This is one episode of a wider series. To instead start at episode one, please click here.
So, I signed off episode 13 (lucky for some) asking if my ‘go’ date was to be the 31st of December 2022…
Well, that date has arrived.
Mr Christian Johansen (my boss, the Lillestrøm chairman ‘ChriJo,’ of course), gives me a final call, to give me one last chance to remain in Norway. To lead the charge back in the Eliteserien, the top tier of Norwegian club football, as cup holders and UEFA Europa League hopefuls.
I’ve learned to love this club. I’ve dedicated over a year and a half of my career to putting them back where they belong. It’s a £4,100 a week, two-year deal, along with some money in the bank to replace and improve some of our squad. It’s a very fair offer.
Something doesn’t feel right though.
Yes, I could lead the club to the top of the toppest tree (writer’s note – that’s not a thing), knocking Rosenborg off of it (permanently, this time) within a few years. Yes, I could get through to the Europa League group stage after 127 rounds of qualifying or whatever early stage I would enter at for winning the Norwegian cup.
But I am the journeyman. My goal is to move on up (like Curtis Mayfield) so that people can get ready (like Curtis Mayfield) to see me super fly (like Curtis Mayfield).
Lockhart exits Lillestrøm at the end of his contract!
So there it is in black and white. I close this wonderful Norwegian chapter in my story and my life, and look for pastures new. Technically my rolling deal continues until the 14th of January, but it’s over. I never did get to see those Northern Lights.
I hand back the keys to the frustratingly awful electric toaster version of the Volkswgen Golf.
I say goodbye to my nice little apartment in Oslo.
I share a tearful goodbye with the finest purveyors of both salmon and noodles in all of Norway (as far as I am concerned). They aren’t delighted, but they do understand.
I give my assistant manager Gordo (or Gordon Young to give him his full name for probably the first and last time) a manly hug, and wish him well. He hangs back at the office as I leave for the airport, presumably to square things up and make sure the Lillestrøm lads are ok with the manager’s exit.
Gordo flags down the plane by hand, seconds before it lifts off the tarmac, at Oslo Airport. Looks like he’s leaving Norway with me.
Unfortunately for Gordo and I, we now don’t have jobs, and I might not be able to bring him into whichever club I work for next!
Gordo says that he is ok with that, but I’m not so sure. On the flight back home to Glasgow to spend some rare time with family and friends, he gives me a powerful, forty minute speech about loyalty. I kindly smile and nod, but he doesn’t realise I’ve actually got one headphone in, listening to Toto.
It looks we are taking some time off, then. Though I’m not sure how to do that!
2023 opens with a bang. Literally.
At the stroke of midnight at new year, my parent’s neighbours (I’ll only be back here a couple of weeks, honest) set off their evidently inexplicably extravagant and expensive arsenal of fireworks all at once. The family cat almost gives birth, despite being male.
Forty five minutes of prising the cat’s claws from the ceiling later, I have a quick look at the job market before drifting off to sleep.
I tell you what. The next three months were torture. That’s right, three months without a job!
Although I certainly didn’t get ‘laughed off’ of jobs nearly as much as I did before I landed on my feet with Varbergs, it still happened more than once though! For the record, PSV and Cagliari are now in my bad books for their direct sarcasm. There were some opportunities to impress, however.
I’m going to summarise a few of the rest for you now. Believe it or not, there were more. All of these teams either laughed in my face, or opted for someone else after interview, over the course of three long months.
Aberdeen, Empoli, PSV, Watford, Cagliari, Utrecht, Copenhagen, Crystal Palace, Waford, Montpellier and CSKA Moscow.
CSKA was actually looking very, very possible until I was let down at the last minute and they selected someone else.
At least the calibre of the teams is impressive, in spite of my continued unemployment.
But then it happened.
My phone rings.
It’s the first time in so long.
I accidentally knock my glass of Château Recougne off the table in my parent’s front room trying to pick my phone up (that might be a hint).
I breathlessly answer and tell the caller that yes, I can be there in no time (well, in some time), for an urgent interview opportunity.
I rush to Glasgow airport and get on the flight.
I take a deep breath as we take off. I think about the fact that the role I am suddenly in the running for has just been vacated by none other than the legendary Thierry Henry. I chew Nicotine gum, furiously. He only left (in a Renault Clio) a couple of days ago, to go back for a second chance in the Monaco hotseat.
I wipe the sweat from my forehead, as we pass over the Channel and I remember that none other than Zinedine Zidane himself, proudly represented this club for four years, right before he became a global superstar.
I clench my teeth and realise that I’ve run out of things to worry about.
It might be alright. It could be all be ok, couldn’t it?
I land and retrieve my bag. I’m a bit lost, but a kind old soul points me to the airport exit.
A driver from the club picks me up and takes me directly to the owner’s office, at the 41,458 all-seater stadium.
I get out of the car and breathe in the sweet, south-western French air, before nervously heading into the stadium to meet owner and president Joseph DaGrosa, and a handful of other club luminaries.
I exit forty five minutes later.
I’m fairly drunk on delicious red wine.
I am also absolutely gobsmacked to have signed a 2 year deal on £12,750 a week (treble my previous deal!) and my mind is swirling on who to target with the £12million transfer budget I’ve been promised (what’s happening here?!).
I am officially the new manager of Bordeaux! Currently in the top half in Ligue Un!
There’s a heck of a lot more detail to come of course, but for now, and for the rest of this post…let’s just enjoy it!
I’ve only been here an hour or so, but Bordeaux is already starting to feel like home.
The adventure continues!
Thanks for reading.