I love the game. And even though watching the game week in week out with Redknapp and Carragher was a pleasure, nothing beats being IN the game.
8 years is a long time. The game has changed a lot in those 8 years, but this is a learning curve for me and I believe I'm at the right club (and at the right level) to distinguish myself as a top manager and rebuild my reputation after failing in my first stint as a football manager. I started too high. Liverpool, Galatasaray, Rangers, Benfica, Newcastle - all huge clubs where the pressure was too great for me to show what I could do. This time it's different, this time I've got all the passion and intelligence of football management needed to be successful. At those clubs I just mentioned, all I had was passion. And, in fairness, it was unrivalled.
August was a month of mixed emotions. I put it down to me finding my feet back in the dugout and getting to know how best my players work and in what systems against differing opposition.
To begin the month - only a day before I made my return to competitive management away at Preston North End, Archie Knox, my newly appointed Director of Football phoned me with the good news that the club had managed to sign young striker Apostolos Vellios on a 6 month loan deal from Everton. This is likely to be the last move we make in the window and we are happy with the business done.
And so it was upon me - Preston North End in their own back yard. My return to competitive management. This is my recap of the months football.
SKYBET LEAGUE 1
: (4-5-1): C Ikeme; M Keane, D Batth, R Stearman, S Ricketts (C); J Henry, J O'Hara, J Morris, K McDonald, M Jacobs; N Gomes
Substitutions: (62) OFF Gomes ON Dicko
This was a difficult defeat to take on the opening day of the season because deep down I knew the result was in the majority my fault. I let the fans down. I was very defensive with a 4-5-1 as I was expecting their midfield to be energetic and incisive so I went with five to gazump them and the aim was to hit them on the break. I have been, at my former club, in the top flight and used to managing wonderfully gifted players - so my philosophies were always play possession and free flowing football. This won't be possible in this division with the squad at my disposal. I instructed the lads to keep the ball at all costs and whilst for some parts of the game they did as they were asked, they weren't creating opportunities or looking like a threat. I can't be held responsible for conceding two goals in the opening seven minutes of the game though, that isn't good enough and the boys were made well aware of that at half-time. Unfortunately it just wasn't to be. A difficult start for me at my new club but something to build on in the coming games.
Next up was divisional rivals Scunthorpe United at Molineux Stadium in the Capital One Cup 2nd Round. I was given a warm reception by the fans and I was happy to see that they weren't resentful regarding the defeat at Preston just three days prior.
CAPITAL ONE CUP
: (4-1-3-2): C Ikeme; M Keane, D Batth, R Stearman, S Ricketts (C); K Foley; J Morris, D Davis, J O'Hara; N Gomes, A Vellios
Substitutions: (92) OFF Gomes & Keane ON Dicko & Golbourne
Thankfully, and eventually, we won this game and progressed to the next round of the Capital One Cup. This competition isn't particularly important - but the fans do love a good cup run and I imagine a trip to Wembley Stadium would probably be preferable over promotion for a fair few Wolves fans. This competition is not my priority (the league is), however, I fielded a strong side as it is important to the get the supporters on side early on and by winning this match I feel I have made good inroads into doing so. We played OK, we weren't fabulous and it was a scrappy game, though having made a couple of changes at the beginning of Extra Time, the fresh legs gave us a welcome boost and it was Jamie O'Hara who sent us through with a good finish on the stroke of ET half-time. We were drawn against my old club Blackburn Rovers in the next round - and believe me that match is worth reading on for.
Anyway, it was back to league business now and we were faced with Gillingham in front of our own supporters in the second league game of the season.
SKYBET LEAGUE 1
: (4-1-3-2): A McCarey; S Ricketts (C), G Elokobi, R Stearman, S Golbourne; J Morris; J Henry, K Foley, K McDonald; L Clarke, N Dicko
This was a superb win for us and it meant a lot to me on a personal level as I felt like the fans were really behind the side and desperate for the team to get back to winning ways in the league. One thing I've noticed about this club is that the support is absolutely phenomenal. Back-to-back relegations from the Premier League to League 1 and yet home games still average 20,000 - it's stunning. We went for an attacking line-up but a few key players were missing through injury. Keeper Carl Ikeme was ruled out for 3 weeks with a knee problem, Danny Batth was fatigued along with Jamie O'Hara, Nuno Gomes, Apostolos Vellios, Michael Keane and Jody Morris. So we had made significant changes but attacked Gillingham from the word go and deservedly found ourselves 2-0 up inside an hour. They grabbed one back a minute after our second which unnerved me - but not the players and we collected all three points from a decent Gillingham side. We weren't fielding nearly our strongest eleven so it was all the more pleasing to see our weaker outfit win the game. Leon Clarke scored a wonder goal in this game too - which sees him competing with Vellios and Gomes for the first choice striker spot within the club.
