PETE Wild isn’t a massive fan of being in the dugout at FC Halifax Town – or anywhere else for that matter.
For the first half of matches he watches from the stands, removed from the touchline battle and the cross-bench bickering over referee decisions.
Assistant Chris Millington sits with him and messages are relayed to below via a headset while Wild, notepad in hand, watches, learns and then reacts.
“The dugouts are the worst position in football, you can hardly see anything,” he tells The NLP just days after signing a new contract to stay in the one at The Shay. “In the stands I see more, I feel like it makes me better at half-time which makes me a better manager for the club. You’re away from the nonsense on the side, it allows you to focus in on what your job is.
“You’re not heading and kicking every ball. My note pad is there, writing the notes calms the frustration down, solidifies what I’m seeing.
“If you’re a fan or a coach you generally remember what happens in the last ten minutes of each half. If you finish well, you go away and say, ‘We did well today’. It helps you constantly reflect on what’s going on through the game. It’s really helped me, it might not help everybody.”
But will he still sit there when fans come back?
“Definitely, I’ve got to do what’s right for me and the football club. I’ve proven to myself that it’s worked so why change? Because fans want to see a manager on the side of the pitch?”
Managers watching from the stands is not new in this game but Wild has found something that works as he approaches his 100th game in management.
He says he has tried hundreds of things that haven’t come off since leaving Oldham and joining Halifax, but has gained respect from his staff and players by admitting an idea hasn’t worked and going back to the drawing board.
Successful managers are the ones who keep adjusting with the times, keep up with modern approaches and know when they’re wrong.
Leap of faith
It’s why chairman David Bosomworth didn’t hit the panic button after one win in their first nine this season and has ended up keeping Wild for the long-term after hauling them into another play-off scrap, where they were knocked out at the eliminator stage last July in his first season.
“I feel more relaxed as a manager,” says Wild. “I have staff around me I trust and I feel like we have a process in place that works and that’s been road-tested now.
“I’ve been in those tight games and I honestly believe fans not being in there has made me a better manager because it’s made me tactically astute through games, it’s made me concentrate on the game more because there’s no white noise.
“When I left Oldham a couple of years ago it was an absolute leap of faith. Would I get another job again? David saw something in me and Chris to give us a chance. I’d like to think we’ve worked solidly to repay that faith and prove what we can do given a chance.
“The club has seen something in us to stick with us which is brilliant. The average lifespan of a manager is 14 months so we’re over the moon to break that hoodoo. We feel like we can do more. We like the title of the underdog and punching above our weight, because that gives us a challenge every day.”
Wild had to recruit 13 players after the vultures circled following last season’s success before main strikers Jake Hyde and Matt Stenson both picked up injuries on the eve of the new campaign.
Six goals scored in their first nine was the main problem, but now only leaders Sutton and Torquay have netted more.
“We work every week on patterns of play to get into the final third, how to pen teams in and I honestly think we could have scored double what we have,” said Wild. “That’s down to work on the training ground and a clear strategy of how we want to play. That’s credit to the staff on the training ground getting across what we want and more importantly the players.”
Town are certainly more watchable this term, which has made them more vulnerable at the back, yet they’re muscling in on the play-offs once more.
“Look at how many big teams are throwing lots and lots of money and have a lot more to lose than us if they don’t make the play-offs,” added Wild. “For Halifax to be two seasons on the bounce after 30 games punching at the right end of the table, that shows the development of the football club and the players.”