Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen returns with his latest column for Sportsmail.
This time around, the Chesterfield manager discusses Chelsea’s record-breaking signing of Kepa Arrizabalagan among other matters.
Also on the agenda is his recent experience of trending on Twitter!
We’ve played three, won three and are second in the table, but it very nearly didn’t happen. Ten days before our first league game at Ebbsfleet, my boss called me to say that my services would probably not be needed. I’ve been around a bit in this game, but that was a new one on me.
Three removals lorries had already carted most of our worldly goods to our new place near Melton Mowbray, an hour’s drive from Chesterfield, and my wife Lisa was about to join me there when I got that call, at 9pm on a Friday, to say that a Sheffield consortium had bid for the club.
Their plans included a director of football and Alex Sabella, ex-Sheffield United, who was going to help bring players over from Argentina to train and play for us. They didn’t include me. I was devastated.
They’d have to sack me and pay up my two-year contract, so there’d have been security, but I think we’ve got something seriously special going on here. We waited a week for the consortium to produce their money — £2million or so, I think, with more if the club won promotion back to the Football League — and put our transfer plans on hold.
Lisa came to watch our pre-season friendly against Wigan because it seemed the only time she’d see me manage here. What an atmosphere that night. There were some rueful looks between us during that game. We did what we could to make sure we didn’t lose our previous house in Henley, so we could move straight back in.
It was the day after the Wigan game that my boss rang to say the deal was off. It seems the consortium hadn’t raised the money and I can’t begin to describe the ecstasy we both felt. So there’s the mad world of football management for you. You can be here today, gone tomorrow, before you’ve even played.
I didn’t even know the name of the goalkeeper Chelsea paid £72million for just before deadline day. The last few days, making trips to hospital intensive care units, watching doctors and nurses doing what they do, on what they are paid, makes the sums of money being paid for footballers even more difficult to grasp. That fee for a goalkeeper doesn’t seem quite right, does it?
There’s no transfer deadline in the National League but we’d spent all the money anyway. A little bit more did come our way – 15 per cent of the £1m Ipswich have paid Shrewsbury for midfielder Jon Nolan, who we sold to them with a sell-on clause – but why would we want to waste our time and money bringing more players in?
I’ve worked with these players for seven weeks, so why would I naff one of them off by going and buying some big-time Charlie now? There’s something very powerful about sticking with what you’ve got.
My new goalkeeper, Shwan Jalal, came here on a free from Macclesfield, the team who won our league last season. Jalal or Kepa Arrizabalaga? I’ll take my man all day long.
The stadium was rocking to the noise of 5,000 fans as we beat Aldershot Town 3-0 on Tuesday but last week was one of those that put football in perspective. I don’t mind admitting I was in tears for some of it.
Three hours before that game, my modest, unassuming friend and assistant manager, Adrian Whitbread, who is always organising and influencing in the background while I get all the praise, was lying on the sofa in my office with headaches so severe that they frightened him.
He’s been my assistant for 10 years, on and off, but after he’d been transferred to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, we feared he’d suffered an aneurysm and would need brain surgery.
In the long hours of waiting on Thursday morning, I walked outside to talk to some of the fans queueing across the car park for tickets, when one of them approached me to say he was thinking of Adrian. Those words hit me like a train.
There was I, reflecting on my relationship with a new set of fans at a new club, never for once thinking that he’d been quietly getting to know them, too.
It was just before midday when Adrian’s brother, Neil, called me to say it was a bleed to the brain, surgery wasn’t needed and he might be back with us in six weeks. In all our years together, I’ve never once marched Adrian on to the field and introduced him to our fans. I’ll be putting that right.
A friend of mine messaged to say I was ‘trending’ on social media because of the matter-of-fact press releases which I’d been dictating to our brilliant media officer, Nick Johnson, signing off with the words, ‘Take care, Martin.’
We called Michael Nelson, who I’ve signed from my last club, Barnet, ‘very old and fit as a butcher’s dog’. Which he is.
I’d love to say that doing things low-key and not bigging up the players was all part of some smart, elaborate plan.
When fans are surprised to see you saying ‘take care’, you really do know that this game is getting too big for itself.
It took the best part of a whole delivery lorry to cart my gardening gear up to the East Midlands, with more than 100 geraniums packed in. They’re rescue geraniums.
I saw the council digging them out of a display on the A4 at Maidenhead a few years ago, on the way to a dump. So I asked if I could have them and piled them into my boot. They’ll be in pots at our new place. The perfect antidote to a mad world.
It’s been BBC Sport’s text service, on the Red Button via the TV remote. Type 324 for our league table. In the early hours of Wednesday, we were top. That matters — even in early August.
Just before midnight on Tuesday, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, to see my friend Adrian who was seriously ill. I’ll never forget the medical staff I saw there.
For this first week, I’ve got to name one of my own. Charlie Carter, who we’ve just signed from Woking. Two goals against Aldershot. Mark my words — he’s destined for the top.