Becoming a manager doesn’t just happen, I think not at least. It’s the journey of being a player, working your way up through the ranks of youth football, to semi pro then professional. Or like me, you play Sunday League football, get an opportunity at a semi pro club then stuff it because you’re shit.
I was never the best, or good, or semi decent. Basically I got a game as I was the only left footed player, and I played left back for all my semi pro career. Since making my debut at the age of 17, I played for a number of lower league Australian clubs before getting a move to Wellington Olympic in New Zealand. In my first season there I managed to get 13 assists as we went on an 11 game winning run. Whilst I got a trial at A League Side Wellington Phoenix due to my assists, those assists were only possible due to the decent strikers we had there that year. Nothing came of my trial at Phoenix and I went back to semi-pro football playing in Tahiti, The Solomon Islands before my last season as a player at Australian side Dulwhich Hill. During this year I suffered a cruciate ligament injury, completely ending my career as a footballer.
As part of my rehabilitation I go to a specialist knee doctor in Lisbon who operates on me and I spend a few weeks in their rehab center. During this time I am completely alone with nothing but my regrets as a player and my thoughts. It’s during these days that I decide to look into coaching. A lot of ex players who aren’t the best go on to become great managers, Andre Villas-Boas was never a player but can be considered a good manager, Jose Mourinho didn’t do much as a player but is a world class manager, much like myself Arsene Wenger played semi-pro football and is definitely an elite manager, Rafa Benitez gave up playing at 26 and is definitely a world class manager. Whilst that list is the top of the top, I will do everything I can to join that elite class.
Whilst in Portugal I go on a trip up to a small quaint little town in the Castelo Branco district called Oleiros. The people here are relaxed and seem to keep themselves to themselves. As part of the trip I go to see the local team, ARC Oleiros in a pre season friendly against Dutch side Heerenveen.
After the match, a 2-0 win for the visitors, I get talking to some of the fans. After a few beers in the local bar I find out the manager that just got the team promoted has left and the assistant is currently in caretaker charge. I see this as a perfect opportunity for me, it’s a small semi-pro club, and survival in the Campeonato Nacional, or Portuguese third division to us English speaking people, is the only aim. I get back to my hotel and send a bog standard application email with a hastily written CV attached to the club via their website.
After a week of sight seeing, I go back to Estadio Municipal do Olerios, ARC Oleiros home stadium and see the team lose 3-0 to Hannover. I can see this side are struggling defensively and the assistant manager looked quite dejected on the sideline. On my way out I’m approached by a tall man who greets me in English
‘Afternoon, my name is Miguel, I got your application for the managers job. Have you got time for a chat?’
‘Really, how do you know it was me that applied?’
‘Twitter, linkedin, the usual avenues. Follow me I’ll take you to my office’
Off we went. The interview was quite relaxed, the chairman is clearly passionate about his team, he tells me about the new strips for the season, a new 3 year long sponsorship deal and if they can stay in the league this year, they may just be turning professional. I told him my background as a semi-pro, how my experience of working in Australia can help bring a fresh outlook on football here, and I told him that an outsider, an unknown could just be the spark that keeps this team in the league. After discussing both our outlooks on football, he says he’ll be in touch.
2 days passed by without hearing from Miguel. I’m at the hotel ready to get sorted for my trip back to the Lisbon hospital for a check up on my knee. Just as I get my suitcase to get started on packing, I get an email on my phone.
Thank you for your time the other day. Please see attached document, an offer of employment to be manager of ARC Oleiros football Club.
Vince, you are the man I want to save my team from relegation. Take your time thinking it over, but be mindful the season starts away at Vitoria de Sernache in 4 days time.
ARC Oleiros Chairman
Without hesitation I e-sign the contract and email back.
This is it, the start of hopefully a long, and fruitful journey.
Junte-se a mim na minha jornada, cara
Next episode – It’s a new beginning