So here I am, an out of work ex Sunday league footballer. I have absolutely zero qualifications and experience, but football is my life and somehow, someway I’m going to get back into football. As expected I’m laughed at by clubs in my native Russia, teams such as first division team Chertanovo who are looking to stay in the division, or second division team FC Ryazan who are looking to get promoted who didn’t even give me the time or day for an interview, I am actually a nobody in football at the minute.
1 thing that resonated with me when Alexandr spoke to me in the hospital was when we said I have to get myself out there. So I’m going to get myself out there, but where and how? Being a football manager isn’t easy, I mean if it was we’d all be doing it but how do the lesser known players get their first break in the management game? As a Torpedo Moscow fan they’d be perfect for me but as I’ve found out with other Russian teams I’ve got no chance of getting that job, not yet at least.
Just then I leaned on the telly remote, and a program about British football managers abroad came on, and they were talking about Steve Kean and what he’s been up to since leaving Blackburn unceremoniously in September 2012. After watching the whole program and actually starting to feel sorry for Steve Kean I found myself on ESPN’s Asia football page and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued at what I saw. With my ‘optimist hat’ on I’d say I would be a success at any club the world over, however with my ‘realist hat’ on I need a way into football management, and I need a way in soon. According to various media reports, the head coach jobs at Warriors FC and Young Lions in Singapore are down as insecure whilst Kuantan in Malaysia is down as precarious. Now I don’t like to see anyone lose their job however I’m thinking about 1 man and 1 man only, and that’s me! How any of these clubs would fancy an unknown, failed out of work ex Sunday league footballer I don’t know, but that old saying shy kids get nout rings true here and I’m definitely going to try put my name in the hat for any of these should they become available.
A day later I’d logged back onto ESPN Asia and seen that 2 jobs were now available in Malaysia, both in the Premier League, the second division. Penang who were 11th in the league as well as Sarawak who are sitting 10th in the league, and both had been relegated from the Super League last year. Both clubs were expected to bounce straight back but for whatever reason both are struggling and looking like candidates for back to back relegation’s.
My friend Ilja Korneev who works in marketing popped over and I’d told him about wanting to get into management but I’m not sure how a Russian manager even gets in touch with football teams in Asia. Without saying a word he somehow managed to declare my interest in the Penang job, and the press over there were running with the story.
Wow. He must be really good at marketing! I only told him less than an hour ago I fancied going over there and now the press are running with the story, could something actually come of this? As I got my bag and set off for the gym, my phone rang. The number wasn’t withheld but it didn’t look like a Russian telephone number. I answered.
‘Hi, is this Dmitri Tarasov?’
‘Yes it is, who’s calling?’
‘My name is Tahir Jalaludin, the chairman of Penang Football Club. I hear you’re interested in becoming a manager?’
‘Wow, this is unexpected. But yes I am, I feel like I’m ready and I’ve got…’
He cuts me off. ‘Save the small talk for when we meet. I need a spark, I need something that’s going to reinvigorate my team. I’m thinking outside the box, and a foreign manager with a point to prove ticks all my boxes. I’d very much like top meet you in person, are you free in a 2 days time? I will fly to Moscow personally?’
‘Yes of course. Of course I’ll be free’
‘Great, I’ll email the details. Speak soon’
And just like that I’ve got an interview. The next day flew by and before I knew it I was sat with Tahir in a hotel meeting room having the interview. He rightly had reservations about my experience as a manager, or lack thereof, to which I told him everyone has to start somewhere, and that as he said on the phone I do have a point to prove.
‘Dmitri, my team is in the bottom 2 of the league and looking like they could get relegated. Tell me how you are going to stop that from happening.’
‘Well as I told you I played for 2 teams in my career, Metallurg Vyxa for 6 years before going to FC Zelenograd and playing there for 9 years, and at both teams I was club captain. I’m a leader, a motivator, I will get this team playing with confidence and won’t let any complacency creep in.’
‘Thank you for your time Dmitri, it’s been a pleasure. I’ll be in touch’
It’s the wait that gets you. Waiting for an answer, a yes or no, an email saying we’re happy with your vision but we’ve gone with another candidate.
During the coming days I was so full of confidence that I applied for the Sarawak job.
Not expecting anything back I was invited to a Skype interview by the Sarawak owner Posa Majais. The interview was to take place the next morning Moscow time.
On the morning of the interview my phone rang, a withheld number was calling. I thought this is going to Tahir, letting me know I’d not got the Penang job.
‘You’re wasting your time going in for the Sarawak job laddie. Stick to the lower end of the spectrum, Sarawak is way out of your league’
‘Sorry, who is this? Is this Ilja? You’re not funny you know’
‘This isn’t a joke son, you’re wasting your time with Sarawak, someone else is lined up for that job. The best you can hope for is relegation fodder. Stay out of my way’
The call ended. What the hell was that?!? Some prank caller getting wind of my application to Sarawak. Oh well managers are in the spotlight I guess.
This interview was very different, the man interviewing me didn’t really seem that interested in me, he kept referencing other candidates for the job, more experienced people, but I gave it my all anyway.
Less than 2 hours alter I got an email from Sarawak.
‘Dmitri, thanks for your time. Whilst we were happy with your vision, you’re just not the right man at this time. We’ve gone with someone else. Thank you’.
Steve Kean. Steve bloody Kean. I felt sorry for this guy not that long ago, was that him on the phone? Nah it couldn’t be, or could it?
Then the phone rang. I recognised this number, this number has called me before…..
‘Dmitri, it’s time’
Just as that call ended, Rosalia, my Spanish on / off girlfriend of the last 2 years walks in. She speaks perfect Russian, I speak very basic Spanish, we’re a match made in heaven.
‘Rose, there’s something I need to tell you’
After an hour or so of telling her what I was doing, she was upset I could see that, but if I want to make it as a manager I’ve got some big decisions to make.
‘Why can’t you get a job here in Russia? Why Malaysia?’
‘No Russian team will have me, not yet anyway. I need to make a name for myself and going away for a while will do that’
‘But I’ve got my career in Russia to think about, I can’t leave’
‘And I’ve got my career to think about, and I have to leave’
‘Will I ever see you again mi amore?’
‘This isn’t farewell novio , this is only goodbye for now.’
Next episode – Operation : Fundamentals
Previous episode – The journey begins