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About Me

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  1. “Thank you for coming today Owain, we appreciate your time,” began Erik Nordstrom, to this point by far the quietest of the ownership group in my brief time with the Sounders. “How do you feel things have been going?” “Well, Mr Nordstrom…” “Erik.” “Sorry, Erik. I’m not particularly pleased with results. We started very well at LA, but since then we have struggled to create. Our defence has performed reasonably well - we have only conceded five goals in as many games - but one goal in four is unacceptable as we are trying to improve that.” “Thank you,” came the response from Paul Allen. “Can you explain to us how you are planning to make changes?” So, it didn’t take a genius to figure out from the question, they expected changes. I explained how, if the team failed to improve in our next match, I intended to change the formation to the Christmas Tree I had executed to such good effect in Adelaide. When asked why I hadn’t immediately opted for such a formation, I told them I thought the existing players were more suited to the wing-back system. “Owain,” said Adrian Haneuer after a few more minutes of conversation, “we aren’t going to sack you five games into a contract, so please stop worrying. We aren’t expecting the MLS Cup this season, or indeed next. But what we are expecting is progress. You’ve told us you can deliver that, and that’s enough. What we need to know is when we can expect to see it.” “Thank you for your clarity Adrian. I don’t know whether this group of players can make a sudden tactical switch without there being more lost matches, but in the next five matches I would expect us to pick up more than three points. It might only be four or five, but more than three. Again, the following five should be better still. Unfortunately, I can’t offer more than that, particularly with unknowns such as injuries.” I held my breath, unsure of whether the piecemeal improvement I had offered would be enough to give me an extended stay of execution. I was not expecting to be sacked - Adrian had just given me that assurance - but I did wonder whether I’d be given a timeline. “I can’t deny that we were hoping for something more, but your honesty is welcomed. As far as we are concerned, the first half-season is for you to make your mark on the team - get them playing your way, have them learn the system, even find a new system if you need to. If we are still at the wrong end of the conference at that point, we’ll be a lot more concerned. We expected a transition after so many years of Sigi, so don’t feel you need to produce miracles. “Now, as far as we’re concerned that’s everything Owain, so you’re free to go. We won’t do this every month, you understand, but with you being new and things looking worrying, we needed to know how you would respond. Thank you for your time and your honesty.” As much as I appreciated what sounded like their confidence, I only wished they had just sent an email.
  2. Good work as ever Ed, and belated congratulations on your award - thoroughly deserved. I'm getting the impression Peter isn't particularly enjoying life in Bilbao - itchy feet again or waiting it out?
  3. Six days later, we were back in Seattle for my home debut at the Amazon Arena, and what an experience it was playing in such a fantastic arena. The Sound Wave didn’t stop playing throughout the 90 minutes, the 47,500 fans were in fine voice at all times, and I was given a superb welcome when I stepped out of the tunnel for my first competitive game on home soil. It was a moment I would not forget - for the first time, it felt like I had made it as a manager. Unfortunately, my players did not share my enthusiasm. San Jose Earthquakes were the visitors in a league clash that doubled up as the first Heritage Cup clash of the campaign - a largely meaningless competition that my employers were not at all concerned about - and they took all three points back with them down the West Coast. We held them for an hour of what was a stodgy midfield battle, but then Tony Lozano headed past Johnson and we couldn’t find a way back into things. A week further on, we were on the receiving end of the same result at last season’s champions FC Dallas. The goal came a few minutes later courtesy of MLS top scorer Danny Gilstrap, and once again we found ourselves unable to break through a difficult defence. At this stage in the season I had to remind myself not to panic, but the five goals we had scored in LA looked like the exception rather than the rule. At neither Prestatyn nor Adelaide had my teams struggled for goals, and yet that was the problem we seemed to be facing. Three more days, and we were starting to head towards crisis. Eight minutes into our tie at Real Salt Lake, striker Victor Gonzalez broke free to slot beyond Johnson, and again we failed to create anything in the way of clear-cut chances. A third successive 1-0 defeat meant our table-topping display of the opening day was already a distant memory, and the side that Sigi Schmid had struggled to get a performance out of was appearing despite several