Road to Glory : The Manager

Jan 12, 2012
Unemployed with Sunday League experience and a lack of qualifications. Wanted to do this with the mega League pack but couldn't get it installed, inspired after seeing SecondYellowCards Icon Series on YouTube.


I was born in the North of Scotland but spent a little bit of time in France when I was 10 and the parents divorced so Mum and her sister decided to go to France for a 6 month spell, they were both in the same line of work and it turned out to be easy to continue it over there.

I spent the 6 months being home schooled and playing a lot of football with a few locals, they were all very good and a mixture of ages. I returned to Peterhead to be picked up by Aberdeen. However, this didn't work out and I played with Peterhead's Youth side from 14 to 17, then I ended up crashing my Dad's car while taking my brother out for a drive without my license.

This caused me problems everywhere, with the law, the family, Peterhead dropped me and I ended up working with the fish before finally getting back into football, I didn't have any ability but Peterhead gave me a £30 per week contract as a coach with their Under 18's.

From there the SFA noted my ability and ran me through some courses for free to get me up to standard, I got put on workshops across Scotland before working with Aberdeen's Under 15's and 18's.

Now, working with Youth is great, but officially I can manage a senior squad for similar money and I need that.

I would continue to work with the Youth Development in the North of Scotland until I got an opportunity.

I was on the other side of 30, a National C license holder and no Professional playing experience. Not even Semi-Professional. All I had was some experience with Youth players across Scotland.

I'd prefer to remain in the UK, but really I would take jobs abroad.

Jan 12, 2012
South Africa?

It became apparent that South Africa, and several African countries were after a new boss. I decided to throw my hat in the ring and a few invited me to a Skype interview to see what I was about. They were excited about what I did with some of the youth from the North of Scotland.

All the clubs were from their second tier and from rougher areas, but still talked about series spending money. If the interviews went well, however, I am not sure it's what I'd be after.

Jomo Cosmos, Witbank Spurs, Thanda Royal Zulu FC and Santos Football Club all wanted interviews. I had no real preference but Santos did offer £325,000 to be spent on players.

Jomo Cosmos got back to me after a couple of days. The club were based in Johannesburg and owned by Jomo Somo, who didn't conduct the interview but did give me the call. A very eccentric man, I checked some interviews and he was a very weird character.

When I discussed the move with Alan Sutherland, the head of Youth development for the SFA North Region, as he had spent time in Africa. He said that the conditions, languages and such made things difficult for him.

There was also suggestions that I wouldn't be totally safe. I asked for time to consider the move, Jomo Somo didn't understand why I'd need time but accepted it.

It was just a straight up 1 year deal worth £800 per week with no talk of accommodation, travel or safety so there was a lot to think about.

At the same time they were going to give me an opportunity managing a club. It would be a lot of work, but I am sure I could simply get something on my CV. Maybe push for promotion.

and then Santos called, the club offering a hefty £300,000 to spend. It was a two-year deal worth £800 based in the Lansdowne Suburb of Cape Town. A prosperous area, they'd also put me up in "secure accommodation" free of charge for the opening 3 months.

This meant I had a high fence around my home.

I felt I had to take the offer. It'd be hard but I could do it.
Jan 12, 2012
Settling In

As soon as I said I'd take the Santos job, I received an Email from the club with flight details and travel arrangements. My flight left for Heathrow in 4 hours, it was already going to be an hours drive to the airport and I wasn't even nearly ready. I quickly threw some emails about talking of my appointment and packed a training bag with a couple of days spare clothes, I had money to live off before my wages began to come in so I guess anything I needed could be bought over there.

I arrived, after a hectic night of travelling and was met by a suited, big South African man who ushered me away to a car. He was very friendly and excited and asked questions as he drove me away to the training ground. I answered but really was just desperate for sleep.

However, I arrived and was expected to meet everyone. With bags under my eyes, a rumbling stomach and a funny smell.

I was at first greeted my what was the janitor and car park man, who walked me through to the chairman. I sat down and met with the jumpy, excited chairman.

He quickly threw information at me which I couldn't really take in but had leaflets to look over once I was a little more awake.

What I quickly took away from the meeting is that, like most South African lower tier sides, is that the training facilities is poor. They train on fields and the weather usually means the grounds are hard, with a lack of grass.

They had also won the Premier League once, which was interesting.

I then got thrown towards my Staff. I don't think my assistant ever played football but had better qualifications than me, he talked me through some of the best players, captains and such and then I realised we had no full backs. So that had to be addressed, clearly.

