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A Tale of Two Managers, My Husband and My Son

Major Raver

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We had been living in Amsterdam for over 20 years, my husband and I leaving the South Coast of England and taking a job back in 1998 with Ajax, coaching in their youth setup. He had risen through the ranks and coached some of Hollands finest young players, taking over as Under 19s Manager in 2018. He often talked of managing a club outright, a few in Holland made enquires, but they had come to nothing, and he had been overlooked for the main job at Ajax a few times due to lack of experience. 


In 2001 we had a son together,  Sam. Sam loved football with his dad, he hoped to play for Ajax, or even his dad's home team, Portsmouth one day, but although he understood the game brilliantly he wasn't blessed with the ability feet wise. Sam got into coaching and his dad got him a role managing Ajax under 9s two years ago.


One week in early June I found myself on my own, both of them away. My husband was scouting in Germany, and Sam said he was popping over to England to see his half sister, my daughter Jenny. Although neither had been dishonest,  they also hadn't told me the full truth either. Over dinner a few weeks later, it was all about to change for me and my family.


Firstly my husband, Matt asked me if I was up for moving to Germany? It seems the scouting was an interview with Hamburg,  to be the New Manager. Matt hadn't told me as he didn't expect to get the job, but he had impressed them so much that they offered him an initial 2 year deal,  and backing in what was needed to get the club successful once again. He would have little money to spend transfer wise, but the aim was to build up the youth and the academy and create a team to challenge the might of Bayern Munich. Matt's work in that department stood him out with Hamburg Chairman Marcell Jansen.  I could see the joy in his eyes, and although I loved living in Holland, I knew I had to support him and go with him.


Sam then hit us with his own bombshell. He had been to see Jenny, but it also turned out that he had used his Dad's reputation and work at Ajax, to apply for his own management job, at Vanarana North's Blyth Town, not far from Newcastle. Blyth are Semi Professional part timers and in fact Sam would be the only full-time employee.  I would miss my baby so much, but again I could see how much it meant to him to actually be a manager in his own right, at at 20 years old the youngest manager in the top 6 divisions in England. Thank god Hamburg and Blyth were hundreds of miles a part in different countries so I wouldn't have to support my Husband or Son over the other.


As Sam said his goodbyes and headed to England,  Matt and I packed up and moved across the border to Germany, I the wife of the new Hamburg Manager, and the mother of Blyth Towns youngester ever.


To be continued......

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It had been two weeks since we had moved to Hamburg, I had received the odd text from my son Sam, who seemed fine back in the UK, and promised to call me at sometime. 


It was a Tuesday afternoon and the phone rang, i saw from the caller ID that it was Sam and answered with joy. I fired question after question at him, how was he doing, was he eating properly,  was he looking after himself, you get the picture, all things that mum's do. He told me he was fine, he was renting a flat over a bakery, the weather lousy, had done nothing but rain all week.  He was loving the new job. Local businessman Tony Platten owned the club and told Sam he would have to work with the 24 years in the squad for now. The team had a mixture of young players and a few older heads, and that all Tony was expecting was the club to stay up in the Vanarama North League after 2 seasons of nearly going down, only saved by COVID finishing both seasons early.


He had been doing interviews and was looking for an assistant manager to help with the coaching. Tonight he had his first Pre-season friendly, against Edinburgh City, and was really excited.


How is dad doing mum, he asked. Oh he has been busy, I replied, he went through the staff and has released a lot of them as he felt the coaching at the club was stale and some new ideas were needed.  He has bought in Nuno Gomes as his number two, they met when Nuno did some of his coaching badges at Ajax a couple of years back.  In total your dad has bought in 15 new members of staff. Sam laughed, here he was looking for just one part timer to support him, whilst his dad was bringing in an army of new recruits in comparison. 


I told Sam that dad wanted a clean slate for the players and wouldn't be making any signings until January at the earliest,  but had been impressed with some of the young players, and signed them on professional contracts. He believed the players he had were good enough to get promoted, but maybe fragile mentally, hence why they missed out right at the end, in the past couple of seasons.


I wished Sam luck and asked him to let me know how his first game tonight goes, that I am so proud of him.


At 10.30 I recieved a text, we drew 1-1 mum, Jamie Clark equalised for us, and 300 people came to watch. I loved it.


I showed his dad, who smiled and looked so proud.


To be continued....

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The first couple of months in my husbands new job has gone really well and above expectations, although he doesn'tseem so happy. I watched from home as my husband had his first league game, Friday night live on TV match against newly relegated and Bundesliga 2 favourites, Schalke. Hamburg had taken a full allocation of fans with them, and over 61,000 in total filled the Veltins Arena. Matt had given a debut to a couple of younger players, Anssi Suhonen in midfield, and Faride Alidou up front. The game was tight but a 28th minute free kick, taken and scored by Tim Leibold proved the difference in Hamburg's favour. Matt was chuffed, Leibold had for the past couple of seasons been more of a left sided midfielder for the club, but he had moved him to left back and it had paid off.


