It’s a tough life being an unemployed football manager, especially if you’re only 23.
So you can imagine how tough it was to find work in the Football Manager 2019 world as a 23-year-old, one with absolutely no managerial experience. Calling myself a “former player” was generous at best. Maybe ‘backyard legend’ might have been more appropriate. Still fluff though.
Starting off the game as a manager looking for work, no one was willing to take a punt on me early doors, a young gaffer that was willing to learn some new tricks. Time, fortunately, was on my side.
But it was a long wait as the days and weeks slipped by. Sitting in the job centre and watching my customised social feed waiting for openings was a tedious task after every available managerial position in preseason went begging.
But finally, after five months, a breakthrough came as coaches began to fall in the cut-throat English Football League sack race across the divisions. Managers began losing their jobs in places like Italy and Spain too.
So even though the jobs where there to be applied for and won, I was all too aware that November – just before the crucial Christmas period – was a precarious time. It was going to be a baptism of fire wherever I ended up.
I applied for a host of jobs, including with Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry City, Nottingham Forest and Serie B side Perugia.
I had journalists from both Australia and England approach me asking for comment and I was only too happy to give them what I wanted. The more I spoke to the press, the more my name was in the public eye.
The clubs bit the bait, each in their own unique situations at the time. Some disappointing in their chase for promotion, others slipping dangerously close to the drop zone in their respective leagues.
Of those teams, the only one not to offer an interview was Wednesday. In the end, I rejected Coventry, the worst-placed English team looking for a new man for the hot seat.
Forest seemed the most appealing option. They were pushing for promotion to the Premier League. I thought my decision was made, but when a job offer from League One Sunderland arrived, it was hard to turn down.
Jack Ross did not last long after replacing Welshman Chris Coleman, who was at the helm when Sunderland went down.
The Black Cats were chasing a fast return to the Championship after their dual relegation but had slipped back into the ruck somewhat, down to fifth – by no means out of the race.
They had more money. There were more games to be played. More glory to be had. So Sunderland it was. A brave call.
I had a feeling I was going to end up looking like a total idiot, or conversely, if I got the Black Cats up, a genius.
A documentary is set for release soon tracking the Wearsiders’ fall from the top flight down to the third division.
Who knows, perhaps they will make one on how I got them back there.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Frooch’s blog from the Sunderland hot seat in Football Manager 2019.