In the second in our series of “In the Spotlight”, we’ll be talking openly to manager Jimmy McFarlane on the season to date plus the highs and lows of management.
How would you analyse the season thus far?
Bit of an underachievement so far mate. We’ve missed George and ‘Knighty’ when they were out injured. We just haven’t scored enough goals. Our goals against is excellent, we’ve had 13 clean sheets now but I think we’ve underachieved and we’ve got to push on from now.
Describe how a ‘normal’ week is for a manager of a football club?
As a manager you are a football manager, a doctor, a psychologist, you’re a marriage guidance councillor, you’re a bank manager, all roles that you have to take on board. I’ve read comments saying “I can’t believe so and so has been left out” but people don’t know what has gone on in that boy’s life this week etc. You have to make a judgement and sometimes you make a judgement that is right and sometimes you make a judgement that is wrong but you’ve got to be prepared to make a judgement.
What are the best parts of the job?
What are the worst parts of the job?
Losing. I am the world’s worst loser. It affects the whole of my life. It affects my working life, my married life – how my wife has put up with me down the years, as a player I was unbearable when we got beat but as a manager I’m worse.
I once said to Colin, when I was his assistant, we was due a night out with the boys down at Thurrock. I said “I feel as bad as you, come on”. He replied “No you don’t.” No-one feels as bad as a manager,” I thought at the time cor blimey, that was a bit overdramatic” but it was on the money. It is grief when you get beaten.
I’m with them all week long, you send them over that white line and then someone does something that puts all that preparation down the pan. All you can do is take him off. Especially your goal scorers, you’re 1-0 down, and people thinking “oh he’s useless, take him off” but those players are the most likely to get you goals.
One of the criticisms I’ve had down the years are that I don’t take forwards off. But your forwards are the most likely to get you goals. That’s my philosophy.
Would you consider swapping your managerial position for a playing role again at AFCH?
Age aside? Yeah, all day long. As a player you can do something about what’s going on. As a manager, you can make changes to formations but I miss playing. Where my knees are absolutely shot to bits, I can’t even join in training anymore which I used to a couple of years ago.
But, what I would add, the second best thing apart from playing is managing.
400 is up. 400 more?
Who knows? Who knows what’s around the corner? I am someone who takes each day as it comes in life, in football and in anything. I’d love to think so, I made over a thousand appearances as a player, who knows? You may be sitting here in 10 years’ time in the same position (interviewing me).
As long as I’m enjoying it and the enjoyment side of it out-weighs the leggier side of it and there have been times where I’ve thought to myself “why do I put myself through it?” But whilst I’m still enjoying it and whilst I’m getting the backing I do, then yeah.
Best game that you’ve ever managed?
Winning play-off final, here, against Lowestoft. Unbelievable. Especially, you hear on television commentators saying “you could not write it” but they had a massive budget and we had such a good side. Full of experience, guile, arrogance, we had it all. It was tight as tight could be and that was quite a surreal moment for me and that was the best game I’ve managed.
Best side you’ve come up against this season?
Maldon by a mile. The home game, a couple of weeks ago we were the better side. I can honestly say, we’ve lost 4 games this season so far and we’ve drawn too many that I feel we should’ve won. I stood there and thought (against Maldon), “cor blimey, we’ve got a bit to do”. People think that they are a young side but they’re not, they have young players but they have the mix of that with experience also.
But we’ve moved forward since that defeat at Maldon. A couple of weeks ago, I thought that we were more of a match for them and they got quite fortunate and their goal was a deflection off of Nathan. But I’d say Maldon and I don’t think there’s anyone that we haven’t played yet.
The new style of play seems to be about pressing high up the field. Have you ever thought about implementing this at the club? Or are you not one to get carried away with the media hype about this?
Nope. We press at times but to do that pressing game constantly, you’ve got to have time. Professionals have a lot more time to do this where we only get an hour on a Thursday night. You know, it’s like set pieces, I’m a big fan of set pieces and we work on all different ones but this season, more than most, I have not had my whole starting team on the training field on a Thursday because of injuries. So, yeah, I do think people get carried away with it, we all press when we are doing well. Barcelona, when they got beat the other week, they weren’t pressing then. It’s something that every manager likes to implement to a certain extent but you’re asking people asking to do all of that and it’s beyond their capabilities.
Club supported (Apart from Hornchurch & Thurrock)?
Let me correct you there, I don’t support Thurrock no more. I’m a goner but I don’t watch professional football. If it’s a Premier League game then it has really got to catch my attention. Like Arsenal v Tottenham; if it was live on a Sunday Afternoon then I would watch it. I watch Match of The Day on a Sunday morning as I read the morning paper but I’m not a massive professional football fan. I’m a great lover of the non-league game.
Where were your first memories/experiences of football?
First memory, I came from the Isle of Dogs and I played for a side and we were useless. Our biggest defeat was 48-0. Our goalies had a fight as one said he let in 26 and the other said “no, we let in 24 each!”. I played for a team called Millwall Youth and we had a kit which was made for under 16s so it was hanging down. Those were my first proper football memories.
What made you want to become a manager?
It was probably the natural progression. I’ve always taken an interest in the managerial side when I was playing but I was a fitness fanatic. Then I became Colin’s number 2. I was his assistant when he was manager and then everyone knows what happened. He became Chairman and I then became the manager. John Purdie became my assistant.
Favourite away ground?
My favourite is a strange one but mine is Gravesend. It was just a big old-fashioned non-league ground. Not the prettiest and I haven’t been there for a couple of years but I don’t know why but Gravesend was one of my favourite away grounds. Hopefully we’re in the same league as them soon! (Formerly known as Ebbsfleet nowadays).
Finally, realistic aims for the season?
Promotion. It’s all we want mate. How we do it, it’s irrelevant. Whether we win it, which I still think we can, or if we have to do it through the play offs then so be it. But promotion is the only aim.
Interview by Mitchell Walker (AFC Hornchurch Supporters’ Association)