■ The manager on how a decade of success did not save him from the sack at Ipswich
What do you make of Marcelo Bielsa’s dossiers and spygate?
My last game before I got the sack was at Leeds and we played 4-4-2 for the first time in the season. When we arrived, Leeds knew we were playing 4-4-2. I can’t remember seeing anyone but he’s come out and said he has done it to every club so it makes you wonder. It’s certainly not something I would choose to take part in.
You were almost a one-club player at Rotherham. When did you decide to go into management?
I didn’t — it kind of found me. If you look at the list of good managers who are out of work, it’s difficult to start out with that intention. After being released by Rotherham, I went to Ilkeston and combined playing with working in schools. Then when David Holdsworth left for Mansfield, myself and Rob Scott were asked to take temporary charge. So it took a bit of fate to get that first opportunity.
You won promotion at Ilkeston, Boston and Grimsby.
We tried to run it like we were in the Premier League. I classed football as my job and absolute main focus. If you do that you have a good chance of being successful. I was at Grimsby for almost six years and getting them promoted was something I was desperate to achieve after years of heartache in the play-offs. To finally achieve it was a very special feeling.
You left Grimsby one place off the play-offs for Shrewsbury, who were bottom of League One. was that a difficult decision?
In all honesty, no. With Grimsby in the Conference I understood we had to cut our cloth but we’d come up against so-called lesser clubs with staff in positions we didn’t have. When we got into the Football League I expected some things to change but very little did.
With Shrewsbury you reached the Checkatrade Trophy Final and were only pipped to promotion to the Championship in the play-off final.
My assistant Chris Doig thinks staying up the year before was our biggest achievement. Making the Championship would have been a massive over-achievement. But to get to Wembley twice and not come out on the right side… I felt for everyone. I remember going up the steps and apologising to the chairman (Roland Wycherley). That was the bond that we had.
You replaced Mick McCarthy at Ipswich but were sacked after one win in 14 league games. Do you regret taking that job?
It’s difficult for a British manager to get into the Premiership unless you get promoted and I felt the Championship was going that way. Perhaps it wasn’t the best time to get the job but I don’t regret it. We were criticised for not having enough experience in the team but we lost Jon Walters to injury. I tried to bring in James Collins, who [successor] Paul Lambert has now signed, but he joined Aston Villa. I still think some of the things we implemented will make that club better. I detest people who just turn up, take things for granted and don’t want to be better. My motto is be the best you can be. Perhaps some people didn’t buy into that.
Soon after leaving Ipswich you were linked with Shrewsbury again. Was that a possibility?
I don’t think so because it was so quick, I think some fans would have liked me back but others were disappointed with how I left. I would have been interested because of the relationship I had with the chairman and staff there.
How have you spent your time since leaving Ipswich?
I’ve been on a couple of days with the League Managers’ Association where you further your education and I’ve been going out watching games. I’m lucky because, after ten years, it’s the first time I have been out of work as a manager. It hurts your pride to get the sack but I understand results weren’t good enough. I hope someone will think I’m the right person.