changes in personnel. What made it worse, was that perhaps the most significant change of all - the arrival of Klepikov from Russia - was rendered irrelevant during that defeat in Utah. Midway through the second period, with us pushing hard in search of an equaliser, our designated player collapsed after leaping for a header, and it was immediately obvious that he would not be able to walk off, let alone continue. The diagnosis from the physio department was not good - a torn calf muscle - and we would be without our star man for a minimum of three months. That meant that, with Julio Parra also ruled out for a few more weeks after an injury in pre-season, we would be playing without two of our five best players. Klepikov was the one that hurt - he was our highest earner, the man was who going to lift the Sounders up to the next level, and yet for half the season he would be forced to watch from the sideline, his involvement limited to rehabilitation and recuperation. With us already in a slump, it was the last thing I needed. Three days more and I was in dangerous territory. Portland Timbers were in town, by far our biggest rivals, and this time we got on the scoreboard. Javier Cardenas netted our first goal in four matches on the half hour mark filling in for Klepikov, but by that point it was only an equaliser after Leigh Basham’s early opener. With 67,000 screaming fans in the Amazon Arena, the wall of noise which hit me at that moment was something I wanted to hear a lot more often, but it wouldn’t come during this particular match. Instead, a stoney silence met us at the final whistle as the same Basham fired home three minutes before the end of the 90 to claim our three points in the first Cascadia Cup clash of the season. We were slipping alarmingly close to the bottom of the Western Conference, any pretence we might have had to the Supporters’ Shield had already vanished, and even the play-offs seemed like a pipedream. Before our next clash, I was asked to attend a meeting with the owners. I was not at all hopeful.
  4. At the expanded StubHub Centre, we couldn’t have got off to a better start. The Galaxy lost possession from the kick-off, Cosgriff strode forward with purpose past a fairly half-hearted challenge from an opposing player, slipped to ball to Cacau and watched as our Brazilian forward buried a low drive from the edge of the penalty area. What was even more remarkable about that passage of play four minutes into the match, was that it was the second time the Galaxy’s net bulged. Just seconds earlier we had won a corner on the right, a defender’s head had knocked it away only for Klepikov to meet the bouncing ball with a thunderous half-volley and send it crashing into the corner of the net. For all their well-paid stars, LA were crumbling. The rest of the first half was a lot less eventful, but we began the second in excellent fashion as well. Just before the hour mark, Cacau dusted himself off after being fouled 25 yards from goal, and bent the set-piece beyond the reach of the goalkeeper to make it 3-0. The Galaxy were completely beaten, they didn’t know how to deal with out forwards’ interplay, and we had the run of Los Angeles out on the flanks. Fifteen minutes from time we had a debut hat-trick. Shannon’s shot was parried past the post by the home goalkeeper, and with a fascinating blend of genius and good fortune, Cacau curled the dead ball over the head of the defender on the near post and into the net without a single other player touching the ball. Eight minutes later, Jordan Cunningham capped a fine cameo appearance from the bench by knocking home a rebound, and after round one of the new MLS season we were top of the table. A 5-0 win against one of the biggest teams in the land, and we were dreaming. As if our trip to California couldn’t get any better, I was informed by one of my oft-checked news outlets that my old friend Brett McGregor had finally been brought to justice for his exploits over in Adelaide. The authorities had very much taken their time over things, but the indictment was damning - illegal gambling, illicit use of club funds, misuse of sponsorship monies and, something which thankfully did not materialise during my time in Australia, attempted match-fixing at Forfar. He was handed a life ban from football activity, and his criminal sentence would be announced in the days to come. With a 5-0 win under my belt and my old boss languishing in an Australian holding cell, it was the ideal time to reflect on my good fortune in getting out when I did. With the Asian Champions League under my belt I had become a manager worth pursuing, and when Seattle entered the equation with their well-built club and seemingly endless resources, I had not really had to think about whether or not to make the move. Had I decided to ride it out in Adelaide, I might have risked being caught up in a match-fixing scandal, and having my reputation forever tarnished. As it was, I found myself with an excellent job, a fine managerial reputation and the status of one who had helped bring a criminal to justice. My star was on the rise, and all I had to do was keep it heading in the same direction.
