LEARNING CURVE: Jamie O’Hara is cutting his managerial cloth at Billericay Town. Picture: Nicky Hayes
By David Richardson
Jamie O’Hara didn’t just throw himself into the deep end of management – he says it was more like the Atlantic!
It has been a baptism of fire for the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder at Billericay Town having had to deal with issues out of his control.
O’Hara, 33, initially joined the club as a player before leaving and then returning as assistant manager to Harry Wheeler.
But when former owner Glenn Tamplin swung the axe, O’Hara was left in a take-it-or-leave-it situation.
“Either I took the job or got sacked as well!” O’Hara, who became manager in September, told The NLP. “I had to seize the opportunity. It was an incredible moment to get my first job in football, I didn’t think it would come round so soon.
“It was an amazing moment one day and then the next he [Tamplin] left. It was a bit of a mental experience but something I thought, I’m in it now, I wanted this opportunity, I’ve got it and I’ve got to take it on with both hands.”
The owner’s departure sparked a firesale with O’Hara having to shift ten players as uncertainty surrounded Ricay’s future.
A consortium of local businessmen took over the club in October but they weren’t out of the woods yet and in early November the New Lodge pitch was badly vandalised, leading to a host of postponed matches as the winter weather arrived.
“It was crazy,” he said. “We were fourth in the league and for the first few months no one knew if we were going to get paid, who the owners were, it was all up in the air.
“I had to try and keep hold of as many players as I could and play good football. My job was on the line straight away because everyone was looking at me instantly saying, ‘What’s Jamie O’Hara doing with his team?’.
“That was really difficult because it was impossible to keep the best players because we had to become financially stable but I also wanted to bring success. I think we managed to do it. We drifted in the league which was always going to happen. We had games getting called off left, right and centre as well.
“In terms of an up and down rollercoaster in your first season it was definitely one of them. I say I got thrown in the deep end, it was definitely being thrown in the Atlantic, that’s for sure.”
Billericay were 18th when the National League South season ended, with as many as three games in hand on teams around them and an Essex Senior Cup final to come.
They also reached the FA Cup first round after beating higher league Sutton United and even though O’Hara, who has four players contracted for next season, is in the dark like everyone else when it comes to planning for next season, the club is making big strides forward.
“The owners have really turned this place into a community hub, especially now with the 3G pitch being laid, it brings everything here to Billericay,” O’Hara added. “This is going to be a proper hub and that’s one of the things they said about doing from the start. I’ve been really impressed at how quickly they’ve been able to do that and I’m proud to be part of it.”