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How the fuck did I end up here?
That’s what I said to myself as I pulled into the car-park at Dalymount Park, the home of Bohemian FC, my new employers and my first proper job in football management.
I know nothing about the club. Literally nothing. I just want to work in Football like I’ve done my whole life. It’s in my blood; I just can’t imagine my life without it.
It all began in 1992 as a wide eyed sixteen year old playing in central defence for my hometown team and the club that I support, Sunderland. Throughout the four seasons I had playing for the Black Cats I made 18 appearances for the club with no goals. I did spend five months on loan at AFC Bournemouth during the 94/95 season which helped my development, but didn’t do enough to convince Peter Reid to keep me on the following season, you know, Sunderland’s return to the Premier League.
Yes, I missed out on playing in the top flight of English football.
Instead, I was sold to Birmingham City for £200,000. I was determined to make it to the Premier League with Birmingham, plus have you seen what a young Karren Brady looks like?
The 97/98 season was the season where we almost made it to the big time to the Premier League and the chance to face long-time rivals Aston Villa.
But I blew it big time.
We were playing Charlton Athletic on the final game of the season at St. Andrew’s. We knew that a win would see us qualify for the playoffs providing that Sheffield United lost to Stockport County. County were upholding their end of the bargain, we just had to find that winning goal against Charlton. Charlton had already qualified for the playoffs so they were there for the taking. We had to find that one goal.
It came on the 88th minute. A cross from Chris Holland into the Charlton penalty area, Nicky Forster gets a shot in but its rebound off the keeper. The ball comes to my feet, it’s an open goal………and I blast it wide of the bar.
What a sickening feeling.
Steve Bruce was the first to put an arm around me and told me not to worry about it. Michael Johnson, who was off to the World Cup with Jamaica the following month, told me that it’s all part of the learning process. The kind words were welcoming. I even got a hug from Karren in the dressing room; every cloud has a silver lining and all that.
The only person who didn’t speak to me was the manager, Trevor Francis.
It was a month later before he spoke to me; it was the day I got released from the club. “Sorry it had to come to this” was the parting shot as we were shaking hands. I stood outside St. Andrew’s where it began pissing it down. I walked towards my car, turned around, and spat in the direction of the stadium. “I’ll get myself a better club, and I’ll get back at Trevor Francis. First million pound player my arse”. I sat in my car and just sobbed for a good half hour. In a twist of irony, had we qualified for the playoffs we would have faced Sunderland in the semi-finals.
Trials at West Bromwich Albion and Tranmere Rovers followed. Manchester City, who were in Division Two at this stage, were apparently interested but nothing came of it. I did end up in Division Two when I signed for York City. I only spent one season in Division Two. It wasn’t because I left the club it was because we were relegated at the end of the 98/99 season. After five seasons in Division Three, York City were relegated to the Conference league in 2004.
Eleven years after my professional debut, I was now a non-league player. I had no intention of leaving the Ministermen at all. I actually requested for a pay-cut just so I could stay, and in return, I was appointed club captain. A honour I held before my retirement in 2014.
All that’s in the past. I have to pick up what I’ve learnt over the years and put it to practice here at Bohs.
Club President, Matt Devaney, welcomed me in reception as we made our way up to his office.
Matt Devaney: So you made it here okay, Andy?
Andy Sheriff: Yeah, Matt. You can easily get lost around here.
Matt Devaney: You’ll get used to it. Fancy a drink?
Matt pulled out a bottle of wine; I declined the offer due to my personal views on drinking alcohol. I noticed that the wine was from the Tesco Everyday Value range. There’s a Tesco right next to the stadium so that will come in handy if I ever need to do my big shop.
Matt Devaney: So tell me, what your plans for the club? What do you want to achieve?
Andy Sheriff: I want the club to process. I want us to compete for honours and bring some silverware to the club. It’s been a while since we’ve won anything; the fans have stuck by and deserve something in return.
Matt Devaney: I agree, I think with the club being located in Dublin is attractive to players, but unfortunately, players aren’t exactly banging down the doors to play their football in Ireland. You’re right in what you say, we haven’t won anything in some time now. We did the league & cup double in 2009 and I’m sure we’d like to see that happen again.
Andy Sheriff: Agreed.
Matt Devaney: What I want to see this season is for us to be competitive on both fronts. Finish in the top six of the league and perhaps the quarter finals of the Irish cup, does that seem fair?
Andy Sheriff: Very fair.
Matt Devaney: As for transfers, there’s only so much meat on the bone, all we can afford is 614,567 euros with 2,701 euros in wages. We’re not exactly blessed with money unlike those fuckers, Shamrock Rovers. Speaking about money, I’ve signed us up to participate in a tournament in Sweden where the winners can pick up a kitty of 1,026,532 euros.
Personally, I’m not the one to play in pre-season tournaments, but Matt has fallen in love with the idea of becoming a millionaire. What choice did I have? I had a look at the teams in our group; Crew Alexander, Atvidabergs and Stevenage. Not exactly household names now are they? There was one team in the other group which caught my eye, York City. Yes, the club that I spent sixteen seasons with where participating the same tournament as us. You just couldn’t write the script for it.
My meeting with Matt was over and I returned to my car so I can make my way to our apartment on St. Anthony’s Road.
Who is “us” I hear you cry? My fiancée Kelly Parsons that’s who. She’s still in York tying up a few loose ends before she moves over to Dublin.
Something tells me that Bohemians is going to get under my skin.