The day after I got the sack from Preston, my phone rang.
“Welcome to management. This is the first sacking you’ve had. It’s part and parcel of the game. Don’t get screwed up about it, just learn from it and move on.”
It was Jim Smith. I’d spoken to him years earlier about my idea of going into coaching and management, and he told me then: “If you go into management Simmo, there’s one thing you have to be able to deal with.”
“Okay, what’s that?”
“As long as you’re not afraid of the sack, you’ll be fine.”
I was a player at Derby County when Jim was the manager, and I learnt a lot from him. His way was to be really harsh and aggressive with players, particularly at half-time. But there was one game when it nearly backfired.
He was hammering one of our players about something. A really small thing. And this guy was having none of it.
He looked at Jim.
“Forget it, I won’t go out for the second half.”
Then he got in the bath.
Steve McClaren was assistant at the time. Together, we managed to persuade this lad to get his kit back on and out of the dressing room for the rest of the game.
I’ll always remember that day. It was a lesson that you can’t treat everybody the same. You have to learn different ways to cajole and coax the best out of players. It’s easy to come in and be aggressive when you’ve lost a game, and emotions are running high. But you get to a point where players stop listening.