I joined my husband for his first home match, the visitors Dynamo Dresden. A near sale out 52,391 saw us take a 4-0 lead at half time, a hatrick scored by Bakery Jatta, whose pace was proving to much for Dresden.   They managed to fight back in the second half, the score finishing 5-3. Fans were happy, but my husband wasn't. He was angry at the 3 goals conceded and told me it highlighted the fragile mentality that he felt had blighted the club in the past seasons. He was impressed with two of the Dresden players, a defender Kevin Ehlers, and a Forward Ransford Yeboah. How do I know? Well he spent 45minutes of our dinner out together, on the phone telling chief scout Michael Reschke to keep a watch on them.


Matt rotated the team for the next game, a cup match against Sandhausen, handing debuts to a couple from the Under 19s, 16 year old Fabio Balde becoming the youngest player in the clubs history. He rewarded my husband in scoring the second goal in a 3-1 victory, the reward a home tie in the next round against Bayern Munich.  Another big game followed, local Derby against St Pauli. St Pauli manager Timo Schultz had been busy trying to wind up Matt in the build up, but anyone who knows my husband knows he is cool with things like that, in fact the only thing that seems to get under his skin is flat pack furniture!  Big reason why i never bought any when we moved.  Jatta and Alidou put Hamburg 2 up after twenty minutes, but again they sat back, and St Pauli pulled one back in a 2-1 win. Next up were Darmstadt and a 1-0 win thanks to Anssi Suhonen, whose day was made complete with his first call up to the Finland Squad. The month of August finished with us unbeaten and top of the table, but one unhappy husband,  as Hamburg laboured to a nil nil draw with Heidenheim, who in my husbands opinion had been far the better team. This was backed up by the papers awarding Hamburg goalkeeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes with the man of the Match award.


August the 31st, my husband is out talking with an agent concerning a young Gambian player who he looked at, at Ajax and is available on a free, Bubacarr Kebbeh. Whilst he was out doing that, I thought it be nice to give my son Sam a ring and see how things were going at Blyth.


To be continued......

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I phoned Sam but sadly no response, I had been keeping up with his matches, his seaon started later than his dad's but had been crammed with 5matches in August, a friendly and 4 league games. Just then my phone rung, "hi mum, sorry I was just having a shower". It was lovely to hear from him and he seemed in better spirits than his dad 


Preseason in July had gone well, he signed Lomana LuaLua as his assistant,  although he denied it I felt this had something to do with his dad being a Portsmouth fan. He had managed 25 goals in 3 friendlies, including a 15-0 win over Witton, but that came crashing down as they lost 3-1 to South Shields in the next game, a team lower in the leagues than Blyth. Sam saw this as positive as after 3 big scores he was worried complacency had set in, and better to be taught that lesson in friendlies than when it really mattered in the league.


First league game was the 14th August, and it saw a 3-1 win at home against Alfreton. He was chuffed just under a thousand people had been there, a massive contrast to the 52 thousand who saw Hamburg's first home match. Like his dad, Sam was giving youth a chance and 19 year old Jamie Clark scored on his debut. Jamie Clark was back on the score sheet a week later but this was not a game Sam was happy about. Kidderminster were the opposition and took a 2-0 lead at half time, 5mins in to the second half and Blyth Captain and centre back Nathan Buddle was sent off. A few tactical tweaks and amazingly Blyth got back to two all, winger Connor Thompson joining Clark on the scoresheet. Any hopes of a remarkable comeback were scuppered in the last 2 minutes. Firstly left back Michael Liddle was sent off, meaning down to 9 men, and then the referee 30secs later awarded Kidderminster a penalty for a handball, which according to Sam hit the players shoulder. Goalkeeper Alex Mitchell saved the pen, but had no chance with the rebound.


Sam made his thoughts clear about the referee in the local press, and admitted to being surprised he hadn't received a fine for his comments. "Maybe mum, the FA think the referee was rubbish to." 


The bank holiday weekend saw two games, Firstly at home to Telford, and goals from Lewis McNall and Kyle Byrne bought Blyth a 2-0 win. Bank Holiday Monday saw a trip to Farsley. Farsley took a 2-0 lead after 56mins, prompting a couple of substitutions and slight tactical change. I'm so proud, as they seemed to pay off and McNall second goal in 48hours and a penalty from veteran JJ O'Donnell saw them salvage a two all draw.


This had left Blyth 5th in Vanarama North, a very good start. I asked Sam if he had met any nice girls, but he just laughed and said "I'm to busy mum, and none of them would compare to you anyhow". So sweet, even sweeter was the geordie words and twang he had picked up in two months 


To be continued....


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