I didn’t know the Sligo job was up for grabs at the time. I didn’t even know where Sligo was!
I went over there to check the club out in the middle of the week and was offered the manager’s job on that trip. The season was starting on that Friday, so I only had a couple of days to prepare.
Paul Cook was the previous manager, and he’d left for Accrington. He’d put together a good team that had come close to winning the league but just hadn’t got over the line. I tried to build on the good work he’d done.
Sligo was a full-time club, but there was a part-time mentality about the place. I had to educate people there to be a bit more professional, so that training was set up properly and we did things well.
“We had untold success. In 2013/14, I was the only English manager in the Champions League”
It wasn’t easy, though. Lots of the players were on 40-week contracts, and they had to spend the 12 weeks until the new season picking up the dole. Then they would find out if they had a contract for the new season.
Players were leaving for €50 a week extra because that was a significant amount of money at that level. I had to convince players to move from Dublin, sometimes with young families. It was a great insight into how to treat players.
We got the season off to a good start and the momentum started to build. We went on a great run, and after a bit of a wobble towards the end, held on to win the league with two games to go.
It was Sligo’s first league win for 35 years and they haven’t won it since. Even though football is only the fourth or fifth most popular sport in Ireland, the town went absolutely mad. Everyone in Sligo turned up to the games, and the Irish certainly know how to celebrate. It was superb to be involved in.