The city is very driven by oil. When its price plummeted, that had a knock-on effect on the club. It wasn’t only the players who had to go. I lost the kit man, analyst, physio, head scout and my top player developer.
I should have drawn a line somewhere. Told them: “No way, I need my scout. Need my analyst. I can’t work without them.”
But I was inexperienced and trying to be as loyal as I could by not using money that wasn’t there.
After working for 14 years to reach this position, I was going to do whatever it took to stay there.
That’s right – 14 years. When you haven’t had a top-level playing career, it’s a lengthy process to become a manager in the professional game.
I did my Level 1 badges before I even started my sports science degree at university in Leeds. And by the time I graduated, I’d squeezed my foot in the door at Leeds United by doing some work with their Football in the Community programme and using the academy to help with my dissertation.
“I was working with different kinds of players. That gives you a broad range of communication styles. You learn different ways of adapting and developing sessions”
Straight after I finished university, that foot in the door got me a job with Leeds United’s Under-9s. It was great, apart from one thing – I wasn’t earning enough to live on.
So I got more work – more Football in the Community hours, sessions with Leeds United’s women’s team and, eventually, the role of head performance coach at Leeds University.
With these, I was able to piece together enough money for food and rent. I was working some crazy hours, but I was with football every day.
Every few hours I was working with different kinds of players. Kids at primary school; disadvantaged youths; elite academy players; the older ones at university.
That tests how you work with people and gives you a broad range of communication styles. You learn different ways of adapting and developing sessions.
I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours coaching, which gave me a great grounding. The more people you work with, the more sessions you do and the more you trial and error things, the better the coach you become.