  5. BOOOOOOOO! Ahem. Looks like a decent enough pre-season if not spectacular - hope you don't suffer any massive injuries in the last game, that's always my fear. I'd going for a comfortable 17th place in the Championship this year, although it wouldn't be a CFuller season without a slump somewhere, and this time it might have you looking over your shoulder...
  6. Thanks guys, it's good to know people are still reading after all this time! MLS is a new monster for Owain to grapple with, and it took me long enough to get my head around the rules! As for the Seattle fans, reading up on the history and culture was a big part of the move appealing - they seem like an actual club, unlike a few of their opponents! -- The new MLS season kicked off in March, yet I’d been in Tukwila since the end of November and it felt like only five minutes had passed. Rachel had made a bid on the home we wanted, and with the help of the club’s legal team was in the process of completing the purchase - the legalities and various fees seemed like one more way of making you lose patience, but she had it covered - but in the meantime life in our temporary accommodation seemed to be going a several hundred miles per hour. Both Bethan and Rebecca were beginning to settle in at the local school, and indeed Rachel and I were given the chance to meet their teachers very early open in their stay. Both women - it seemed almost all the teachers in Washington state were women if my staff’s conversations were anything to go by - seemed perfectly pleasant, although I’m not sure I wanted either of my girls growing up with the combination of accents they were headed for. A Welsh lint at home, hint of Aussie and now the addition the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t know what that would ultimately sound like, but I’m not sure it would be pleasant. More importantly, however, they seemed to be getting on well. While Bethan had initially struggled a little with her reading, she was well on the way to matching her peers, while a few weeks shy of her sixth birthday Rebecca was leading her class in pretty much every field. At home it was our elder daughter who kept us busiest, but Rebecca’s quiet character had, very obviously, belied a racing and inquisitive mind that was hungry to learn. As parents I was hard for me and Rachel not to feel a sense of pride, but we promised each other not to pile on the pressure - she was, after all, not yet six. But the biggest progress made by any of us was not either of our daughters, nor was it me getting to grips with MLS rules, but my wife and her future employment. After spending years in the recruitment business in Wales, setting herself up as her own boss in Adelaide, Rachel concluded that, with the move to the States would come a new phase in her life. With me pulling in tens of thousands of dollars each week and the girls both settling into their new surroundings, my wife decided that the time had come to go back to school. For Rachel, that meant a half-hour drive north each day across Lake Union to the University of Washington, where at the age of 42 she would join plenty of up-and-coming twenty-somethings on their Global MBA course. Quite where it would take her she didn’t know, if indeed it took her anywhere - by the time she finished the course she’d by almost 45 - but she was excited by the challenge and the prospect of starting in September. Between now and then it would be preparatory reading and getting back into the student mindset, but she was very ready to take it on. Perhaps even more so than I was of my girls, I was immensely proud of my wife. With all our goings-on finally beginning to settle, and the house purchase almost complete - ideally it would have been wrapped up before the great MLS kick-off - it was my turn to make a big move, as I headed south with Chris and the team for our opening league fixture, an away game with the big-spending Galaxy in Los Angeles. They had been one of the teams Dean had earmarked as a possible move for me, so to line up against them would provide a great indication of whether I had been wise or foolish. Lining up in our new, largely untested 3-5-2 formation - only our mixed bag of friendlies against local sides and South American giants had seen us use it - everything about the occasion was going to be a new experience for me, and in that respect I was incredibly nervous. For the first time in my career, I had been entrusted with phenomenal resources. If it all went wrong, it would be my career and reputation on the line.
