I closed the morning paper and leant back in my chair. The media storm that had surrounded the club since pictures of me selling secrets to fake-agents had been published wasn’t showing signs of letting up.
I had left the board room with my assistant just a few minutes ago. As the doors slammed shut behind me, I knew that they were symbolically being closed on my career as Weston-super-Mare AFC’s manager. Chairman Paul Bliss had let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was to be sacked. After six years as manager of the Seagulls, building the club up to the brink of Championship football, I was gone.
I deserved it, it was my fault. But I wasn’t to be allowed to just leave. Selfishly, in my opinion, the Chairman had insisted I stayed on for the club’s last match of the season. The reason for this was, I assume, that they didn’t trust my assistant, Lee Williams, to lead the boys to victory in the final game. Let’s not forget, the club only needed to equal the result of Preston North End in order to secure Championship football for the first time in their history.
I sighed and told Lee to go and get me a Bovril. I would need a fair few if I was to get through this final game…
As Lee left, Rachel Greenley – my nemesis and club physio – entered the room with a victorious glint in her eye. She was happy I would soon be leaving, it was clear, but there was something else as well…
Ah. Great, another creative midfield presence ruled out. Ah well, when it rains it pours.
Speaking of, Arsenal fans, Liverpool beat you 3-1 in the final of the FA Cup. Ha.
Matchday 55 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Brentford
So here we go. 90 minutes that would mean a lot of different things to different people. For Weston; the club, the town and its fans, this was the biggest 90 minutes of their history. For me, this was my last 90 minutes as manager of a club I had grown to love. Without getting too emotional, I was going to miss it. The least I could do was go out in a blaze of corruption-tainted glory.
Luckily, I could hardly have asked for an easier final game in charge. Our opponents, Brentford, sat in 21st spot and hadn’t won in three. They occupied the final relegation spot and still had a chance of staying up, which meant they would be extra motivated. That said, they had also conceded 78 goals so far this season which, in case you are wondering, is bad. I was confident that we could do this…
Especially when Tamika Mkandawire stood up in the dressing room before the game and gave the lads one of the most rousing team talks I can ever remember hearing. Oh captain, my captain! He told the boys to do it for the fans, for the club, for Captain Barbosa. He even told them to do it for me. They thought that I had been treated unfairly by the club. I was overwhelmed.
So, as it transpired, were Brentford. I want to tell you that it was a tense and hard fought affair, but we were all over them in the first few minutes of the game. The Woodspring was packed and rocking and was only made more excitable when who else but Captain Barbosa smashed home a shot in the 33rd minute to put Weston 1-0 up.
Brentford, to their credit, did try to fight back. They fashioned a few half chances and even hit the post at one point, but I was never really worried. As the game drew on it became clear they lacked a real cutting edge and they looked far from likely to be finding the back of the net at all.
That was, of course, until the 80th minute, when a Brentford player finally did put the ball in the net. Unfortunately for him, and to the delight of almost everyone else inside the Woodspring, Karleigh Osborne put the ball into the back of his own net, condemning Brentford to relegation and confirming another unexpected promotion for Weston-super-Mare AFC.
Don’t believe me?
The post-match atmosphere was odd. The Weston fans sang my name. They players lifted me up on their shoulders. Alex Diabate told the press about how good I am. But we all knew this was the last time I would be here at the Woodspring. No more would I get to lead my team out in front of our adoring fans.
The board, quite naturally, praised the effort of the team whilst holding back praise for me. They announced that I had left the club almost immediately after the final whistle. It was a sad way to end it, particularly as my efforts as manager had netted the club over a quarter of a million pounds just in solidarity payments (if you conveniently forget the hundreds of thousands I have spunked on wages).
But I deserved it, I suppose.
Speaking of deserving it, here is the final table from my final season as manager of Weston. Charlton Athletic pipped us to the title by three points, whilst we had edged Preston in the fight for automatic promotion. My old enemy, Paul Ince, also had a day to remember as his side just edged into the playoff places…
Which they then went on to win.
That is a shame – we could have continued our feud next season…Ah well, it wasn’t to be.
I got one final plaudit as I left my office for the last time. As voting for the Manager of the Year award took place before my scandal broke, I was named the winner. Had voting taken place after the photos of me with my pint of wine were leaked, I would certainly have come last, but this was a nice little way to end things…
In my final interview with the press, this is all I had to say:
Even though I had been sacked, after six glorious years in which we were either promoted or won a cup every season I left on something of a high. Of course, my professional reputation was in tatters, but my record at Weston will probably never be surpassed.
Thank you for sharing the journey with me, kind readers. I hope you enjoyed it!