The Unknown Manager: Distracted Driving

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I’m not going to lie. I’ve had one eye on the exit door since the day after we won the title. I haven’t been half-assing it with the team. The transfer window should be evidence enough of that. I can’t help but feel like I’ve done all I can here. Last season, despite our previous double, we were only projected as 5th. This season the media and the bookies have us as clear favorites. The team that dominated last year has only been made stronger still. Stomping to a double every year is nice, but the board are hopeless to work with and going professional is forever out of reach. I’ve grown to love this club dearly, but my career is destined for more than it can offer. This will be my last season at Glentoran FC, but I don’t know when I’ll leave yet.

July 2019

UEFA Champions League

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We almost did it. I can’t describe how close we were. We drew Slovenian champions Olympiha Lublana in the second qualifying round and stole an impressive 1-2 away win in the first leg. The return at The Oval was a very nervy affair, but the lads fought bravely and held the off the entire ninety minutes. The next round saw us draw again as the away team, this time we were up against Norwegian champs Molde FK. They grabbed an early goal from a set piece in a match we surprisingly dominated with nearly sixty percent possession. The occasionally dependable Ruairi Croskery netting a potentially crucial away goal just a few minutes from time.

Our surprising dominance continued in the home leg. We had the lions share of the ball and consistently created chances. Without finishing, however, chances don’t mean anything. Molde drove the point home by scoring in the dying moments of the game just as I thought we were through on away goals. The moment was crushing. Eleven shots on target. Converting just one of them would’ve forced extra time. Keeping our composure for two more minutes would’ve seen us through. This was the moment that I knew it was time to leave.

UEFA Europa League

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We dropped down into the Europa League to get a draw against Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv. An outstanding opening twenty minutes in the first leg at The Oval saw us taking a one goal lead to Israel. I would blame the lack of travel experience had we not grabbed several creditable away results in our European fixtures so far. I’m beginning to think the squad is listening to too much of the media hype. These young players tend to get carried away if they hear a lot about how great they are. Let’s just hope this doesn’t carry into the season.

County Antrim Shield

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Which should I talk about first, the three-peat or the second straight win without conceding a single goal? I’m not sure what it is about this competition but we don’t seem to be able to put a foot wrong in it. At least, Philip Comnell can’t.

Northern Ireland Football League Cup

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What started out as smooth sailing in the first two matches quickly devolved into something like that wave in The Perfect Storm. Armagh City should’ve been another easy win, yet we found ourselves at 2-2 after ninety minutes and heading into extra time. Leave it to none other than our beloved Sir Philip to grab the hat trick and leave us with one of the strangest scores you’ll ever see with an “e” next to it.

And then some other stuff that’s not really worth talking about happened. Moving on.

Danske Bank Premier League
August – December 2019

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(I realize now I’ve forgotten to take a screenshot of the league table for this. We’re nine points clear in first as of the final fixture on this list)

Remember what I said about cruising to the title? We opened the season with five straight wins and an overall goal difference of 15-1. I’ve switched this season from our 4-4-1-1 to a new 4-2-4 system to take advantage of the strongest areas of the squad in striker and wingers. There’s plenty of goals from all over the pitch as you can see, but it’s surprisingly solid defensively for such an intrinsically attacking formation.

Our first loss came away to last season’s chasers Coleraine. This set off a run where we just couldn’t find goals and only took two points from a possible twelve. The Glenavon match finally saw a win, although a more narrow win than I would’ve liked. This international break following started what ended up being a massive avalanche of job interviews. I started taking screenshots until I was getting several interviews a day and knew there was no way to post them all. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually get any contract offers, so I just attended every interview I was offered. This was to continue for quite a bit of time.

The hoodoo wasn’t quite broken as we had two more embarrassing goalless draws against teams we should be beating easily. Finally we got back to winning ways with an assertive three goal win away to Cliftonville. This started a different run, where we’ve gone all the way to the end of the year scoring at least a goal in every match. Aside from two tough away draws with Linfield and Dungannon, there were eight wins from the next ten matches following the Cliftonville result.

Can you tell why the title is distracted driving yet? It was hard to put my full concentration on the matches when we were doing so well and I was dealing with multiple job interviews every day. Apparently my successes over the past few years had really made an impression across the globe. I was getting interviews from teams in the English Championship, Italian Serie B, a team near the bottom of the Spanish La Liga, several teams in the Bulgarian Premier League, a team in Israel, and a whole slew of not quite as impressive teams in lower leagues. I was on the verge of accepting a contract from Clermont in the French Ligue 2, but they got tired of my repeated requests for delays and I had too many more promising interviews to commit to Clermont.

One by one, the jobs I really wanted went to other candidates. I had several more contract offers from one and a half or two star teams. I turned them down, hoping one of the interviews for the big league three star teams would come through. Despite my feelings on going to England, as December came to an end there were only two major jobs I was still in the running for: Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa. I just couldn’t justify turning either one of those positions down in favor of going to a team in the bottom of one of the Serie C divisions. The days ticked by, the transfer window approached, and neither team had hired anyone. The squad was in the midst of what would be eight wins in a row and didn’t need much input from me. Bolton fans considered me a leading candidate for the job. They’ve got over a hundred million pounds in the bank and I’ll take that any day.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

The Bolton job is gone.

Bolton and Aston Villa are only two positions apart near the bottom of the Championship. If one of them doesn’t want me, will the other?

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

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Do doo do do.

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