  7. Thanks AJ - something tells me this is a bit of a tougher gig than the previous two, but we'll see where things go... -- “So who do we cut? Leonard? Miller? What about Burt? I know we’ve only just brought him in but we’ve got plenty of depth back there.” “Owain, if you give me…” “Chris, who do we get rid of? I know it’s my fault, but we’re over the cap and…” “For heaven’s sake Owain, would you listen to me? We’re over the cap. By how much as it stands?” “A couple of thousand each week.” “Right, how much do we have left in the allocation fund?” “The transfer kitty? Just over two million dollars.” “Right, in that case you shift some of the allocation fund into the top end of the cap, and the cap rises. There, done.” “We can do that? How much do we give up?” “Yes, we can do that - how else do you think LA fit all their players in? I’m not sure exactly how much will come out, that’ll be down to MLS HQ, but that’s the system. Does that mean everybody’s in?” “Chris, you’re a lifesaver. And yes, that’s a full house.” My technical director had, in the space of just a few minutes, shown me the value of an experienced front office, and the squad list was fired off to the league headquarters several hours before the arbitrary midnight deadline. Seattle Sounders would have a full squad of 30 - a luxury I could never have imagined in Australia, and while there were a couple of spots I’d have liked more depth in, we had plenty of room to make things work. In goal, Tom Johnson would start as the man in possession as the elder statesman at 23, with draftee Philip Johnstone riding the bench and Aaron Forest as third-choice should anything go wrong. We lacked a true star between the sticks, but it seemed strange to have previously be employing a designated player there. On the right of defence, or more accurately at right wing-back as my planned formation required, Ben Ebert would start ahead of club vice-captain Mike Miller, at least to begin with. Ben’s extra pace gave him the nod, but I had little doubt that the older of the two men could fill in when needed. There would be plenty of rotation here. On the left it was another matter. Chris Kelly was a decent footballer at 23 years of age, but Nathan Rodriguez was the undoubted lock for the position. Two more years of experience and vastly superior technical ability, he would be one of the first names on the teamsheet. Central defence was a strong point, and with my planned 3-2-4-1 requiring plenty of bodies, we were blessed with ample talent. Club captain and much sought-after Andrew Perez would lead from the back, with Hunter Robinson and Jamie Cook his regular partners. Behind him was the aforementioned Jack Burt, while youngster Marco Bridges - at just 16 a prodigiously-talented player - and Lewis Davies gave us a complete second string should they be required. The two central midfield slots would largely be occupied by new signings, given my choice. Julio Parra and Ollie Cosgriff were both happy box-to-box, holding the line or making the play, and I’d be using them in all three roles interchangeably. London Leonard, a former New York Red Bull, was more of a playmaking option, while new boy Cheyne Robinson added depth to the more defensive roles. In reserve, destroyer Kyle Miller and creator Peter Levey bolstered our numbers from the youth ranks. That left the attacking players, and the two men behind the lone striker would, I hoped, be the source of many of our goals for the coming year. Klepikov was, if he played to his full ability, one of the finest players in the league, and with Cacau as a partner, they had the potential to wreak havoc. Behind them were Javier Cardenas and Jordan Cunningham, both 26 and capable backups, while Bryan Pacheco and Jordan Finch would be limited to travelling and learning unless crisis hit. That left the lone strikers’ club, where Jon Shannon and Pedro Valdez would compete for the starting position - the American just about edging it for the opening day. New draftee Liam Avila would be third man in line, with two others youngsters - Jim Eckersley and Jon Ayres - picking up the pieces in the worst-case scenarios. How did our squad compare to the rest of MLS? Quite frankly I had no idea, but I suspected it was better than the second-bottom finish of the previous season. Our pre-season friendlies yielded, as you might have expected, victories against the local amateur sides and narrow defeats to the three South American opponents, and served only to test out a new tactical approach. Still, as long as the owners saw progress and their money spent wisely, I could see satisfaction across the board. We just had to deliver on the field now.
