Jamie Fullarton's short, sharp lesson in managerial stress at Notts County
By Richard Wilson
From the sectionFootball
Jamie Fullarton was Notts County manager for 70 days
Jamie Fullarton spent 11 years working towards becoming a manager, but the preparation could never have been extensive enough.
Within two weeks of taking charge of Notts County in January, the Scot felt swamped by the demands on his time and the invasive nature of the pressures and stresses of the job.
He lasted 70 days at Meadow Lane, a 12-game spell that delivered three victories and a stark introduction into the realities of management.
There were off-field issues to contend with since the owner and chairman who appointed him, Ray Trew, had stood down as he tried to sell the club and the chief executive also left his position.
Turmoil was commonplace, not least in Fullarton's mind, as he tried to grasp an opportunity to succeed as a manager at a time in the game when short-term thinking is rife.
"It's exciting, you look forward to it - then reality hits," Fullarton says of management. "When you're on the training field, that's your solace. Why? No phone. No-one asking you questions, no-one making demands of you.
Jamie Fullarton (right) played in England's top flight with Crystal Palace
"Everybody wants five minutes of your time. It's all the baggage that comes with being a manager that is something you need a coping strategy to deal with.
"I found it impossible to switch off. Maybe that's personality. You're a bit OCD and what happens when things are going well, it absorbs you. That's a choice, because things are going well and you want to be there, you spend more time.
"When things aren't going well, it consumes your life, you're affected in terms of your thought processing. As a manager, you're paid to make decisions and they become clouded under that pressure.
"We've done our badges, but at no point do they talk about coping strategies, about dealing with theses stresses and pressures. Wellbeing is a key factor, how you look after yourself."
Fullarton played in the top-flight in Scotland for St Mirren and Dundee United, in France with Bastia, in England's top-flight for three seasons with Crystal Palace and for a number of lower league sides.
At 41, he had been coaching at various youth levels for many years, as well as earning his coaching qualifications. He was an impressive interviewee, with Trew selecting him ahead of a field of candidates that he described at the time as a "high standard".
Fullarton had wanted Steve Coppell on his backroom staff at Notts County
A hard-edged, combative midfielder, Fullarton was assertive and articulate and felt ready for the role. Notts County were 21st in League Two at the time, with his predecessor, Ricardo Moniz, only having been in the job for eight months and, reflecting back now, Fullarton concedes he made mistakes.
He wanted to bring in his former Crystal Palace manager, Steve Coppell, as an experienced figure in the backroom staff. He also wanted to assess the coaches already in place before making changes so left himself without an assistant he knew and felt comfortable enough to trust explicitly.
Ultimately, though, it was the pressures of the job, of coping with all the responsibilities that come with the position.
"It went from me planning to have the five days, with the two days off to spend with the family, which is the normal routine, to becoming the six days, then seven days," he says.
"It went from getting on average seven to eight hours sleep, to four, from three meals a day to two to one, to living off caffeine and sugar. And turning up on a Saturday physically and, more importantly, mentally tired, fatigued. Ultimately, you are paid to make decisions on a Saturday that can influence or help players.
"I found over a short period of time that it consumed me, I wasn't controlling it. The pressure of it. It's a lonely job, whether it's 5,000 people in the stadium, you feel very alone on the touchline."
Jamie Fullarton began his playing career with St Mirren
Fullarton, now 42 and running a coaching school in Spain, believes that the coaching qualifications should provide more help in how to deal with the stress of the role, although he acknowledges the work that the League Managers Association and the Professional Footballers' Association in England are doing with masterclasses now being made available.
"The sobering point for me was on the Sunday morning [after he was sacked], five in the morning, my little daughter, Gabriella, and son, Joseph, came in and they were saying, 'what's happening today'?
"And I said, 'daddy's got a bit of time off now'. They said, 'what do you mean'?
"I said, 'I've lost my job'. And they said, 'what, you've been sacked'? They were jumping on the bed, cheering.
"I said, 'why are you happy guys'? And they said, 'we're going to see more of you'. That burst a bubble for me and made me realise where I'd been for the past few months and that it had consumed me.
"You feel a stigma, where you shouldn't have to reach out for support, and we need to break that down so that managers feel comfortable to reach out.