When you’ve been sacked by Chorley, and you’re staring at the bottom of your pint glass in the corner of a pub frequented by just one regular who suffers from phlegm and catarrh, where else can you go?
Who’ll take a manager who lost 50% of his matches and couldn’t even motivate his side to score an average of one goal a game?
Queen’s Park. That’s where.
Yes, I’m now in the third tier of Scottish football, where all my players are on amateur contracts. I’m on an amateur contract. None of us are being paid a penny to turn up and play (or manage) games of football.
The fact that we’re in the third tier, and not fourth, is remarkable. What’s even more remarkable is that we play out home games at Hampden Park – a 52,000-seat stadium for 500 fans. If I know my fractions like I think I do (and I’ve always said betting is a good way to learn maths) that’s just under 1% of its capacity.
I’ve gone from being chucked by Chorley (who, hilariously, play their home games at Victory Park) to spending my Saturday afternoons in Scotland’s best stadium.
The fact that any of my players could walk out of the club at any time is a small price to pay to find a chairman that’s willing to give me a second – and possibly final – chance.
The situation is this: with four games to go, Queens Park are three points clear of the relegation play-off spot. My remit is to keep them clear. In fact, everything about this job is startlingly similar to the situation I was in at Chorley. Except no one gets paid.
I’m doing it for the love of the game. It’s work experience. It’s better than being at Sports Direct on a zero hours contract where they pay you peanuts and sack you for daring to take a long shit break.
I barely had a day to assess my squad before we took on second placed Airdrie at home – a team still with a chance of claiming the title – so I left things in the capable hands of my assistant, Chris Hillcoat.
We lost 1-0.
Same old story, really. We had plenty more chances – I was actually impressed by the way we played – but we conceded in the first minute and never looked like recovering, despite having more of the play.
Next up was a trip to Brechin, who occupied the relegation play-off spot. A defeat would see us swap places.
And if the game had finished in the 87th minute, that’s exactly where we’d be. But striker Anton Brady broke his barren spell to equalise in the 88th and we nicked a point. I say ‘nicked’ – again, we played fairly well, had more of the ball and created more chances.
That’s where things stand right now. With two games to go, Stenhousemuir (or Stenhouse Manure, as a few of us like to call them) are relegated – they’re long gone – and Brechin stay 9th on 34 points. Peterhead are in 8th on 35 and we’re in 7th on 36 (so the point actually moved us up a position.
There’s no time to look for reinforcements, so I’ll have to do this with the players at my disposal. I seem to have inherited a world-beating right back, who has four goals, four assists and an average rating of 7.25. His name is Ross Millen.
My two remaining fixtures are, unusually, both at home. We’ve got Alloa (in the play-offs but nothing to play for) and Livingston (top of the league with a four-point advantage over Airdie).
Also, my chief scout, Bobby Dickson, is amazing. No wonder we’re in the third tier if he’s in charge of recruitment.