[Second Half] 5. Building the back

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From the moment Jac landed at Stansted airport yesterday morning, he had immediately been whisked to the stadium’s briefing room for a meeting with the bosses followed by a press conference – the one attended by a single reporter. He had headed straight back to his hotel room to digest the briefing notes with only a sandwich for lunch before diving in to his managerial debut against Poole. After that drawn game, it was straight back to the room where he slept his way through all the meals in the next 15 hours.
Sipping on his coffee this morning, he recounted the chain of events and the intense focus that he felt during the match. He haven’t felt that way since a long time. All his worries had momentarily disappeared and all that mattered was the football game unfolding in front of him.
But now, he felt a slight pang of home sickness, which is odd because he wasn’t really missing anyone or anything in particular, but simply the idea of home. If home is where the heart is, then Singapore had most definitely ripped his heart out and now it was homeless. This feeling must be one of confusion then.
In Starbucks, he was able to momentarily experience a familiar presence. It didn’t matter that he was at 24 hour Birchanger Green Service Area and not at the branch in Pasir Ris, Singapore. The music, furnishings, and personality behind the counter gave some comfort to ease his unanchored soul. This is all there is and it had to be enough for now.

“Take 10 everyone!” bellowed Roy to the squad as they completed their warm-up routine. Then, together with the only other coach at the club, Glyn, they walked over to the centre circle where their new boss, Jac, was trying to juggle a ball with limited success.
When his coaches were within an earshot, Jac said, “Alright guys, I’ve been observing what we have in the squad and reading up on Roy’s reports – thanks for that man- and I want to share with you a bit of what I’m thinking.”
The curiosity in the minds of both Bishop’s Stortford coaches showed clearly on their faces.
“I think we’ve got some decent players out there. Average, but good men. It seems to me that many are comfortable playing on the right side and we’ve got some decent central defenders over there. It’s also obvious that we’re short of depth and quality on the left side and in the attacking department. As for our midfielders, seem pretty alright, but nothing that gets me excited.”
Jac sounded like he knew what he was saying though the truth is, he only had a 5% confidence in his thoughts about the squad.
“Boss, we do actually have a list of players that we think you might want to consider,” said Roy.
“It’s weird to hear them call me Boss,” thought Jac to himself. “But I’ll take that as a semblance of authority that I better not erode.”
“Good to hear. Let’s scout these players and send me a report on them,” Jac instructed aloud.
“Erm, about that..”, Glyn muttered. “We don’t really have a scout in the club. These are names that we thought would be nice to have from watching TV and other games when we have the time.”
Jac wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He had simply assumed that these clubs would have a structure for this. He had imagined that the scout was nowhere to be seen because he was busy… scouting.
“Ok… what else do we not have?” asked Jac in an attempt to soak in all the surprises at once.
“We don’t really have a medical person taking care of the players,” replied Glyn.
Roy was looking at his feet, slightly embarrassed about what was unfolding and trying to distance himself from the directness that Glyn is showing to his new boss. Glyn continued anyway, “well… we do have someone but he’s not that great and I’m really not sure how he got his contract.”
Jac took a deep breath and told himself that this was something he needs to take a look at later. For now, he had a football team to work on.
“OK, I’ll look into that. Thanks for letting me know. Meanwhile, we still got to work with whatever we have I suppose. We’ve still got quite a few games left and here’s my plan: We play a back three system to make use of the good central defenders that we have.”
There was a silence within the center circle. Jac continued, “Johnny is solid at left wing-back and we do have a few players who can play on right wing-back. That should give us a decent backline to work with. I just hope Johnny doesn’t get injured cos then we’ll be in trouble.”
He had little idea on what its like to play with a 3-man defence. His television footballing education has been limited to a lot of 4-defender systems, as played by  his favourite team, Man Utd, many English clubs, and the bulk of Singaporean teams. However, this was a tactic that he felt would be the best with the players at his disposal.
The 2 other coaches looked concerned but not worried. Both of them do have National C coaching licenses and Jac figured that must be worthy of something. He then continued to reveal his tactical plan.
“We will tweak it as we go along. Looking at our young central defenders, I think  they can handle the ball well and smart enough to learn something new. Then, we get 2 or 3 central midfielders to screen them while the wing backs push up and support the attack. ”
Jac had learnt some of that from watching Antonio Conte’s Juventus. Unfortunately, the Blues haven’t really got a striking department that can lead from the front and  the midfielders are an unknown quantity at this stage but he had to make do for now.
“Can?” asked Jac.
Roy and Glyn shrugged their shoulders, looked at each other, and nodded.
“Great, let’s spend the next few days getting these boys familiar with a back-3 system,” and with that Jac walked off to the goal area. As he left the two coaches to sort out the training details, Jac was also busy sorting out something else: muttering a quiet prayer that this plan of his would work.

Second Half is a story about Jac Grey who lost everything in his life and tries to rebuild it all by travelling halfway across the world to take up a job that he was unqualified for  – as a football manager. For the full story, visit Jac’s at shadowcatjac.wordpress.com. You can also get me on Twitter @www.thehighertempopress.comshadowcatjac.