For the first time, I stepped out of that pigeon hole. I was still doing the goalkeepers, but my brief went beyond that as well: looking at what we were doing tactically, set-plays, dealing with the media, scouting, match reports. It was a whole new world.
Iain has a huge appetite for the game, and a work ethic to match. He demands high standards, but he gives them too – so, when you work for him, you work hard.
The off-field stuff was the most challenging aspect. By that, I mean the finances. We were led to believe there was some money there; in reality, there wasn’t.
It was a big learning experience.
“Training was on half an Astroturf at a local school – dead on 9pm, there were people itching to get on to play hockey”
Three years later, I went for the managers’ job at Stafford Rangers. By then, I’d assisted Iain at both QPR and Hull City. Naively, I looked at it and thought: “I can do that.”
When I look back, I can see that I wasn’t ready for it. I was plenty old enough, but Stafford were down the bottom of what was then the Blue Square North. I wasn’t ready to work at that level. I didn’t know non-league well enough.
Now I’ve studied it. Been to hundreds of games at that level and below. So I’ve got more of an idea of what it takes to try and be even half-successful at it.
I’ve also learned a lot more from other people. After Stafford I spent some time with Aidy Boothroyd at Northampton Town. His attention to detail on the style of football we’re playing at Solihull Moors now was forensic.
On average, there’s about 140 restarts in every National League game, so the ball is out of play a lot – whether that’s for a throw-in, goal-kick or anything else. So, if you’re defending, you have to know what’s coming back. And, if it’s your ball, then you need to know how you’re going to apply your version.
That’s something I definitely took from my time working with Aidy, and it has won us so many points this season it’s ridiculous. Everyone knows what’s coming, but they still don’t deal with it.
If I’d had that knowledge when I went into Stafford, I’d have done things very differently. Employed styles and formations that fit that team. But you learn… and I’m still learning now, from every game we play.