I was out with an injury when the first phone call came. It was two days after the team had lost 2-0 to West Ham on the weekend – not a great result or performance. The Monday after the game my phone rang. It was Swansea’s chairman, Huw Jenkins.
“Would you be ready to help Michael?”
What did he mean? At that stage I wasn’t sure. There wasn’t any indication or clarification that Michael was going. Anyway, I said yes. I was prepared to do anything for the club.
“Whatever you need me to do.”
That was it. I had no idea what was about to unfold. The next day I was called into a meeting with the chairman. He asked me again, would I be willing to “help Michael with training and stuff like that?”
I didn’t really feel comfortable with the situation. But if it was what Michael and the club wanted, then of course I would do it.
Within 24 hours, the news was out. They’d decided to move Michael on. Suddenly everything became a bit clearer.
“Could you take training?”
At that point, what do you do? I was captain of the club. I’d been there for a long time. And they were asking me to do something to help the club. I felt I had to do it.
“I made a conscious decision to use emotion to get the best out of the players. I knew it would be a trigger for them”
Management wasn’t in my thoughts at all. Though I wasn’t getting as much game time, I was still a player. Still a captain. I had a year left on my contract at Swansea and was coming up to my testimonial year. I’d been hoping to use that testimonial as a send-off, so I could go to another club and try to finish my career on a high.
But football changes quickly. You have to be ready to adapt.
I had three and a half days to prepare for the most important game of the season against our local rivals, Cardiff. Three and a half days to get my head around this new role. Three and a half days of zero sleep.
During that time, I just tried to be a captain. There was no point coming in and pretending to be a manager. I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing, but I felt obliged because of my relationship with the club.
I made it really clear to the players from the start: “Yes, I have to decide the training and select the team, but I’m not trying to be a manager.”
I think they respected me for that.
They also knew what I was like as a player. I was always up for a laugh in the changing room, but when it came to training I was serious. Worked hard. And they knew I would expect the same from them.