FC Halifax Town: “I don’t think there’s any job like it. It’s utter madness” - Wild relishing the crazy world of football management

Football - FC Halifax Town v Eastleigh. Town manager Pete Wild.
Football - FC Halifax Town v Eastleigh. Town manager Pete Wild.

Despite all the stress and strain, Pete Wild wouldn’t have it any other way.

The FC Halifax Town boss may have only been a first-team manager for less than a year, but that is more than enough time to experience the highs and lows that come with the job.

Pete Wild, FC Halifax Town v Chorley, at The Shay

Pete Wild, FC Halifax Town v Chorley, at The Shay

His first year at the coal face has included an FA Cup win at then Premier League Fulham, leaving his boyhood club Oldham, and guiding FC Halifax Town to be among the pacesetters in the National League.

“It’s a sport I’ve always loved. I realise I’m in a privileged position, but what a job, what a life,” he says.

“When it’s going your way there’s no better feeling, when it’s not going your way, there’s no worse feeling.

“It’s about controlling your emotions, and making sure you lead from the front and you manage people. That’s one of the biggest roles as a manager, playing and non-playing staff, and trying to influence the supporters within that.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Pete Wild, Manager of Oldham Athletic and his backroom staff celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Cup Third Round match between Fulham and Oldham Athletic at Craven Cottage on January 6, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Pete Wild, Manager of Oldham Athletic and his backroom staff celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Cup Third Round match between Fulham and Oldham Athletic at Craven Cottage on January 6, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

“The more you do that, the more you get everybody going the same way. It’s well documented we have a performance plan, and it’s about getting people to buy into that.

“If they do that, and everybody’s going in the right direction, you’ve got a chance. If you’ve got people pulling in all different directions, that’s when the problems come.

“So man management is the biggest thing I need to do.”

Wild feels his life experience outside football, which has included chopping trees, digging holes and working in pubs for a living, has helped shape him as a manager.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Pete Wild, Manager of Oldham Athletic and his backroom staff celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Cup Third Round match between Fulham and Oldham Athletic at Craven Cottage on January 6, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Pete Wild, Manager of Oldham Athletic and his backroom staff celebrates at the final whistle during the FA Cup Third Round match between Fulham and Oldham Athletic at Craven Cottage on January 6, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

“I think it helps me in terms of managing people, and because I had to grow up quickly in the environment I came through,” he says.

“From a young age I used to work for a living. My old man had boozers so I was always doing something for him or one of his customers to help them out.  
“I think it helps me that I get the real world. I get when fans are disappointed, I get that as a fan, you work all week to go and watch your team.

“There’s nobody works harder than our staff, because we’ve all come from that environment, to try and give the fans that hour-and-a-half on a Saturday afternoon.

“We get it, and we want to try and be the best we can be.”

How does football management compare to other jobs

“It doesn’t,” he says. “It’s all about my decision-making, or my trust in the decision-making. Working in youth football, you could maybe try something, and if it didn’t come off, it didn’t really matter. It was about producing individuals, but this is about producing winning teams, and knowing that sometimes you don’t get what you’ve worked hard all week for.

“In most jobs, if you work hard you get what you deserve. In football, you can work hard and not get what you deserve.

“I don’t think there’s any job like it. It’s utter madness.

“Everybody’s got an opinion, and if you believed everybody’s opinion, you’d never walk out the front door in a morning.

“So I’ve learned to trust the people around me, and trust myself. If you do that, generally, you’ll get somewhere.”

Wild offers an insight into the madness when asked what an average week looks like for him.

“Tiring! On Monday you sit down with the staff and discuss who will do what and what the week will look like.

“That’s generally been sent round by me on a Friday afternoon but Monday morning is about implementing what we’re going to do.

“Monday afternoon will be reflecting on the game from Saturday, watching the game back, and then feeding back to the players if we need to, getting individual clips of players, getting team clips.

“Training on Monday would be an in-possession day, very technically based, very recovery-based.

“Tuesday is an out-of-possession day, but both days are based on our performance plan, and what we want.

“If there’s no game on a Tuesday, it’s a tough, physical day, and there’ll be gym work involved, it’s high-intensity. If there’s any running to be done, that’ll be on a Tuesday.

“I’ll start to look at our next opponents on a Tuesday. I don’t like to do my analysis too early because otherwise you feel like you’re playing Real Madrid!

“We’ll get their last three teams, look at their strengths and weaknesses, I’ll look through every goal they’ve scored and conceded this year to get a feel for how they score their goals, look at their set-pieces.

“I’ll try to have some time to myself on Wednesday morning if I can, and in the afternoon I’ll try to go and watch the youth team, see if there’s anything we need to be involved in, help them with players, watch them, getting the better players training with us.
“In the environment me and Chris (Millington) have come from, we want to produce our own, but they’ve got to be good enough.