  8. With the New Year well and truly here, it was edging ever closer towards business time in MLS. My Seattle side would be one of the first teams to pick in the Superdraft - for some inexplicable reason now a televised event for those keen enough to tune in for a few hours of teams selecting unknown college players - and I would be sending Chris Henderson with my list of targets. We had two picks, but instead of one in each round, we have the second and sixth overall selection thanks to some cunning trades in the run-up. As a result, my list didn’t have to be too long. Unsurprisingly, New York Red Bulls took the man everybody wanted with the opening pick, but it left us wide open to take the next best option. Liam Avila would play third choice striker for the season and, due to his arriving as one of the earmarked, world-beating, not-at-all-overhyped Generation Adidas players, the league would be making a sizeable contribution to his salary. Choosing a striker with a leading draft pick seems clichéd, but we couldn’t want to let him get away. Our second pick was a little more strategic, as we landed Californian goalkeeper Philip Johnstone. He would likely spend his first year as a Sounder warming the bench, but he had undoubted talent in a position which is often tough to pin down. By drafting a keeper, we ensured that in future years we would have either a very tradeable asset or an excellent pair of hands between the sticks. Either way, it was the best move for the club. In the following days we also entered the Supplemental Draft, in which those not deemed good enough to be picked in the Superdraft made their bids in what is effectively a third and fourth (and in some cases fifth and sixth) round of the main event. Quite why they split the pack like this I could never understand, but American sports have never been the most logical to a Brit. With no real pressure to do so, we threw a lifeline to Jon Ayres, a forward from Clearwater, Florida. He was under no illusions to his status within the squad, but I intended to deploy several attacking players on the field at once, and his versatility made him the ideal man to have on hand in case of injury, suspension, international call-up or all three. None of the media outlets seemed to rate our picks other than Avila, but I was happy with the work my scouting team had done. Very few of the potential draftees had slipped through their net, and none of them were picked up by our rivals. Following the drafts, the hard trading truly began, and with Chris’ strong hand on the tiller, I made it through the days and weeks with a quiet confidence in the squad we were assembling. We did, however, upset the Sounders’ applecart by trading away not one but two of our designated players. Goalkeeper Jak Alnwick was good but not good enough for his pay packet, and when Columbus were willing to give us top-class striker Jon Shannon in return, we took them up on it. The bigger deal was still to come, and only time would tell whether we or Los Angeles would come out on the right end. The grapevine informed us that the Galaxy had their eye on English playmaker Joe Rothwell, and we took them to town for him. In return, we picked up Javier Cardenas and Cheyne Robinson - both excellent depth options behind the striker and in the centre of midfield - as well as their first-round Superdraft picks in both 2024 and 2026. It was a move which allowed us to spread the wealth in the squad, add depth to the team, and free up both an international and designated player slot - even if the fans missed Rothwell, they would love his replacement. Striding into his spot was Russian maestro Vladislav Klepikov, a 24-year-old gem of a playmaker and goalscorer snapped up for nothing from Rubin Kazan. He’d played under-21 football for his country, made several appearances in the Russian Premier League and European competition, and was a cut above Rothwell and everyone else in his position. If we could keep him healthy, he could take MLS by storm. I certainly hoped he would - at $65,000 per week he was now comfortably our best-paid player. That left only defensive reinforcements to make - centre-back Jamie Cook arriving from Toronto in exchange for fellow defender Jon Brown and a small amount of petty cash, two unfulfilled prospects and a couple of Supplemental Draft picks to San Jose in exchange for the versatile and talented Nathan Rodriguez, and the free signing of former Chivas USA man Jack Burt to round off our backline. We had given up little and secured depth across the positions, and the only thing we have left to do now was register our squad for the season. A 30-man limit, salary cap, designated players, reserve list - it would prove to be a minefield, and without the expert hand of Chris Henderson to guide me through, I would have been completely lost.