I'd rely on my staff quite a bit for a little while since this was my first managerial role.

I was then brought to me the rest of my staff, I had no plans to sack anyone. Despite being given the option. They all deserved a chance to show me what they could do.

It was an hour later before the players showed up for their training. I welcomed them into the community room, which had a fridge, cards and a pool table and introduced myself. I thought they'd all grow some ego because I had no experience but the captain told me, accompanied my nods, that they "didn't care what you did before but what you do now. That's what counts".

I then left them to my assistant manager and went to my freezing new-home, turned on the heating and slept.


Some key players;



Jan 14, 2013
You have got some pretty good talent there mate. That AMC looks like he could end up being a top class player!
Jan 12, 2012
The Media

Upon awakening I checked my phone to see the press conference time was set at 11:00AM the following morning, it was 7PM and I had slept all day. This gave me the majority of the night to check over reports, leaflets and potential signings.

Full backs were needed, maybe a striker and certainly a hardworking central midfielder. My knowledge of South Africa is really limited so tonight is certainly a date with google.

I picked out a few players and threw the list towards my Assistant and Scout.

The BBC were also very interested in an interview as I was at a professional club without any experience and I was set to meet with their African football correspondent in a couple of days for a feature on Sportscene's Pre-Season Report/Special. It was nice there was serious support and interest from back home.

There was also a very heated Email from Jomo Somo saying I had made a mistake and I would be very regretful.


Anyway, it was time for my press conference. Which didn't go great, I was just barraged with questions about my lack of experience and the expectations that I had on me. I told them what I was capable of and what I would do.

I just tried getting across how I excited I was and how I wanted to see South African football continue to grow after the World Cup that was over 4 years ago.

After the press conference I made my away over to the training pitch to see our intra-squad friendly so I could see the talents I had.

It was a decent, slow game where my 11 picked up a 3-0 win however, the big thing was that 17 year old, key man Fagrie Lakey would chase a lost ball and tear his calf muscle.

There goes that wonder of a kid for 6 months. 6 MONTHS!

Jan 12, 2012
The Beginning

Pre-season was going fine, in the sense the players were training, the staff were coaching and I was alive and kicking. Things only got a little hairy when young Lakay picked up that awful injury and our very good Keeper wanted to move to the top tier for continental football, however thus far no offer has been made.

I was so excited to get the league started, a feeling I haven't experienced since like my 8th Christmas. I was just desperate to play and to try prove myself to the press here and back at home.

Injuries were a shame but replacements were sought after and bought and I was really prepared just to go and play.

We didn't get many friendlies played, Mr Groundsman didn't want the pitch to be played on too much as he had to constantly water it with the lack of rain. This heat was also unbearable compared to what it was back in Scotland.

We ended our pre-season campaign away to Mitchell's Plein.

It went well and we only conceded and lost to League Rivals Ajax CT.

Our player of pre-season was captain and key man Tyren Arendse.

He's going to be huge this season as we ultimately aim for a top half finish, but really I want play offs.

To get this we need huge performances and top signings. I did what I could.


One year deal simply to fill in and around the absence of Lakay.

Full-back as we had none in the first team, I promoted one from the reserves and I am confident going ahead. Only money I spent. Cost me £30,000. Very excited about this one.

Missed pre-season due to injury but fairly confident he can still be a big player for us. Needed someone with a real technical capability to make a difference.


Fairly confident I can move ahead with this current squad, however there is still time for things to happen and I am chasing a striker who could make a big difference for us.

Jan 12, 2012
The Big Day

The season opener was coming and while I was incredibly excited it seemed only 100 people would fill Maluti's 20,000 capacity stadium, more people would show up the the first game of the Scottish Under 14 developmental League. I was excited still, and spent any spare time just rewriting out formations and line-ups, redoing my team talk to my mirror.

We got a bus across country with our squad and I was so excited, nervous and bouncy. It was a nice sized, air conditioned changing room to accompany the breeze outside.

They knew the team prior to the day, but I reiterated what I wanted to see before they went to warm-up. Upon returning to the dressing room, with the new exciting, nervy atmosphere I pushed on the idea that today is the day they show me who they are. Especially the ones who found a spot in the team through injuries.

They set out on their way and I touched the sideline for the first time in a professional, competitive game.

It was incredibly quiet until 30 minutes into the game, where there was constant chances back and forth. Both keepers made huge saves and we cracked the bar twice.

