How Football Manager cult hero Cherno Samba is on the fast track to becoming a “top” boss in real life

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cherno Samba was once keeping Wayne Rooney out of England’s youth team, tipped to fire the Three Lions to 2006 World Cup glory and in such demand Liverpool enlisted Michael Owen to try and tempt him to Anfield.

In the end things didn’t turn out as expected – his career was such a roller-coaster ex-England boss Steve McClaren was stunned to discover he was still playing a decade ago.

Yet, to Samba’s credit, there is no bitterness or regret from about how his career unfolded and only a philosophical reflection thanks to his faith.

And Samba is hoping to use his experiences of the “dog-eat-dog” football world to help guide the next generation of young hopefuls.

The double irony of how he is now working towards doing that is not lost on Samba, now 32.

The boy wonder made even more famous by a management computer game is now well on the road to becoming a coach himself and currently on an A Licence course alongside the likes of Frank Lampard and Graeme Le Saux.

And managing the country of his birth, Gambia, who he played senior football for and where he remains highly thought of, could be a possibility in the future.

Meanwhile, Samba is currently gaining experience shadowing the likes of former Anfield reserves boss John McMahon who now works at Liverpool’s foundation as he works towards his badges.

Samba came close to joining Liverpool aged 14 and it is impossible not to wonder what might have been had that move gone through.

He said: “I’ve always wanted to give my experience to the next generation. That is my motivation now and there is not a better person to do it than myself after what I’ve experienced.

“As soon as I got to Liverpool I thought ‘life is crazy.’ As a player I was going to be signing for this club and now I am doing my coaching hours here. It brings back memories.”

Samba’s name will bring back memories of cult computer game Championship Manager for a certain generation of football fans.

Cherno Samba was once keeping Wayne Rooney out of England’s youth team, tipped to fire the Three Lions to 2006 World Cup glory and in such demand Liverpool enlisted Michael Owen to try and tempt him to Anfield.

In the end things didn’t turn out as expected – his career was such a roller-coaster ex-England boss Steve McClaren was stunned to discover he was still playing a decade ago.

Yet, to Samba’s credit, there is no bitterness or regret from about how his career unfolded and only a philosophical reflection thanks to his faith.

And Samba is hoping to use his experiences of the “dog-eat-dog” football world to help guide the next generation of young hopefuls.

The double irony of how he is now working towards doing that is not lost on Samba, now 32.

The boy wonder made even more famous by a management computer game is now well on the road to becoming a coach himself and currently on an A Licence course alongside the likes of Frank Lampard and Graeme Le Saux.

And managing the country of his birth, Gambia, who he played senior football for and where he remains highly thought of, could be a possibility in the future.

Meanwhile, Samba is currently gaining experience shadowing the likes of former Anfield reserves boss John McMahon who now works at Liverpool’s foundation as he works towards his badges.

Samba came close to joining Liverpool aged 14 and it is impossible not to wonder what might have been had that move gone through.

He said: “I’ve always wanted to give my experience to the next generation. That is my motivation now and there is not a better person to do it than myself after what I’ve experienced.

“As soon as I got to Liverpool I thought ‘life is crazy.’ As a player I was going to be signing for this club and now I am doing my coaching hours here. It brings back memories.”

Samba’s name will bring back memories of cult computer game Championship Manager for a certain generation of football fans.

Samba was one of the young stars of the early 2000s versions of the world renowned game when he was a teenage starlet charging through defences and the ranks at Millwall.

The devastating striker he became on the game only added to his aura, reputation, and the pressure, when he stepped on the pitch in real life.

Trophies, goals and international success came guaranteed in the virtual world for Samba and any budding manager who snapped him up.

But, clever as Championship Manager’s makers were, what they could never predict predictions was the impact of the pitfalls encountered by wonder-kids such as Samba which he now is hoping to warn future prospects about.

After scoring 132 goals in just 32 games for his school aged just 13 and getting picked up by Millwall, Samba was soon quickly marked out as one of England’s hottest prospects.

England recognition followed – Samba played from under-15s through to 21s and was in the same age group as Rooney and Wayne Routledge but impressed so much he was pushed up a year to play alongside the likes of Glen Johnson, Darren Bent and David Bentley.

At the same time Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Leeds were jostling for his signature. But there were downsides to being a golden boy too.

Like being surrounded by people and coaches who tip-toed around him and massaged his ego because they were too afraid to upset him rather than delivering home truths or pushing Samba in the right direction when he strayed off track.

That’s what he now admits he could have done with after his proposed £2m move to Liverpool collapsed before his eyes in then Anfield-boss Gerard Houllier’s office, shattering his dreams and resulting in a frustrated Samba taking a six-month break from football when his love and appetite for the game disappeared.

