Just 11 games remain of Joey Barton’s first season in management, and after a Q and A with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola the Fleetwood Town boss described his job as a ‘Sisyphean’ task.
Barton, 36, is the youngest manager in the top four divisions and admits there have been tricky patches this term, though he is satisfied with the progress he is making at Fleetwood Town.
But like the character Sisyphus of Greek myth, forever rolling a boulder uphill, Barton says the manager’s task is never accomplished.
What is the biggest lesson he has learned? “There are lots of things I think I could have done differently or better. If I have learned anything it is to trust my instincts a bit more.
“I went to a Q and A with Guardiola on Tuesday (a League Managers’ Association event). I listened to him talk about key things for them and I thought, ‘Yeah, we are on track – we are already doing those kinds of things.’ It was a real positive affirmation of where we are and where we are heading.
“Even when we have gone through tough times, I’ve spoken many times about how much I believe in myself, the team and the group of people we are amassing here.
“I think we have made great progress but we have got lots of hard work to do.
“Are we brilliant? Far from it. We could have been a lot better in many regards and it is about taking all of those lessons and making sure that we move them on.
“Guardiola was talking about when he was at Barcelona B. Did he make mistakes? Thousands. He says he still makes loads now and I think that is management.
“It is not like bricklaying. For me football management is very much a Sisyphean task.
“Sisyphus was punished by Zeus to roll a rock up a hill for eternity. Every time he rolled it up to the top it rolled back down. Painting the San Francisco bridge would be a Sisyphean task.
“By the time you finish it you have to start again. It never ends. I see football management as that.
“Just when you think you have your back four sorted you will have a problem in the front line. You sort that out and something will go wrong in the midfield.
“You get your team functioning well but then you cannot defend set-plays. The job is never done. It keeps you on your toes and hungry but it can be relatively frustrating because you think, ‘Can we not just learn these lessons?’”
And Barton was inspired by that LMA event as he says he loves his job.
He said: “On the panel that was on you had Howard Wilkinson, Walter Smith, Sam Allardyce, John Duncan, Sammy Lee and I was just chatting with them.
“These are managers that are thousands of games in and worldly wise.
“For me as a young manager via the LMA to sit and converse with them and then the best in the business in Guardiola was fascinating.
“It reaffirmed that none of us are perfect.
“We have all got work to do.
“It is always ongoing and it never stops.
“If you do not accept that then you are in the wrong job and you should get a job as a brick layer when you build your wall, walk away and say ‘great job’.
“Unfortunately in football you get promoted and then another bigger, even tougher job starts about staying in the division above.
“Or you finish the season and then you have to think about getting better and building for next year.
“I signed myself up for it.
“It will probably drive me insane and force me to sit in a rocking chair spending the rest of my days mumbling about tactics.
“I do that often on a Sunday. But hopefully I’m not doing that from Monday to Sunday for 52 weeks of the year because that will mean it is not positive.
“But I am loving it and we have a great group here.
“I enjoy coming to work everyday.
“It is not a job for me.
“I love football.
“I loved being a player, the coaching and management side of it and I am very lucky.
“The players should realise how lucky they are to get paid to do what you love doing.
“It is not a job this.
“It is frustrating at times and there are times when you just want to run away and stick your head in the sand.
“But also it is the best job in the world.”