“It’s a chilly 2 degrees centigrade at 10:45am local time here in London, England” our pilot Colin informed, “We hope you have had a very pleasant flight with us at British Airways, and hopefully we will see you soon.”
The almost 11 hour flight felt like a short trip to me, as it was the first time in a very long time that I managed to get a good amount of sleep. Having eaten my food, I put my chair into a bed and only when Emma came and woke me up before we landed, did I wake up. It was wonderful to feel refreshed.
Football management can be very rewarding job, winning games and trophies brings a sense of euphoria I haven’t really found anywhere else. However, it is also a job where rest and time off is rare. During the regular season a normal day will see me wake up at 6:00am, be at the Mercy Health Training Complex for 7:00am. From then until 8:30am I begin going through my emails and messages, working through the endless amounts of information being given to me. At 8:30 I go for breakfast before meetings start with my coaches about the days training sessions. I aim to be on the training pitch throughout the entire two hour session starting at 10:00am. I always enjoy seeing how the boys are performing and what we can work on further.
Following the first training session of the day, I normally have further meetings with other members of the staff. Those meetings will be with scouts and data analysts explaining any information they have on our next opponents. Whilst our Head Physio and Head of Sports Scientists to give me updates on anyone out injured.
We then move on to our second training session of the day which generally begins at 14:30pm following the players lunch. Training ends at 16:00pm and the players are given an hour to shower and eat whilst myself and the data analysts go through the video from the training sessions. In that time we break down the session into a quick highlights package to go through with the group at the end of the day. Personal highlights are then emailed to the players for them to go through in their own time. I find reviewing ourselves at every opportunity as highly beneficial to everyone. It allows us to see what we are doing right and more importantly where we are going wrong so we can improve. My expectations of the players is to take the information in and come back the next day and improve on what we said at the end of the previous day.
Once the players have left I have my final meetings of the day with the coaches and my assistant Garry Parker, to discuss how we think the day went. They then depart leaving me alone in the complex from around 19:30pm. I then begin to devise the next days training schedule, focusing on the key areas we analyzed with the players. These broad schedules and ideas will then be adapted on with my coaches in our meeting the next morning. I finally arrive home at 21:00pm before making myself something to eat before reading through whatever emails I may have missed throughout the day. I aim to give myself an hour or two a night to watch TV and destress before getting into bed ready to go again the next day.
It’s certainly a long day and one that sees me feeling the strain especially after a long period of travel between games, like we had in July last year. But as I said, it is rewarding, the end result when you get a big win at the weekend is something out of this world.
But it is important to get rest every now and again. Even though the season finished almost four months ago, I haven’t had a break yet apart from a few days over Thanksgiving and a couple days for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Apart from those few days I have been studying and scouting the potential Superdraft members, whilst also scouting for first team members.
Having got through security and collected my bags I made my way out of Heathrow and the cold wind hit me straight away. I had last been back to England in 2005, with Mum and Dad, going back to their home city of Nottingham. It was a country I loved, I really did. So when the opportunity to come over for an interview arose, I had to take it.
London's transport system is one of the best in the world and with the disappointing exposure the MLS had to England in particular, I was able to get the Tube unnoticed. My journey was a long one, seeing me change at Green Park before finally arriving at Stratford underground station. From there it was only a small taxi ride to the Olympic Stadium, the home of West Ham United.
“Mr King, it is great to finally meet you” announced David Gold, West Ham United's co-owner “How was your flight? Hopefully the journey wasn’t too much of a problem” added David Sullivan, the second co-owner of the club.
“It was great, thank you, I am very excited about meeting with you all today” I replied looking at the pair as well as Karan Brady the clubs vice-chairman.
The trio led me through to an office. I was welcomed by a large conference table made of oak with eight leather chairs positioned around it. A large window looked out upon the London Stadium pitch, which West Ham had moved into the formerly known Olympic Stadium, in 2016. Since then times have been challenging for them. By finishing 7th the season before their move, of the back of some simply incredible Dimitri Payet performances, the Hammers had claimed a Europa League spot. However they had been unable to clinch a top half finish ever since. With this past season being the worst of the lot. Sat in 18th place, the East London club were struggling, massively.
With just 18 goals in 20 games in all competitions so far this season, The Hammers have been lacking any sort of threat in front of goal. This along with a lack of defensive strength, conceding 3 to Bournemouth and Burnley already this season has seen the side struggle. Sat in 18th, and following a 1-1 draw to Aston Villa, they parted ways with former manager Manuel Pellegrini.
“So, Paul, I will get straight to the point, what is going wrong with this football club at the moment?” asked David Gold, bluntly.
“It’s a combination of things, in my opinion Mr Gold. The most obvious being the lack of chances being created and goals being scored. Losing a player of Javier Hernández quality on loan is a disappointment, whilst the £19,500,000 spent on Guido Carrillo doesn’t look like it is paying off” I informed David Gold and the other two board members present. “I think that is also an aspect that needs to be looked at, the recruitment side of things. Losing a player of Javier’s quality, a proven Premier League goal scorer, and replacing him with Guido, who in his previous time in the league, failed to score, isn’t great business unfortunately.” I knew I was risking my chances of the job by being so honest but I wasn’t the type of person to sit around and lie just to tell someone what they wanted to hear.
“So you don’t think we are doing our jobs well enough?” questioned David Sullivan.
“No, it isn’t that, that isn’t your role at all. It should be down to the manager, the Director of Football and the scouts to decide on the best players for the football club. If we are spending so much money it needs to be the right man.”
“What would you do to turn our fortunes around then Paul?” asked Karan Brady, who up to now had remained silent.
“A few things. I think this club needs to start a rebuild focused around the young talents it has here. The likes of Declan Rice and Issa Diop. As a whole, the squad is really beginning to age, I believe only two players were under the age of 26 in yesterday's first eleven, whilst four were above 30. The facilities are in place, it is just about executing the turnaround efficiently and effectively now.” I answered.
The interview lasted approximately a further 30 minutes with the discussion seemingly being productive. I left the stadium and entered my hotel with even more thoughts swirling around my head.
West Ham are a club that have struggled as late, even with the money they have spent. It is certainly a situation King finds interesting.
Will be interesting to see if King will hammer home a spot as West Hams manager.
Europe, has to be the destination any manager wants to be. It is a real test of a quality manager, maybe King will get to show what he can do there.