  9. Christmas came and went with the minimum of fuss thanks to the hospitality of the Hendersons, but while the girls certainly enjoyed having aunties and uncles at every turn, I was not sure it was an experience we would be repeating. Chris and Jackie were very accommodating hosts, but their own family traditions and determination to welcome us meant we had very little space as our own little unit. It was selfish thinking, and I could not begin to express my gratitude to our hosts, but the truth was that after so long living as one family in a strange environment in Adelaide, we were used to bunkering down. By the time Christmas had come, my scouting team had come up trumps in the Waiver Draft - an end-of-season affair in which players with imminently expiring contracts are free for other teams to poach without going through the fuss of free agency. This was our chance to get rid of Michael Bradley and his exorbitant wages - which Chicago Fire inexplicably picked up from us - while in return we upgraded in two keys positions. Pedro Valdez would, as a Mexican, claim an international slot, but the former Chivas USA man immediately became our top choice striker at the tender age of 22. Then in midfield, former New York Red Bull dynamo Ollie Cosgriff brought crucial top-level experience and energy to the middle of the park. A little bit of back and forth with a number of other clubs saw us manoeuvre our way into what appeared to be a better position ahead of the Superdraft, while the overseas portion of our scouting team turned up a couple of absolute gems. Julio Parra was another from south of the Rio Grande, and would likely partner Cosgriff in the centre of the park, while Brazilian attacking midfielder Cacau’s contract had for some reason been allowed to run down at Gremio. At just 23, his skills already looked too good for MLS, and I expected to face interest from Europe in the coming years. For now though, he was ours. Across the Atlantic, the Scottish FA had finally been forced to comment on the ongoing McGregor story. Investigations were still ongoing down in Adelaide, but with the gagging order having long expired and their man now making the sports sections in many a specialised paper, a national team press conference unexpectedly included a question about his time at Forfar. With nothing to hide, the spokesman laid bare the facts, making my old boss’ life that little bit harder as he no doubt faced questioning. It was good to hear. Next on my agenda was something resembling a pre-season schedule, which is not the easiest when no other clubs seem to be thinking that far ahead. With the big European clubs not wanting to come until midway through our season, I combined a tour of the local Washington league sides with a handful of South American giants. Botafogo, Newell’s Old Boys and the mighty Boca Juniors were all heading for the Amazon Arena, and I had no doubt that all three would give us quite a challenge. With those dates booked in the diary, I finally felt as if I had a few days to spend with Rachel and the girls, to welcome in 2023, and to begin to feel settled in Seattle. It would still be a few weeks before I could even coach my new Sounders, but at least with Sigi Schmid officially retiring the team was officially mine. I intended to be here for the long haul, and the hard work started now.
  10. Thank you very much AJ - high praise indeed! I'm both honoured and surprised, but thank you for reading and commenting, it's great to have you along. -- With my scouting team now evenly split between the college game - looked after mainly by the existing US-based staff ahead of the Superdraft - and the global field, I was as prepared as I could be ahead of the many complex drafts that lie ahead. For this first season, I intended to let my scouts determine the best course of action. The advantage I had, thanks to the Sounders’ poor performance in the last MLS calendar, was that we were slated for second pick in every round of drafting. On the other side of the coin, FC Dallas’s 3-2 win over rivals Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup final meant they would be picking up the dregs left by everyone else. The main reason for me leaving the drafts to the scouting team and Chris Henderson was, of course, my recent arrival in Washington state. With the help of the club, Rachel had set her eyes on a particular property in one of the suburbs of Tukwila itself - only a five-minute run from where the club were already putting us up - and with the aid of the Sounders’ legal team, was figuring out how high our bid needed to be to take the house off the market. Although bricks and mortar have never been my thing - I never had the knack of seeing the potential of a place - I had to admit my wife had found a beauty. Even with the club’s help we would be taking out a mortgage, but this was a house that would host a family twice our size and was as beautiful as an empty home could be. She had done well. The property was also just a few minutes from one of Seattle’s preferred schools, and so with the boxes all ticked it came as little surprise that Rachel had found it so quickly. Bethan and Rebecca would both be enrolled after Christmas if everything went to plan - another reminder that, amidst all the chaos of moving, we were preparing for Christmas on our third continent in the last five years. Prestatyn, Adelaide, and now Seattle - we were becoming quite the jet-setters. Ah yes, Adelaide. I may seem like an age ago, but I had not forgotten the ill-treatment I had received at the hands of Brett McGregor, nor the revelations of his past that had emerged in my subsequent investigation. I hadn’t gone to the South Australia Police or the FFA with my allegations of wrongdoing, but I did still have something up my sleeve for my former employer. Deciding to begin my relationship with the local press on a positive note, I took the liberty of inviting reporters from both of the major newspapers covering the team - the Times and PI - for an interview at the Starfire base. I promised them 45 minutes each, one-to-one, no holds barred with the only proviso that a ‘no comment’ be left as such. Both, as you might expect, were very happy to entertain such a request in the low season, and sent their brightest young sports reporters along. My plan, of course, worked like a charm. Grant Thornton and Shaun Griffin both looked like the cat that got the cream when they inevitably asked the ‘why did you leave Adelaide?’ question, and before the day was done they had it as headline news on their websites’ respective sports pages. The following morning, a few of the nationals began to run the same line, and it wasn’t long before Reuters themselves had a piece up. Included at the end, after the expected lack of comment from United, was the statement that the local police had indeed opened an investigation. With my family now on the other side of the world and McGregor in the spotlight, there was very little he could do to defend himself. Whoever his wealthy friends had been, they did not rush out of the spotlight to defend him, and the FFA were not about to miss a trick. His ownership of the Reds was suspended for the duration of the investigation, allowing the club’s supporters’ trust to rally round and begin to raise funds for a takeover bid. Watching from afar, it was all rather amusing. Meanwhile, back in Tukwila, things were beginning to settle down for the Williams clan. My scouting team was on the move, the players and coaches had left for their winter holiday, and the pressure of providing the perfect family Christmas was removed from Rachel’s shoulders when we received an invite to the Henderson household. Of course, we had missed the great Thanksgiving feast in the madness of our move, but spending time with Chris, his wife Jackie and their grown-up children would no doubt be a pleasure. It also meant Rachel and I had several less things to worry about.
  11. Thanks withnail, I'm looking forward to Owain taking a crack at MLS - a new experience for the both of us! -- I signed for the Sounders on November 20th, and although I would not officially step into my duties until the New Year, with Sigi Schmid’s blessing I was effectively given the freedom to make whatever changes I felt necessary to the club’s personnel before that date. He, after all, was about to retire, and any decisions I made would not affect him in the slightest. My first act as Seattle boss was therefore to make some changes to the backroom staff. In came three fresh scouts to add to the trio already working at the club, and out went assistant manager Bryan Marino. He had worked alongside Schmid for the last four years, and after a pleasant conversation he informed me that he felt the time was right to explore other options. I had no problems with that, and in his place came former Jamaica international and Minnesota United man Babajide Ogunbiyi - or simply ‘Jide’ for short - whose knowledge of the US game would hopefully help me to settle in. Speaking of settling, the first few days in the States were spent trying to sort out accommodation. The club were happy to put us up in hotel accommodation near the Starfire Complex, but if we were going to put down roots in the area then we would need a place of our own. With my wages now amounting to a small fortune, the cost was never to be problematic, but the practicalities were. Rachel and I were kept busy unloading the packages which kept arriving from Adelaide, knowing that in a few weeks were would be doing the same again. There was also the issue of schooling, and on that front Adrian Hanaeur was most helpful. For obvious reasons, a lot of the Sounders staff had chosen to live in the Tukwila area, and there was a standard procedure that new staff members went through in order to get their children into schools. As Jide and I were going through the same process - I with Bethan and Rebecca, he with little Ruben, he set the ball rolling via his own personal assistant at the club. Speaking of personal assistants, for the first time in my career I was to be afforded the luxury of a PA - at both Prestatyn and Adelaide, I had dealt with all my own administration. When it was mentioned, I floated the idea of Rachel stepping into the breach - it would guarantee time together - but after reflecting on the somewhat unsociable hours required of a manager travelling the length of breadth of the United States, we decided against it and the club advertised the job on my behalf. After a full day of interviews - apparently the Sounders have a good name as an employer, which was reassuring - the man I settled on was Jordi Villarreal, a 29-year-old man of Mexican descent who had moved up to the Pacific Coast, achieved top grades throughout his education and subsequently realised that studying and practising the law were two very different things. A football-mad fan of Queretaro, he knew my field inside out. He also had the advantage of sincerity - of the candidates I interviewed, around a third were relatively young girls who in truth should never have reached that stage, being far too interested in simply hanging around young professional athletes. Similarly, some of the men on the shortlist were somewhat obsessive Sounders fans wanting to get up close and personal with their heroes. In Jordi, I had a man attached to the game but not the team, and someone with the ruthless efficiency and eye for detail I needed. The budget at Seattle meant that I was also afforded the touches that make a manager’s office his own space, rather than simply an enlarged cupboard waiting for its next victim. In addition to the Sounders memorabilia from down the years - cut back at Sigi Schmid’s request for personal momentos - I could connect to anyone in the club at the touch of a button on the new phone, and both my work desktop and personal laptop were upgraded to state-of-the-art. I had little need for paperwork, but a treasure trove of literature on the sport was at my disposal should I ever feel a literary urge. Mostly importantly, I had a mini-fridge with a limitless supply of Diet Coke - I was set.