They managed to take the lead just before half time as Touray made a double save just for the third to somehow creep under him.

Half time arrived and we unfortunately found ourselves a goal down.

I kept things the same and just encouraged the lads to go out and play their game.

At the hour mark when I was warming up potential substitutes Carl Lark was crunched in the box for a penalty and red card.

Or not, how on Earth was he not sent off? He was already booked!!

Arendse scored. 1-1. Still fuming at the lack of a red card!

I made a few changes as the time was coming to an end and we had a huge chance as Carl Lark missed a huge chance with ten to go.

The game ended and we picked a point up. Should have been 3.

Incredibly close nonetheless.

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Jan 12, 2012
Despite failing to pick up 3 points on the opening day I was given some good news as the player we chased throughout the Summer was eligible to play after getting his work permit sorted.

Carl Lark is decent but failed to finish a few clear chances so hopefully Sidibe can grab some goals and Carl is good to have if necessary.

Jun 12, 2014
Brilliant start, Be interesting to see how thiings go in South Africa! You looking to stay there a while or you jumping ship when a bigger club comes knocking?
Jan 12, 2012
Brilliant start, Be interesting to see how thiings go in South Africa! You looking to stay there a while or you jumping ship when a bigger club comes knocking?
Bigger club for sure, will aim to play it as I, or as James McKenzie, would play it as if real life. I mean realistically a SFA North coach who got a break in South African wouldn't turn down a move to a bigger club in a better country to live in. Would love to win a promotion with Santos though!
Jan 12, 2012
It was a big day, we hadn't really met what should have been competition in the opening 2 games and this worried me as we geared up to face promotion favourites Golden Arrows FC away.

Upon joining, I felt we would be really technically poor but they proved they could work a ball and instead of a direct playing style I began to bring some of the stuff we were teaching Scottish kids into South African adults. From how to beat a player to how to knock a ball about and I wanted us to play that ball around the park against Golden Arrows.

If we could work them around we would win. It had instant success. We scored within 2 minutes after Arendse cut inside and placed it past the keeper.

And then very quickly again, he burst away with his 33 year old legs and smashed it under the keepers legs and by time I turned around from celebrating we won a penalty and the man himself Arendse netted himself a hat trick within 11 minutes away to Golden Arrows.

However, I didn't celebrate this goal. I just told the lads to keep playing, pass the ball, keep the ball. If they did not have the ball they could not do anything with the ball. It was simple.

Half time arrived and we were 3 up. Which was more than I could have asked for, I continued to reiterate that the ball was ours. After our crazy start Golden Arrows did get on the ball a lot more than I would have liked but I'll still take the 3 goals with 45 minutes to go.

Burds then scored a delicious volley from the edge of the area. A free kick went in, a Golden Arrows header saw it drop to Burds on the edge of the box and he just put the perfect touch on the ball for it to loop in the bottom corner.

4-0, 40 to go.

Arendse ended up being the man behind a a couple of rough tackles and I had to replace him, absolute Don nonetheless.

It became clear this would continue and we had two clear shouts for a penalty yet none were given. While the players complained, GA broke away only for Moonsamy to put in a huge tackle. We broke away and substitute Segalo grabbed a goal at the near post.


Everyone performed so well. I couldn't believe it.

Jan 12, 2012
Early Touches

We were five games in to my reign and I was really enjoying it. I carried over everything from the youngsters I taught in the North of Scotland to the South Africans here and coaching ideas to them was easy of course everything was more tactical.

Injuries to van Heerden meant I couldn't have that technical passing ability in the middle of the park and that's what caused our first loss in the league.

I also asked the board at the club if they could fund me to further my qualifications and pursue a National B license and they granted this and with this I felt we needed another coach in and they allowed such. Very pleasing.

I was happy with my start to the season and still feel promotion is clearly possible. But anything is, it's 5 games.

Best player has certainly been captain Fantastic, Tyren Arendse.

Jan 12, 2012
Witch Doctors and Jomo Cosmos

I was setting up to face Jomo Cosmos, the team I almost joined but said I needed time to consider if I wanted to live in South Africa before I joined Santos they day before. Since then, their owner Jomo Somo has been taking shots at me constantly. Whether emails or via the media and it ended up meaning I had bizarre letters from 'fans' talking of Witch Doctors and such, I tried to focus and forwarded anything onto the Janitor/Carpark/Security man at Santos FC just in case I was at risk.