South Londoner Samba eventually returned to Millwall but the damage had been done.

He said: “Knowing what I know now I should have gone back, put my head down and worked hard, not stayed away from football.

“So part of it is my own fault. If I had gone back to Millwall when that move didn’t happen, trained a bit harder it (his talent) will come through.

“But I had lost my appetite for the game. Before football was a passion, I loved it and you could pay me nothing and I would still play.

“After that (the move collapse) happened I said I need to make sure my mum and dad are stable financially and I am too. So I was just going to get paid.”

In the end Plymouth was the only English club Samba played for while he also had spells in Spain, Wales, Finland, Greece and Norway before retiring in 2015.

He said: “I am happy with how my career panned out. I have played in great countries. But I feel like I could have pushed a bit more to get to the top.

“I believe in God and that helps because I look at things and think everything that happens was meant to happen.

“Not going to Liverpool, not winning the World Cup for England in 2006 and whatever else, was meant to happen.

“If that was meant to happen it would have happened. I won’t beat myself up about it.

“I remember Steve McClaren said in an article ‘I can’t believe Cherno is still in the game because if this happened to any other player in the world they wouldn’t still be in the game’.

“That was 10 years ago. It is really tough but that’s the past.”

The future for Samba is his ambitions to become a “top” coach and he freely admits being open to managing Gambia when the time is right.

Samba said: “Once I finish my A licence I want to do a bit of coaching here academy-wise just to gain that experience and exposure before I can take a big job like the Gambia job because it is a massive one, you can imagine.

“I would want to go up the ladder and learn my trade first, just as you do when you are coming up as a pro.”

And he won’t be short of wisdom to pass on. “It has been ups and downs for me in football,” Samba admitted.

“I just felt like I needed to give something back to the youngsters coming up so they don’t fall into the same traps or be treated the way I was.

“That is what pushed me more to go into the coaching side so I can mentor the young kids, put them on the straight and narrow, help and guide them through what I have experienced to try and avoid the pitfalls.”

Asked how Samba the coach would develop Samba the teenager, he suggested a combination of tough love, the ‘arm around the shoulder’ approach and one-on-one pep talks would do the trick.

Whatever style of coach he becomes will be heavily-shaped by his own first-hand experiences.

“If I had my way again I wouldn’t be so famous so early. I wish I was one of those kids you didn’t hear about and who came through the back door,” he said.

“When you put that sort of pressure on you as a kid is does have an affect. I also wouldn’t be giving too much too soon. I wish I wasn’t.

“Especially in this country, we are given so much, so early. By the time you’re 19, 20, football is out the way and it is all about luxury, looks, nice cars.

“At 17, I bought my brand new Peugeot, 11 grand, cash. The 206 was the new car that had just come out so I just went to the garage and bought it.

Cherno Samba was once keeping Wayne Rooney out of England’s youth team, tipped to fire the Three Lions to 2006 World Cup glory and in such demand Liverpool enlisted Michael Owen to try and tempt him to Anfield.

In the end things didn’t turn out as expected – his career was such a roller-coaster ex-England boss Steve McClaren was stunned to discover he was still playing a decade ago.

Yet, to Samba’s credit, there is no bitterness or regret from about how his career unfolded and only a philosophical reflection thanks to his faith.

And Samba is hoping to use his experiences of the “dog-eat-dog” football world to help guide the next generation of young hopefuls.

The double irony of how he is now working towards doing that is not lost on Samba, now 32.

The boy wonder made even more famous by a management computer game is now well on the road to becoming a coach himself and currently on an A Licence course alongside the likes of Frank Lampard and Graeme Le Saux.

And managing the country of his birth, Gambia, who he played senior football for and where he remains highly thought of, could be a possibility in the future.

Meanwhile, Samba is currently gaining experience shadowing the likes of former Anfield reserves boss John McMahon who now works at Liverpool’s foundation as he works towards his badges.

Samba came close to joining Liverpool aged 14 and it is impossible not to wonder what might have been had that move gone through.

He said: “I’ve always wanted to give my experience to the next generation. That is my motivation now and there is not a better person to do it than myself after what I’ve experienced.

ADVERTISEMENT

“As soon as I got to Liverpool I thought ‘life is crazy.’ As a player I was going to be signing for this club and now I am doing my coaching hours here. It brings back memories.”

Samba’s name will bring back memories of cult computer game Championship Manager for a certain generation of football fans.

Samba was one of the young stars of the early 2000s versions of the world renowned game when he was a teenage starlet charging through defences and the ranks at Millwall.

The devastating striker he became on the game only added to his aura, reputation, and the pressure, when he stepped on the pitch in real life.

Trophies, goals and international success came guaranteed in the virtual world for Samba and any budding manager who snapped him up.