  12. Thanks @CFuller and @mark wilson27 (this new tagging thing is great) - I think I'm leaning towards trying for every weekday, as like Mr Fuller I have a significant backlog - four and a half seasons I've written, and another three and a half which I have the notes for and need to write up. Also, it'll spur me on to get the remainder written and new projects going, which I need to do...
  13. Thanks AJ - I'm fortunate in that I can spend a lot of time on the forums and so will happily read multiple updates at any given time, so it's good to know I'm not the only one! What I am wary of is posting so much that people with perhaps a little less time don't know where they are in the narrative - it's a fine line to walk...
  14. A quick question, seeing as the Ideas and Advice thread (or whatever it was called) seems to be largely dead... How often is too often when it comes to updating stories? Currently I'm updating Where's Williams? every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I have a significant backlog and am thinking that if I continue at this pace, I'll never get round to posting future chapters or indeed other, unrelated stories. I could easily add to the schedule, but would people lose track if a story updated every weekday? What about twice a day on some days? I know there's no hard and fast rule, but while I'm keen to make progress I also don't just want to rush to the end for the sake of it. I'm probably overthinking this massively, but any wisdom would be most appreciated - cheers guys!
  15. “So darling, how did it go?” “Well, let’s just say I’ve got something to think about.” “That’s amazing Owain, congratulations! Has Dean done a good job for you?” “You can say that again, they’re certainly not messing about. Before I go through everything with you, have Wednesday been in touch with you?” “They have, apparently they’ve been trying to call you or Dean but haven’t been able to. I didn’t speak to the same man you did, but Paul Clement has signed a two-year contract extension. There’s no deal Owain.” “Wow, Chandiri seemed so sure of things as well. I can’t say I’m not disappointed, but I think I’d have preferred this place anyway. Seriously, you should see the set-up they’ve got over here…” What followed was Rachel’s mind being kicked into overdrive by the numbers involved, and the fact that a club with £150 million in its pockets would entrust that itself into her husband’s hands. In many ways I was still Owain from Wrexham, and this transformation from part-time enthusiast to managerial millionaire was something she had still not fully got to grips with. Nor had I in truth - $30,000 each week seemed obscene, but I wasn’t going to argue. We talked through some of the practicalities - she was happy with the Sounders’ accommodation arrangements, and seemed confident we could find a school for Bethan and Rebecca, with her only reservation being her own employment status. Clearly with the money on offer she would not need to work, but worried that with nothing to do, she would find Seattle a lonely place. “At the end of the day Owain, we’re all together and that’s the main thing here. I’m not even being soppy when I say that - this is an amazing opportunity and if we need to figure out the details in the first few weeks and months, so be it. You can tell Mr Microsoft that he’s found his new manager, and to book us three seats on the next flight to Seattle - the movers have been on high alert for the last week. Congratulations darling - I love you and I’m very proud of you.” “I love you too Rachel Williams. I can’t wait to see you again.” With that, we said our goodbyes, I poked my head around the corner to give Dean the thumbs-up, and the two of us headed into the next room where Paul Allen was waiting for us, flanked by Adrian Hanauer and Erik Nordstrom. I could only assume Chris Henderson had other business to attend to. “Is everything to your satisfaction Owain?” “Very much so Paul, and if the offer is still there I’d be delighted to take you up on it. It would be an honour to work with you for the Seattle Sounders.” A smile broke on the faces of all three men and they shook hands with both Dean and myself. It was Adrian who spoke first. “I am pleased Owain, I think you’ll do a great job here in Seattle. Now if there are no delays, let’s get that contract signed shall we?” The next chapter of my life was about to begin.