At the time, the whole club was on its knees. At one stage before I got the job, I was looking across the training ground while taking the reserves. Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz and Fernando Amorebieta – three very good players – were on their own playing head tennis. I thought to myself: “What on earth is going on?”
When I took over, I just tried to put a smile back on everybody’s face. It was a nice day, so I got the training ground staff outside to watch training. They hadn’t even been allowed in the canteen at the same time as the players before, and definitely hadn’t been allowed to watch training.
I brought Rodallega, Ruiz and Amorebieta back in to the fold. They just wanted to be playing football again. I just tried to be open and inclusive, and make everyone feel relaxed and happy.
“The Sunderland contract was there, ready to be signed, when the CEO drops in the news about the Netflix documentary”
The team was really struggling, though. We had one point from seven games when I was given the job, and we were bottom of the league. In the first game of that 2014/15 season, there were 10 debutants in the starting line-up. The only one who had played for Fulham before was Scotty Parker. Lots of the others were boys I had brought through – they were good players, but I knew they weren’t ready for first-team football.
There was confusion around the team, so I just decided to go back to basics. We went 4-4-2 because I knew, with the players we had, we needed to play with two up front. We scored loads of goals, but the problem was we didn’t have the holding midfielder I was desperate for. I wanted Kevin McDonald, but couldn’t get him in; then, frustratingly, he came in straight after I left. He would have been perfect for what we were trying to do.
When I lost the job three months into the 2015/16 season, we were the Championship’s leading scorers – but we conceded too many goals.