Anyway, we were set to welcome Jomo Cosmos to our ground and while I should have been excited at the prospect of playing another game, I somehow felt nervous at the weirdness of Jomo Somo and some of their fans. I mean, we were second tier South African sides and I did professionally explain to Jomo Somo that it was a better shot for me and I was getting help into adapting to South Africa..

but nah. He's still being super weird about it. I wasn't worried until Friday night when I had our security man, Maurice, sit outside in his pick up overnight to ensure my safety and then personally drive me to the ground the following day.

Absolutely bizarre.

Anyway, I had to focus on the game and this was a big one. It should be 3 points and we would continue to compete with play off teams.

An hour before kick off, while inspecting the pitch and talking to players, staff and the like Mr Jomo Somo was already in the stands, along with a few others. Family, directors, whatever and he was just staring at me. It was honestly the weirdest thing I had ever experienced and I have experienced angry parents at an Under 14 intra-squad 7 a side tournament in the North of Scotland.

Wendell Naidoo was their new manager and he didn't really know what was going on, but wished me the best before the game like any other manager but said he wasn't in a position to join me for a chat post-match. I knew managers around the world did this, and I was doing it every home game in an attempt to meet new people and build up a knowledge of those around me in South Africa. I can't help but feel Somo had an influence on that.

We all got in the changing room and I told them how big three points would be, I needed to see performances and I reminded them they are playing for one another, they are playing for me and most importantly the fans that pay their wages.

5,019 fans showed, around 800 fans of Jomo Cosmos and only a minority had a weird obsession with me but they were still Afrikaans chants that I had no idea of, but were translated for me and it was just basic Judas stuff.. and how I would burn to death but all good! I sent my team out and they knew what they had to do.

Half time arrived and we were all over them but couldn't really get any fluidity due to their aggression.

Johnson got dragged into the antics and got himself a red with 20 minutes to go.

Matsielle Somo, the son of Jomo Somo, then scored.

You really couldn't write it.

We lost 1-0.

A flare or two, accompanied by a smoke/stink bomb was thrown my way from the Cosmos support as I made my way to applaud our fans. Was a little uneasy but I was really just beat down at the stupid loss.
Jan 12, 2012
Getting Going

It's been a wild 4 months in South Africa, I now pay for my own accommodation which isn't cheap because of the fence, apparently, not that I have had a use for it yet but then again if the fence wasn't there I am sure there would soon be reason for the fence being there.

But anyway, football. It's gone as I hoped really, not a whole lot else I could hope for apart from a few injuries and results.

Like for example, upon joining I was told of Fagrie Lakay, this 17 year old technical genius and a day later he tears his calf and there goes 5 months, however he returned early and in his first start he starts to feel it again and comes off. Meaning it is almost Christmas and one of my top players, who could also be a star for South Africa can't even play. And then there's van Heerden, a huge player in the middle of the park to ensure my passing football can really flow is out for 2+ weeks every other week.

But there's certainly squad depth and we've been able to work, I've had an unhappy central midfielder have to fill in at right back as I left us a little short there when injuries happened to have occurred but he's doing alright so that's a plus.

We're ten games into the league and we've only lost twice.

Our two losses were also very close, while we have smashed a few teams that I was worried about when going into the game. It is clear when Arendse shows up we've got the game in the bag and literally every game he's quiet we haven't won. We've been strong at the back too, with Touray making some huge saves.

I really feel promotion is more than possible, even winning the league if we can remain strong and not drop off at all.

Still 30 games to go but the top 2 are set to play each other and one of them will have to drop points. Played Baroka and drew but we are still waiting to play Milano Utd.

Personally delighted at the attitude of the players, they haven't completely dismissed me and have taken in everything I have said. A few are dissapointed with their lack of first team football and haven't caused problems with the media or more importantly, the dressing room.

We also have a small break over Christmas so it may be an opportunity for me to return to Scotland to drink, a lot! :D

Key players thus far have without a doubt been the captain, Tyren Arendse and the vice-captain Dembo Touray.

Some huge performances in the sticks, most clean sheets in the league and not made any mistakes despite a history of being eccentric.

Slowed up a little bit, but a knock here and there has made things harder. A goal per game ratio and he's the top man in the league.

There's also been a few big performances from our centre backs and our left winger who I planned on selling on!

He's been very 'Handsome' at the back, been so consistent and has made things easier for our Keeper.

Almost let him go but he has come on so much and has been great on the left. Stats have shot up too, his dribbling has gone up 2 already!