HERE’S a picture of our new dog, Chief.
Ball at his feet ... I’m training him already!
He’s been with us for over a week now and the experience has been unbelievable. I’m having a great time.
I didn’t get home until 2am on Tuesday morning after doing some Sky Sports TV work this week and I took him out for a wee before I went to bed.
Then at 6am he got me up. If anyone else gets me up after four hours’ sleep, then get ready!
He’s an absolute joy, and he’s always pleased to see me, which is unheard of for me at Warne Acres.
He’s very much my dog. He’s some guy. I’m his favourite as I’m the only one prepared to take a good bite off him.
No-one is allowed to give him any treats or anything but obviously I can sneak him some on the sly.
I’m not daft. That’s how you ‘win’ love!
NO LAS VEGAS BUT VIVA THE DAY FANS COME BACK
LAS Vegas would have been good. I’d have happily settled for Benidorm.
I’m reflecting on our promotion to the Championship for the last time before turning my entire focus to the challenges of next season.
The coronavirus pandemic obviously meant that being promoted felt very different this year.
There were no get-togethers, no celebratory trips aboard, no parties. The closest we came as a squad to celebrating was a Zoom meeting involving all the staff and players. That was great, but it wasn’t the same as actually being in each other’s company.
I’m not really a party animal, yet I wouldn’t have minded a little Vegas or Benidorm break: to have three days when you can just have a blast and not be looking at your phone every 20 minutes or speaking to an agent.
I watched Liverpool’s celebrations when they won the Premier League. They were allowed to be together because they were all coronavirus-tested and I saw how happy they all were. I reckon I could smoke Jurgen Klopp’s dance moves!
It does feel as if we’ve missed out a little bit. However, who knows, when next season starts and things return to normal, maybe we can sneak something in.
I don’t want to be too romantic but I like the thought of everyone turning up to the first home game they can, all wearing red and lifting the roof off, win, lose or draw. That is how I see our celebration.
It is an odd situation but, with what’s going on in the world, we can’t have any complaints.
The season takes over your whole life, especially as a manager. It’s brutal. Since relegation last season, it had been my every thought every hour: ‘How can we change, improve, win?’
The promotion means a lot. The last few months when football was in lockdown were pretty stressful. We didn’t know how things were going to end. Going up is just a release. The extra revenue that involves secures jobs.
The lads, coaches and all my staff have been excellent. I thank them all. After coming down from the Championship in 2019, there was a real pressure on us to succeed in League One. We were going into games expected to win, which was very different to the season before.
We lost 17 players in the summer, some big players and personalities, so we had a big recruitment job on our hands. It was difficult to get the wingers we wanted. Fortunately, we got Chiedozie Ogbene just in time.
Rob Scott has done a great job on recruitment, but he will tell you how fussy we are when he puts players in front of us.
Our skipper, Richard Wood, has been legendary. As he always says himself, he doesn’t always start the season as a first-choice pick but he always fights his way into the side. Sure enough, he did it again and was a real leader.
If you tell him he’s great, he’s rubbish. If you tell him he’s rubbish, he’s great! What a player and man. After the chairman’s, I don’t know whose statue is coming first, mine or Woody’s.
I know he had a few bottles of Peroni on the day promotion was confirmed and he deserved them. Actually it might have been more than a few judging by the state of him in the Zoom meeting. He’s a model pro so I don’t mind him having one day off a year!
When we were in the Championship last time, no-one expected us to do well. Everyone had us guaranteed to go down and, in fairness, they were right, although we had a right go at it. A couple more draws here and there and we might have stayed up.
To go back into the Championship and not be the favourites to do well is a good thing. We will enjoy trying to prove people wrong.
Maybe the pressure won’t be on us when we play a big team away from home but we are going to have to put pressure on ourselves if we want to succeed. Although we did do well in 2018/19, our away form killed us.
We are going to have to get every last bit of energy and knowledge out of every player we have got.
If you draw at home in the Championship it is not such a bad result but if you draw at home in League One everybody involved sees it as two points dropped.
Nonetheless, there will still be pressure to pick things up in a higher division. No football fans, especially ours, want a season where you feel like you are constantly fighting it. We want to try and play a way that will cause the opposition problems and earn us points.
It’s a very obvious thing to say, I know, but the more points you get, the less pressure there is.
HOW WE ZOOMED IN ON NEW BOY MICKEL
IT’S good to have our first summer signing through the door.
Mickel Miller is settling in well since joining us after the end of his two-and-a-half-year spell with Hamilton Academical.
I’m excited to have him here.
He’s a left-footed left winger but he can play as a ‘10’ and on the right wing.
He’s an old-fashioned winger, I suppose, in that he likes to go down the outside and get crosses in. Obviously, I like that!
Of all the wingers we’ve watched, his attention to the out-of-possession stuff is probably the best.
His closing down is excellent.
He has a goal threat and puts a decent ball in. The way we play, that suits us no end.
Obviously, the coronavirus situation made it difficult to get together with him in person while we were trying to seal the deal.
We met him three times in online Zoom meetings and we really liked him.
He buys into the fact that we’re going to try to improve him, which is something we try to do with all of our players.
Hopefully he will play a part for us this year.
I’m all right with Zoom meetings, to be fair. They’re probably the future really.
Realistically, If I’m after signing a lad from London, it’s easier to do it on Zoom or FaceTime than it is to meet him.
It’s probably opened up another avenue of communication.
Me, Hammy and Rich had 45 minutes with Mickel on three occasions.
We showed him videos and talked him through our approach and how we play.
And I didn’t even have to buy him a coffee. Perfect! I saved money and he signed for us anyway.
THE home-schooling continues at Warne Acres, although my daughter, Riley, seems to have very little to do — two and a half hours a day tops.
She seems to do everything with her iPad, computer, phone and headphones. My son, Mack, is 16 so he’s had the golden ticket — no exams.
I thought I was really good at maths but suddenly I’m rubbish, even though I got an A in my GCSEs. I seem to have lost all my skills, like in the film, Space Jam.
Biology and history are the only other subjects where I’m of much use really. I’ve flitted in and out of the teaching. Riley doesn’t really ask me, she asks her mum.
They both seem to have a very good friend called Google who helps them no end.
Meanwhile, when I’m not helping to improve my daughter’s mind, I’ve been all over The Test on Amazon Prime. I’m a sucker for a good documentary.
Cricket isn’t in my top three sports but whenever you get to go behind the scenes I love it.
The Test is about Australia getting done for ball-tampering and then having to rebuild their team and the country’s pride in it.
There are some leadership messages in there and you can see the psychological stress. That happens to athletes in any sport, but at the very top level ... Jeez.
For the record, my top three sports are football, American football and ice hockey. I think I have a hat from every team in the NFL. I’m a bit of a groupie like that.