The next game was a more difficult one. Also relegated from the Championship last year with ourselves were Bristol City. We went to their place in search of points but unfortunately came up short.
SKYBET LEAGUE 1
: (4-5-1): A McCarey; M Keane, D Batth, R Stearman, S Ricketts (C); J Henry, J O'Hara, J Morris, D Davis, M Jacobs; L Clarke
Substitutions: (66) OFF Davis & Clarke ON McDonald & Gomes
(81) OFF Henry ON Vellios
This result stuck in my throat to be honest. We played really well and managed to contain their threats for most of the game - but eventually fell down to a late strike against one of the top teams in the division. It would have been great to take a point but again it wasn't to be. All of our strikers were fit, but Leon Clarke led the line due to his fine performance against Gillingham. There isn't much more to add. We'll keep plugging away and hopefully pick up enough points over the course of the season to earn our way back into the Championship.
Now we returned to the Midlands to face Crawley at Molineux. I felt this was a really good opportunity to get three points on the board.
SKYBET LEAGUE 1
: (4-1-3-2): A McCarey; M Keane, D Botth, R Stearman, S Ricketts (C); J Morris; K McDonald, D Davis, J O'Hara; N Gomes, A Vellios
Substitutions: (78) OFF Gomes ON Clarke
I was upset about this one. I really thought that we could comfortably beat Crawley at home but unfortunately we could only muster a draw. We were ahead and maybe at that point I should have gone for a more defensive approach - but I pushed for another to seal the game but ended up conceding a penalty in the 77th minute, which they tucked away and took away a point. Very disappointing.
Up next was a game I desperately wanted to win. Blackburn Rovers. The club for who I won this competition with in 2002. Two years later I was offered the Newcastle job and took it which has left a sour taste in Blackburn fans mouths - which makes this game all the more important for me, as I've taken my fair share of abuse from those supporters in recent years.
CAPITAL ONE CUP
: (4-5-1): A McCarey; M Keane, D Batth, R Stearman, S Ricketts (C); J Henry, J O'Hara, K Foley, D Davis, M Jacobs; A Vellios
Substitutions: (43) OFF Batth ON Morris
(83) OFF Davis & Vellios ON McDonald & Gomes
Again, it wasn't to be. We were eventually undone by a better side but I couldn't be more proud of my players' performance. A massively unfortunate outcome which probably in the end came down to fitness as our legs were tiring later on in extra-time. We gave it a real good go and I was pleased to see Apostolos Vellios score a good goal, hopefully he can kick on and become a regular on our scoresheet. 4-5-1 seems to be working more effectively now against the stronger sides - in this game it did work we were just unlucky. Though as I see it in every cloud there is a silver lining - we can now focus on the league without the distraction of a cup competition for the time being. Of course we still have the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and the FA Cup to compete in later on. I was the centre of attention for Blackburn fans throughout the game with "Souness, what's the score?" being chanted at me come the final whistle, but this only gives me more desire to succeed in this job as many have seen my managerial career as something to laugh at up until now I'm sure.
The last game in a tiring month was the long trip down to Port Vale. This match saw the return of first choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme between the sticks and the debut of veteran forward Gary Teale.
SKYBET LEAGUE 1
: (4-2-3-1): C Ikeme; M Keane, D Batth, R Stearman, S Ricketts (C); D Davis, K McDonald; G Teale, N Gomes, J Edwards; A Vellios
Chuffed. A good, solid performance culminating in a good, solid 2-0 victory. We are slowly picking up points and eventually I'm positive it will all come together and we will be challenging for the title very soon as the teams making a good start will crumble around us. I still don't really know my best eleven players but there is lots of time to figure that out yet.
All in all it has been a steady month and I leave you with a look at the league standings at the end of August:
SKYBET LEAGUE 1
As I have been telling my players this month, the Grand National isn't won at the first fence.