First Day (Episode 1: A Lincoln Legend)

What if I crumble and it’s obvious I’m shitting myself? What if I literally shit myself?

It was one of those days that’s too hot for comfort. The seatbelt was trying it’s hardest to burn a stripe through my shirt and onto my chest as I began the drive down to the East Midlands. I already hated driving in perfectly normal weather, this just added another reason to regret sitting behind  the wheel.

Being a shirt and tie kinda guy in this weather is never a good thing. The entirety of the 2 and a half hour journey was consumed by heat induced emotion. A large mixture of  excitement, fear, anticipation and at points, dread. What if I wasn’t ready?

The last 6 years of my life could either support or oppose that point. After the crash, my head  (and my leg) was in tatters. I’d worked since I was young to rise through the ranks of football and after performing well for National League and Conference sides, the prospect of playing for one of the elite 92 clubs was cruelly ripped from my grasp. Until my hometown club, 1887 Darlington, offered me a way out.

After starting my playing career there and maintaining a good relationship with the club, they offered me a chance to rebuild my confidence and in turn rebuild the club. As the assistant to then manager Martin Gray. Hand-in-hand, we were promoted 3 times in 4 seasons, making amends for an enforced relegation of 4 divisions. A few months ago, before the new season started, I decided I  wanted to throw my hat in the ring of management myself. I started applying.

TalkSport gets rudely interrupted by the ringing tone of my phone. I press the button on my  steering wheel to answer. It’s the chairman.

“Connor, are you almost here yet? I’ve got a little interview for the Twitter account. A couple representatives from the supporters club set up for when you arrive. Nothing serious just a few standard questions, basically the same as the interview.”

Before I can even mutter my dissatisfaction with this preemptive attempt of building a manager/fan relationship, he rattles off some excuse about a meeting with so-and-so. My palms begin to sweat even more as Adrian Durham’s addictive ranting returns. Radio off. Thinking cap on. What the fuck am I gonna say?

I spent the off-season dropping my CV off at anywhere that would listen. And not just in England.  While lower league clubs such as Ashton, Ramsbottom and even Ebbsfleet got one of many copies, clubs abroad had a few emails too. Babelsberg and FSV Frankfurt in Germany, Vicenza in Italy. I was more than happy to leave the dull skies of England. Dull except from the day I have to drive 3 fucking hours.

I had a few interviews, both telephone and face-to-face, and came close to agreeing a deal with  Boston United until a better option came along. And by better, I mean someone with any actual experience. To my surprise, 3 weeks ago today, I received a phone call asking if I was free for an interview for a side I knew to be newly promoted. Recommendation of Boston after a promising  interview, apparently. Without questioning the departure of a promotion winning manager, I took the train the next morning, profusely thanking Boston chairman David Newton for pulling this miracle off. Little did I know, the miracle I performed in that meeting room was head and shoulders above his.

My body untenses momentarily as I pull into the parking area of Sincil Bank as I was now allowed to  take the key out of the ignition and step outside. However, the panic of the fore coming interrogation resurfaced. What if they refuse to let me explain myself, immediately point to my  lack of experience? What if I crumble and it’s obvious I’m shitting myself? What if I literally shit myself? And it’s on Twitter forever?

A knock on the window stops my now frankly grim thought pattern. Bob Dorrian’s wide smile is virtually pressed against my window. Before I can even think about how axe-murderish he looks, I’m ushered out of the car quickly towards the stadium. After a minute of ‘preparation’ talk from Bob, I’m sat down on the edge of the pitch facing two middle aged men with clipboards and a camera mounted on a tripod in between them.

“Thanks for meeting with us Connor, just a few questions before you get on with meeting the board and the squad.” I hadn’t even clicked about not meeting my team first. Couldn’t this wait? Why was this first on the agenda for a new manager, five minutes into arrival? As these thoughts bounced around, the camera is flicked on and the first question is thrown my way. No on camera introduction or friendly chat to ease my nerves. These guys are out to get me.

“It’s quite obvious to anyone who does their research on yourself that there’s nothing to research as you lack any managerial experience.” Shit. “What qualities do you think you have that got you this job over more experienced options?”

I stare down the lens of the camera, fully aware that the next sentence I utter will be the first impressions of the Lincoln City faithful. The next words will define my approach to management for the next 5-10, hopefully even 15 years.

“Drive. An undying, unrelenting drive to succeed. If it was evident to the board after one meeting, it will be evident to the lads after one session. And if it’s evident to them after one session, it’ll become evident to the fans after one game. We will succeed.”

Dorrian’s grin spreads across his face like a rash as he glances between me and the now unnerved fans behind the camera. The Mourinho approach. Fire and fury.

“Sorry to cut this short but Bob said some of the squad are waiting for me. I’ll make sure to give you guys a longer chance to break me in a couple weeks time?”

Before the men can even finish their guilty child-like nodding, Bob wraps an arm round me and leads me down the tunnel. “That’s why you got the fucking job. Welcome to Lincoln mate.”

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