GUEST COLUMN FROM FORMER YORK CITY BOSS GARY MILLS
AFTER a fortnight doing the UEFA A Licence course, I’ve spent the last few days staying in a lodge at Rutland Water, going on 23-mile bike rides with a pub lunch halfway round.
I’ve been with my wife Sue, but she’ll understand when I say I wish I was here with my team – as I have been over the past three years on bonding trips.
I needed a week to relax after the intense 9am-9pm schedule at St George’s Park with the likes of Robbie Fowler, Ugo Ehiogu, Peter Schmeichel, Terry Brown and my old Nottingham Forest team-mate, Nigel Clough.
It was hard work, but they were a great set of managers and coaches to be with and we all shared experiences of how we’ve dealt with certain situations. You come away feeling you’ve learned loads.
Paul Dickov, the new Doncaster Rovers manager, was with us and at every break he was on the phone, or nipping off once we’d finished to sort things out.
I’ve got to admit, I was a bit envious. There were a lot of lads there who were involved with clubs, talking about what they are doing pre-season and who they are trying to sign.
It was a tough one because it’s that time now where you get the excitement of getting a group back together ready for the new campaign, and it’s the first time since I became a manager in 1996 that I’ve been out of work at this time of year.
As much as it is a coaching licence, there is a difference between coaching and managing, and I do love the man-managing side of it.
Justin Edinburgh has done a great job at Newport County, taking them up as Conference play-off winners 12 months after we did it at York.
I read what he said recently about 80 per cent of the job being about man-management, and working on players’ strengths rather than weaknesses at our kind of level.
He’s spot on. I’ve always been a believer in that, probably because of the way I’ve been brought up under Brian Clough and Peter Taylor at Nottingham Forest.
I can remember somebody saying about a player, ‘We’re going to work on his left foot because he hasn’t got one’, and Peter said, ‘No, work on his right foot and make him even better at what he’s good at now’. That way, the lad’s confidence grows.
Football changes so quickly though. Who would have thought, this time last summer, that Micky Mellon – having taken Fleetwood up as champions – and myself would be out of work within months?
I still ask the question. It’s been a tough time for me because sometimes things happen when you’re not expecting it, and certainly that’s the case here.
When I went into Bootham Crescent, there was so much wrong and the first thing I always aim to do is get everyone smiling again.
You walk in and the secretary, the kitman – whoever – they’ve got to be smiling. We all know there’s a lot of pressure in football, but you all have to work together and enjoy going in.
I got everybody to respect everybody for who they were and what they are, from the chairman down to the tea lady.
Everyone was working for the same goal and we got it. There was a lot of desperation around York, a few people feeling sorry for themselves, and that had to change otherwise we would never achieve.
To do what we did in just over a year and a half there is phenomenal – taking them from near the bottom of the Conference to win the FA Trophy and then promotion to League Two.
It’s been a part of my career that I’m very proud of, and sometimes you have to question what you’ve got to do, but I can’t wait to get my hands into my next club.
When I was sacked by Notts County in 2004 I came back to Conference North to manage Alfreton, then Tamworth. I’d have no problems in coming back to Non-League again.
The Conference is a fantastic league with great media coverage and, as Justin will tell you, it’s an incredible feeling when you win promotion into the Football League for a club who have been so desperate to get back.
The only other one that can compare, in my opinion, is the promotion from the Championship to the Premier League – and I did that too as a player.
As a manager, I just can’t wait to get back on the proverbial bike and start pedalling again.
Student Scott Is A Class Act
AMONGST the managers on the UEFA A course was Grimsby’s Rob Scott, and I was really impressed with him. He knows he’s not always been the calmest guy on the touchline, but he obviously wants to learn and become a better manager.
He was asking me questions about how we all go about things and I’ve got to say – along with Terry Brown, who was a laugh a minute – I got on great with him.
He’s certainly signed a good player with the acquisition of my old York midfielder Scott Kerr, and I know Rob was delighted he’d got him last week. He knows what it takes to win promotion from the Conference and he’ll be a major reason to back Grimsby to go one better next year.
One thing I’ll never change – and I know Terry feels the same – is my philosophy on the way the game should be played.
People have spoken a lot about ‘The Dark Ages’ in the last couple of weeks and getting the ball forward too quickly. I like my teams to play from the back and I don’t mind going back to start again if it means we keep the ball.
With AFC Wimbledon and York, Terry and I have both proved you can get out of the Conference playing football on the floor. And we both agreed there is more football played in the Conference than in League Two.
The York public certainly enjoyed it, the players had a smile on their face and like me, the free agents like Jason Walker, Jon Challinor and Paddy McLaughlin will take that belief to whichever club they end up at.