“On Wednesday night we’ll make sure we’ve got everything in terms of presentations on the opposition on Thursday morning. That’s an out-of-possession session on how we’re going to stop them. We’ll also generally pick the team on a Thursday, talk to players who might not be playing.
“Friday’s all about us, presenting to the players again, how we’re going to hurt them and working on that.

“Friday afternoon there’s a nod and a wink to the following week. Saturday afternoon, hopefully it all works beautifully, and then Sunday, me and Chris will either speak on the phone or get together and debrief on Saturday over breakfast or a brew.

“You’ve also got to deal with agents, media, recruitment, going to watch games on Monday nights, Tuesday nights, at least two or three games a week, plus watching footage of players you might want in future, speaking to players who aren’t involved. That’s all going off as well.

“So yeah, it’s quiet!”

Wild says he always wanted to be a manager, and that being told he would never make it only made him more determined to do exactly that.
“People told me I’d never get a chance, people said ‘it won’t come to people like you, you’ve never played, you’ll never get the chance’,” he says.
“But one thing I am is absolutely self-motivated, self-driven and if I want something, I’ll do it. And nobody will stop me.

“I’m not out to prove people wrong, I’m out to prove myself right.

“When playing was over at quite an early age, it was ‘right, what do I want to do’? ‘I want to be involved in football’. ‘What’s the pinnacle now for me’? ‘being a football manager’.
“I set out on a journey to make sure I achieved it. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought at 34 I’d be walking out as Oldham manager, youngest manager in the Football League.

“I never thought that would happen so early but I knew at some point I’d get the chance, it was when I got the chance, would I be lucky enough, experienced enough to take it. And luckily enough, so far, we have done.”

No wonder the first word he uses to describe the job is relentless.

“I’ve had a long coaching career so I’ve had an insight into the football side of it,” he says. “The off-the-pitch stuff has been an eye-opener, in terms of dealing with players, transfers, media, agents, other clubs.

“They’re the little bits that frustrate me because they have nothing to do with Saturday afternoon. I find those bits hard, but it is what it is.

“I can understand why a lot of people want to be head coaches because it’s just about what happens on the grass.

“But I like the control of everything football-wise.”

How does the joy of winning compare to the despair of losing?

“There’s no better feeling than winning,” he says. “If you were a builder and you built a wall all week, you looked at it on a Friday afternoon and thought ‘yeah, that’s a good piece of work, I’m happy with that’ and come Monday morning the wind had blown it down, you’d be devastated because you’d have to start again. ‘Did I do it right, blah, blah, blah’, it’s the same in football.

“We work all week and convince ourselves what we’re doing is right, and sometimes you can do everything right and get beat.

“Winning’s great, losing’s tough, but I’ve tried to not get too carried away with the wins and not get too disappointed with the defeats, and try to remain as level-headed as I can.

“Everybody knows what I’m like on the sideline, but I never take my frustration home with me because it’s not my family’s fault we’ve been beat or something’s not gone my way.

“So they’ve been key learnings for me, because there’s always another game round the corner.”

For Wild, the joy of a win usually lasts not much longer than the post-match interviews.

“You’ve got to be as controlled and as calculated as that, because there’s always another game and there’s always somebody wanting to pull you off that pedestal,” he says.

“Look at the National League this year, every team that’s gone top has had their legs swept from under them.

“You’ve got to remain calculated, calm, and hope you can get on a sustained period without getting beat because this league’s taught us that the longer you stay unbeaten, it helps you stay around it.

“And if you do get beat, making sure it doesn’t go beyond a couple of games (without a win).”

Wild believes he is a different manager now from when he first took temporary charge at Oldham nearly a year ago.
“100 per cent. I’m not sitting here thinking I’m the complete manager, I’ve got so much to learn, and I’ll make mistakes. But they’re honest mistakes, and I’m trying to make myself better.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

“So you’ve got to be prepared to take risks at times and be brave, knowing that some of those brave risks won’t come off.

“But as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice, I think you’ve got to take risks at times.”

Throughout it all so far, Wild has had Chris Millington beside him; at Fulham, the exit door at Boundary Park and the entrance door at The Shay.

“I think assistant managers are crucial to your development because they’re on the grass every day, they’re implementing what you want when you’re being pulled from pillar to post,” says Wild.

“The trust you place in your assistant manager is huge, and one thing I have is an unbelievable assistant manager that deals with everything, deals with me, keeps me on track.

“But most importantly, keeps the players where they need to be on a daily basis.

“He deserves as much credit for any success because he’s by my side all the time.”

Could Wild do the job without him?

“No, definitely not.”