Darren Sarll loving football again after ‘baptism of fire’ at Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 11:57 24 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:09 24 April 2020
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Darren Sarll says the sleepless nights that plagued his first few months in charge at Stevenage have gone and he has mellowed to once again loving his football.
Speaking to the All Things Football podcast, hosted by Jay Drackford and Hendon manager Lee Allinson, Sarll told of his progression through the world of non-league football to becoming boss at the Lamex Stadium.
It was a role he admitted that he always wanted.
He said: “I always said to myself that if I was going to have a go at [management], I wanted it to be at Stevenage.
“If you look at my record as caretaker, it was rubbish but I think Phil [Wallace] wanted it to work for me.
“Those caretaker games were the most stressful of my life.
“For eight weeks if I got more than two hours sleep I’d be lucky.
“It was a baptism of fire but because I knew everyone there, I knew relegation would be the end for so many of those lovely people.
“I took that personally and I was a mess.
“But it goes back to adding layers of resilience. Whenever you get a knock and you get back up and you carry on doing it and believing in it, as long as you keep going that’s how you develop resilience.
“I really struggled at the start. I’d put a mask on in front of the players but I’d be a mess before and after.
“But you have to go through it.”
He guided Boro away from relegation in his first year and then got them close to play-offs in year two before his tenure ended.
And looking back he believes there were things he could have done better, including less signings in one go.
He aid: “One of the biggest mistakes managers make now is the big turnovers at the end of a season because you never get anywhere with anyone.
“You build this rapport and this relationship with someone, getting to know everything you need to know about the human being behind the player.
“You’re starting to develop his style and how you want him to play for you and then at the end of the year because he’s a seven out of 10, you think you can get better.
Life as a manager can still be stressful but the always engaging 37-year-old is now learning to love it again as boss of National League Yeovil Town.
“This is a really good club,” he said. “The fanbase is demanding but I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I look at it completely differently. I said to [assistant] Terry Skiverton, whether I’m here for a month or three years we will enjoy it.
“This is the surprise bit but I much prefer being the manager than the coach.
“That’s strange for anyone who has known me as I’d normally always take the sessions. I’ve been called a control freak many times.
“But I’m able to affect change and the biggest thing when you are the boss is how you manage people.
“I choose that side of the game now rather than 95 per cent of the coaching.
“I’m a lot more like myself and I’m very thankful to Yeovil for letting me come back in.”
For a while he would have been forgiven for falling out of love with the game.
His time as head of academy at Premier League Watford ended abruptly after allegations of bullying.
And yet, although he described leaving as the lowest point of his life at the time, he now looks back on the experience with a degree of fondness.
“Watford was the best eight months work I’d ever done,” he said.
“They’d not been great but I got Watford, with the smallest category two budget and not great in its infrastructure and academy, to the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup.
“I set really high targets and really high standards and I make demands of people.
“The whole thing blew me out of the water and after two weeks investigation we decided to go our separate ways.
“The best thing that happened is the U18s did an online petition to get me back in the club.
“Managing the players and their training programme and their academic performance was still the best eight months work I did and I hung on to that.
“The players thrived on and off the pitch. More importantly they were better students for the environment we created and the elite standards we created.
“Being a Premier League footballer doesn’t mean you don’t have to turn up on time, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to look smart.
“We set standards as I do at all my clubs and because they adhered, luckily, they did fantastically well.
“It was just a shame it ended up like it did.”
His coaching and managerial style have been developing over the years too and he says letting the players have an input is the only way forward.
He said: “If we’re really there for the players then you’ll start the session with what you want to touch upon but then the players will take it the rest of the way with what they can or can’t do.
“Stevenage academy manager Robbie O’Keefe is very good at it, one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen.
“That’s the only way I’ll coach now, even with the first-team at Yeovil.”
To listen to the full interview go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F8H3_yrHUU&feature=youtu.be
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