But, clever as Championship Manager’s makers were, what they could never predict predictions was the impact of the pitfalls encountered by wonder-kids such as Samba which he now is hoping to warn future prospects about.

After scoring 132 goals in just 32 games for his school aged just 13 and getting picked up by Millwall, Samba was soon quickly marked out as one of England’s hottest prospects.

England recognition followed – Samba played from under-15s through to 21s and was in the same age group as Rooney and Wayne Routledge but impressed so much he was pushed up a year to play alongside the likes of Glen Johnson, Darren Bent and David Bentley.

At the same time Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Leeds were jostling for his signature. But there were downsides to being a golden boy too.

Like being surrounded by people and coaches who tip-toed around him and massaged his ego because they were too afraid to upset him rather than delivering home truths or pushing Samba in the right direction when he strayed off track.

That’s what he now admits he could have done with after his proposed £2m move to Liverpool collapsed before his eyes in then Anfield-boss Gerard Houllier’s office, shattering his dreams and resulting in a frustrated Samba taking a six-month break from football when his love and appetite for the game disappeared.

South Londoner Samba eventually returned to Millwall but the damage had been done.

He said: “Knowing what I know now I should have gone back, put my head down and worked hard, not stayed away from football.

“So part of it is my own fault. If I had gone back to Millwall when that move didn’t happen, trained a bit harder it (his talent) will come through.

“But I had lost my appetite for the game. Before football was a passion, I loved it and you could pay me nothing and I would still play.

“After that (the move collapse) happened I said I need to make sure my mum and dad are stable financially and I am too. So I was just going to get paid.”

In the end Plymouth was the only English club Samba played for while he also had spells in Spain, Wales, Finland, Greece and Norway before retiring in 2015.

He said: “I am happy with how my career panned out. I have played in great countries. But I feel like I could have pushed a bit more to get to the top.

“I believe in God and that helps because I look at things and think everything that happens was meant to happen.

“Not going to Liverpool, not winning the World Cup for England in 2006 and whatever else, was meant to happen.

“If that was meant to happen it would have happened. I won’t beat myself up about it.

“I remember Steve McClaren said in an article ‘I can’t believe Cherno is still in the game because if this happened to any other player in the world they wouldn’t still be in the game’.

“That was 10 years ago. It is really tough but that’s the past.”

The future for Samba is his ambitions to become a “top” coach and he freely admits being open to managing Gambia when the time is right.

Samba said: “Once I finish my A licence I want to do a bit of coaching here academy-wise just to gain that experience and exposure before I can take a big job like the Gambia job because it is a massive one, you can imagine.

“I would want to go up the ladder and learn my trade first, just as you do when you are coming up as a pro.”

And he won’t be short of wisdom to pass on. “It has been ups and downs for me in football,” Samba admitted.

“I just felt like I needed to give something back to the youngsters coming up so they don’t fall into the same traps or be treated the way I was.

“That is what pushed me more to go into the coaching side so I can mentor the young kids, put them on the straight and narrow, help and guide them through what I have experienced to try and avoid the pitfalls.”

Asked how Samba the coach would develop Samba the teenager, he suggested a combination of tough love, the ‘arm around the shoulder’ approach and one-on-one pep talks would do the trick.

Whatever style of coach he becomes will be heavily-shaped by his own first-hand experiences.

“If I had my way again I wouldn’t be so famous so early. I wish I was one of those kids you didn’t hear about and who came through the back door,” he said.

“When you put that sort of pressure on you as a kid is does have an affect. I also wouldn’t be giving too much too soon. I wish I wasn’t.

“Especially in this country, we are given so much, so early. By the time you’re 19, 20, football is out the way and it is all about luxury, looks, nice cars.

“At 17, I bought my brand new Peugeot, 11 grand, cash. The 206 was the new car that had just come out so I just went to the garage and bought it.

 “Things like that I would do differently. And we need to teach these kids, the next generation about how to conduct yourself.

“What also didn’t help me was I was far above everybody else. I was scoring goals left right and centre. And instead of working harder, I felt I didn’t need to and I was already there, better than these other players.

“If we had to do 10 doggies I would do six and I knew I would still get picked to play the next game as well.

“A lot of things have got to change and because I have experienced it that is why I want to help the next generation.

“I am well prepared now to be a coach more than I could ever be. I watch a lot of games, talk to top, top people in the game. I can pick up the phone and speak to any of them and they will listen and give me advice.

“I am looking forward to the challenges. I have a new energy, new positiveness and new life. I am enjoying every minute of everything.”

Author: Source: The Mirror
Source: Picture: Samba says he’s learned from his mistakes as a player and is eager to use his experience to help mould a new generation