“Number 23…Manchester United will play………Number 56 that’s Southend or Marine who replay on Wednesday, December 18.
I could hear the cheers from hundreds of miles away from Chairman Ron’s office.
“Fucking hell son, Old Trafford ere we come eh???? That’s baaaanddd to be on the bloody tele that.” I let him celebrate and was glad it was only a text message because I’d have thumped him.
Truth be told I couldn’t celebrate, our name was only in the draw because Marine couldn’t score a deserved winner on the Saturday.
After taking the lead after two minutes we stopped playing, arrogantly assuming more goals would come, they did but it was Marine who left us all at sea. Summer freebie John Convery scored the penalty then got sent off because ‘one of their lot was winding me up gaffer’. I didn’t have the energy to explain that’s what the lad was aiming for.
I let Newman take them home on the coach, made an excuse I had a family reunion to attend in Liverpool and checked into a Marriott to drown my sorrows. After chatting football with the night porter until 3am I took a walk to take in the season so far.
My own stubbornness had seen us just bring Convery in over the summer, I trusted this group to start off well. Newman retired from playing to ‘back you full time boss’ as he said. While I applauded his loyalty I had forgot he was still on the playing staff..
But my own loyalty wasn’t rewarded, after eight games we were 23rd with one win, one draw and six defeats. Among the results during a nightmare run was a 3–0 defeat to bloody Luton. A win over Brighton failed to paper over the cracks and a 2–1 defeat at QPR ensured our seventh defeat in 10 games.
“Fucccckinng hell son, what’s the point of last fecking season if we’re going straight back down,” was Ron’s opening statement…..he’d never been one to ‘read the room’.
“Look Mr Chairman, if it’s that bad then why don’t I save you the trouble, see ya.” I walked out the door got into the car and drove home. It was only later that night, with the bottles of Bulmers growing on my table did I realise what I’d done.
48 hours later I turned my phone back on to be met with more pings than a Champ network game connection. I let my phone catch up, jumped into the shower and wondered what I’d do next.
The doorbell rang, fearful it would be a drunken Amazon order, I gingerly opened the door.
“Ello son, you calmed down yet.” Chairman Ron had come to visit. Over the next hour, he talked and talked….and talked.
“Son, you stood up to me, I can see your hurting. Get back to the job, I ain’t hiring anyone else. Do what you need to do. It’ll be alright in the end lad.”
Taken aback by Ron’s sudden generosity I was spurred into action, a 90th minute Butra winner at Huddersfield kicked off a run of nine wins in 11 games, which lifted us up to ninth.
It all came right on sunny Roots Hall afternoon when Bournemouth were savaged, we only scored three but the assault on the Cherries goal left me on such a high.
Spencer’s dossier saw us sign Tom Ramasut, Wouter Kos and Kyriakos Tochouroglou — a Peter Andre lookalike who was Australian but Greek…..I left it at that.
As the sun came up on the morning after Marine I went back to the hotel, jumped into the shower and then made my way home. We had a game to win, even it was the Windolene Trophy!