea: dangerous attacking players who could create opportunities.
But within a few weeks of me joining, everything changed. Ched Evans was injured. O’Shea and Gboly were sold, and Chris Turner left in February.
By that point it was too late – I was in.