Chapter 14 – The beginning of the end, or the end of my beginning?
As I stood there and watched Liam Walker rifle in a 35 yard thunderbolt with his left foot that 2 keepers wouldn’t have saved, I knew there and then it was time. A fitting way not only to celebrate my 100th game as a manager, but to go out after winning 2 leagues, 2 cups and the super cup in my first 3 years as a manager, I made the decision to leave on a high. I’d not told anyone and acted as anyone would after winning back to back cups. Me and the team partied hard, Frank didn’t break my nose this time, I woke up in my own bed and not at the hospital, and when I did I looked over at the cabinet in the second floor flat Stuart Rodriguez had let me live in for the last 3 years, and saw 2 runners up medals, 2 league and 2 cup winners medals and my 2 manager of the year trophies.
Lying next to me was Rose, who despite neither of us asking, we were definitely more than just friends. When she woke up, we talked and I told her I’d made the decision to leave. She understood my need to move on to progress as a manager and move up in the footballing world, and I was genuinely nervous when I said the next thing that came out of my mouth. I sounded like a 15 year old boy talking to his crush for the first time
‘Look Rose, I don’t think it’s going to be in Gibraltar, my next club I mean, and erm, well, I was wondering, only if you’re not busy, if you’d, you know, come with me?’
I stammered and stuttered my way through a sentence where I was trying to ask her if she’d come with me if I left Gibraltar. Her response made me realise why I loved her so much
‘Of course it won’t be in Gibraltar you silly goose, as soon as we (I love how she always says we!) won the league a few weeks ago, I knew we’d be moving on. We’re a team me and you, I’ll go wherever you go, but promise me 1 thing’
I said yes sugar, anything
‘Make sure at some point in our lives, you take me to Paris’
I made a vow there and then that at some point in the future, whether as a manager or when I retired, that I’d take her to city my father was from.
On my way to Turnbulls Boulevard where the Saint Josephs HQ office was situated to see Stuart, I rehearsed what I was going to say over and over, but just couldn’t come up with the right words. Once I was there and we were chatting, he knew something wasn’t right, and it was him that approached the subject first.
He told me he’d knew it would be hard for him to keep me at Saint Jospehs, after the things we’ve won in 3 short years, he said there’d be plenty of teams outside of Gibraltar willing to take me. I assured him I’d not approached anyone during my time here, I’d not gone and made any contact, and that I was telling the truth when I said I was going to take a few weeks off and relax, and enjoy not working for a short amount of time. We both spoke truthfully and I said I would be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me, and that no matter where I end up or what I end up doing, I will always have Saint Josephs to thank for giving me that start. Stuart told that my dad came in and made a big impression all those years ago, but it was his son that really changed the club and the culture. Without me he said they’d never have challenged Lincoln, or won what we had won. We wished each other the best in our future endeavors, I shook his hand, and said thank you before leaving his office for the last time.
Privately, I wanted to test myself at another club, and to make sure that my time at Saint Josephs wasn’t a fluke or beginners luck, and that I could make it to a team without my father’s help or reputation helping me.
My record at Saint Josephs was 71 wins, 12 draws and 17 losses. 2 league wins, 2 cup wins and 1 Pepe Reyes cup win. Not too shabby for a first time manager eh!
As noted previously, I made sure to include competition bonuses in my contracts from my third one onwards, and for winning the cup I was awarded 5 thousand euro, as well as a tidy 9 thousand for winning the league, and with this money I spent 2 weeks in Spain travelling from city to city.
Before we left I took a call from my old assistant manager Javier Casquero, and he asked how things were, he’d seen we won the league and cup again, and I told him I’d resigned and would be looking for another job after my holidays. As it turns out, Javier had also got himself a new job, this time not as an assistant but as the manager of CD Tudelano in Spain’s third division. I was happy for him, but I wasn’t surprised, he was a great assistant and motivator, so him getting a job as a manager was always only going to be a matter of time.
Whilst in beautiful city of Zaragoza in Spain, Rose remarked how nice it was and how she’d love to live here. Whilst I was on holiday, I couldn’t stop thinking about the future and started looking at the available jobs in Spain by looking on Fifa’s website. It was amazing to me just how many teams there were in Spain. I noticed teams from places I’d been to but didn’t realise had a team there, Ibiza and Lanzarotte have a professional team and both were playing in the third tier, the Segunda Division B, not only that but Benidorm have a team and they’ve just been promoted to the same division. All 3 of these places I’ve been to but never once knew they had a football team. All 3 had managers though, not that I thought anything of applying.
I can’t remember when it was, but I took a call from Javier again and he had said that his team were due to play in a tour of Gibraltar and would I like to go along with him. I politely declined, the next week was all about relaxing with Rose. But just as that phone call ended, another took place, it was my father, and he had some news.
My father always wanted to give back to the game, and as such became interested in representing players as an agent. He’d done small things like talking to clubs about contracts and bonuses from his own experiences. But in the 3 years of my being in Gibraltar, he’d gained a licence to become a fully-fledged agent. I was overjoyed at this, as I knew it was something he’d wanted to do for a long time, then he told about one of the first players on his books. An aging center forward by the name of Jonathan Forte, who was born in and played his full career in England had hired my dad as his agent. My dad’s company was called Chris Irvine Sports Ventures, and my dad had brokered a deal for Jonathan to join a club in Spain, FC Andorra.
Like San Marino Calcio in Italy, FC Andorra were from the small country of Andorra, and played in the Spanish football pyramid. They had been promoted to Segunda Division B last season, finished just above relegation places and the manager Paco Lopez had left to join a team in Portugal, so there was an opportunity there. During my dad’s time negotiating a deal for Jonathan, he’d been discussing things with the chairman Pelayo Corominas. Not only that, but my dad was in Andorra, and as I was only a couple of hours away, I thought now would be a great time not only to see him, but introduce him to Rose.
By the time I’d got to Andorra a couple of days later, I met my dad at a hotel near the stadium, Camp d’Esports D’Aixovall. The city of Saint Juliά de Lória was beautiful and full of life despite being small in comparison to Spain. I’d introduced him to Rose, met Jonathan who was getting the rest of his stuff sorted and preparing to live in Spain and travel to Andorra each day, before a familiar face walked in. I instantly knew who it was and was a little bit star struck, but he approached us, said hello to Jonathan and my dad and introduced himself as Gerard Pique, Barcelona and Spain defender, and FC Andorra owner! His first words to me I will always remember, and it was the start of a fantastic relationship between us both
‘Hi, you must be Chris junior, I’ve heard a lot about you, and I can’t wait to hear about your time in Gibraltar’ he said in Spanish.
I couldn’t help but think back to my first meeting with Stuart Rodriguez in Gibraltar when talking to Gerard. Except this time I told him all about my time there, training, signing players, being linked to Lincoln three times, and winning the league and cup twice as well. I showed him my pre and post-match notes I’d made in a journal I carried with me, and told him how I always want my team to play to their strengths, not just my tactics. It took me by surprise when he asked me if I ever thought about managing in Spain, and when I said I’m looking for another opportunity and Spain is definitely as good a place as any, he looked me dead in the eyes and said ‘Chris, you’re perfect for us. We’re looking for a steady hand to keep us in the league, and push on from there. If you accept my offer to become our new first team manager, you’ll have my full backing’
So after 4 weeks since leaving Saint Jospehs, a job I got because of my fathers reputation, I was being offered the manager’s job at FC Andorra, on the back of my father’s business relationship with the owner of the club.
Remember when I said I wanted to try and make it in football on my own without my dads help? No, me neither.