Now that I had signed on with Sunderland, it was time to take the tour of the club and get to know my players, get to know my staff and, perhaps most importantly, get to know the press.
I opted to retain the previous manager’s backroom staff and at least give them the opportunity to impress me with no one in particular I wanted to bring into my team from the get-go.
With that decision made it was then time to delegate tasks and make sure everything would run smoothly. Training was up to the fitness boss. The under-18 and under-23 managers had full control over those teams.
My next task was to front up to the media as Sunderland’s new manager and shed light on everything from footballing philosophy to transfers and the makeup of my coaching team.
My answers were calm if assertive. There was no reason why a fresh-faced and relatively inexperienced 23-year-old could not jolt Sunderland up into the top two and, ideally, win the league and promotion.
The gathered press pack was clearly gunning for that angle!
Luckily the fans seemed to react well to my first appearance, though having explored #Sunderland, it was not all hopeful and there was plenty of scepticism. Fair enough, too!
It was November, so I didn’t have the luxury of joining the club in the midst of the transfer window. I needed to wait at least a month and a half until I could really dip into the market.
The board tasked me with adopting a possession-based, tiki-taka-esque style. Sunderlona, if you will. Having grown up as a football fan in Australia with Ange Postecoglou as a key influencer, I was only too happy to oblige.
But to play the 4-1-4-1 system I wanted to take on, I needed depth. But without the market to immediately turn to, I had to figure out other, timely ways to stump up some added quality before my first match, an early-round FA Cup clash against Chesterfield.
This was to be the first test of my youth and development staff. I needed reports on the best young players in my under-23 and under-18 sides, and luckily my people delivered and put forward some names.
I drafted in two central-midfielders, 20-year-old Adam Bale, and 18-year-old Bali Mumba. Their numbers in the reserves were impressive, and the coaches thought highly of them. Then training begun, and the countdown was on to match one.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of Frooch’s blog from the Sunderland hot seat in Football Manager 2019.