Phil Denton, interview.
I spoke to Phil Denton, the co-writer of the recently published book ‘100 days’ alongside Micky Mellon. He’s a high school headteacher and the lessons from the people that he spoke to across an interesting two year timespan has certainly helped him improve in his role, he believes that the book will help you in any other life circumstance as well whether that be running an office or a family. We also discussed Tranmere’s promotion chances and Keith Hill’s reign so far.
To start the conversation off, can you tell me a little bit about the experiences that you’ve had with Tranmere? How long have you supported the club?
I started supporting them when I was 8 years old, about 32 years ago, my dad would take me.
I went to Anfield first, my first Tranmere game was a Friday night under the lights and it was a 1-1 draw. It was a different experience to the one that I had at Anfield, I was next to the pitch and could see the players close up, I loved it.
All of my family are from Birkenhead, that’s another reason that I opted to support them initially.
What was the writing process of ‘100 days’ like and how did you get to work alongside Micky Mellon?
Well, I met Micky in the hotel I was staying at when I went to Tranmere’s first game back in League Two. Stevenage away.
Coincidentally, it was the hotel that the team was staying in also. I went down to the Gym in the morning and Micky came in, we had a great conversation about a range of topics. What it’s like to be a school headteacher, which I am, and what it’s like to be a football manager. We noticed that there were a few similarities and it went from there. He said that we should meet up, to talk about the possibility of writing a book which he had an idea for, we discussed leadership types etc and I was excited to work on the book with him.
The idea he had was about the first 100 days, so we thought about what themes etc you need to get right etc.
Micky worked with his contacts, as he knows plenty of football managers such as Sean Dyche from when he used to play for Burnley. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pep Guardiola, Joe Royle, Mauricio Pochettino when Spurs came to Prenton Park for an Fa Cup tie.
Then, we spoke to other leaders such as school headteachers so, yeah, it sprung from there really.
How long did it take you to write the book and how did you speak to the football managers that you did? I’ve seen pictures of you and Micky with Sean Dyche and Ole etc.
Micky played with Mick Phelan, we got the chance to speak to Ole via him and that is what they spoke about when Manchester United came to Prenton Park for an FA Cup tie last year. Micky played with Sean Dyche, at Burnley. We also spoke to Shelly Curr, a former Scotland manager.
It took two years in total, to write the book.
Time well spent?
Yeah, it was brilliant.
It helped me an awful lot with my role as a headteacher.
The whole book, really, is how I run my school in St Bede’s in Ormskirk and compared that to managing a football club.
So, yeah, I enjoyed it. It was interesting.
If you could name a football manager/coach that gave you the best information/insight/help, who would that be and why? Apart from Micky Mellon. Who did you most enjoy talking to?
That’s a tough one!
They were all equally as good, each one talked about a different subject matter in great detail.
Sam Allardyce’s insight and information about analytical work was fascinating! Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke a lot about being an authentic leader, leading and coaching through excellence. Sean Dyche was really all about different attitudes. Joe Royle, recruitment. Shelly Curr provided a fascinating insight into the different processes that she used at Arsenal and Scotland. David Moyes as well, how he managed to come in and achieve quick wins at West Ham was fascinating too.
So, really, I got everything from someone and it could all be applied to the job I do.
If you added all that together, you’d probably have the best person in the world wouldn’t ya! The best leader.
Yeah, you probably would. (laughs)
I think one of the key things was that they were all themselves, they were all great believers in that they’d have to be themselves and not copy someone else.
The book covers a range of subjects, although it’s mainly about football management. Or is it?
It’s about leadership really, it can be applied to everyday life. You won’t see things about tactics in there, it’s about how football managers survive under pressure and have to get the best out of others. It gives you inspiration and you can apply what you read to everyday life, whether you’re running a family or an office.
The two best lessons that you’ve learnt that have helped you the most, throughout speaking to others for this book?
Yeah, that’s a good question.
It’d be authenticity, trust yourself and be yourself, whilst also listening to the others around you. The other one would be, touching on from the listening aspect, is to get good people around you who will help, support and be brutally honest with you in all circumstances.
If someone is hearing about the book for the first time through our conversation, where can they buy it?
Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smiths .. all the big ones really! It’s everywhere! (laughs) Hopefully, when everything is back to some sort of normality, you’ll be able to see it on the shelves.
Touching on Tranmere, what’s your current thoughts on our promotion chances and Keith Hill?
Hill’s a great manager. I think he’s had a bit of a tough time but his playing style is positive. Everyone’s trying to create and score goals. Any time that they have lost their top goalscorer would struggle, but if we’re in the same position that we are now when Vaughan comes back I think we have a great chance of getting automatic. So, yeah, I think Hill’s doing a great job.
- All money generated from the book goes to the Len Johnrose Trust which raises funds and awareness of MND, motor neurone disease, whilst giving a better life to Len Johnrose himself who was diagnosed with the illness four years ago.
‘The first 100 days’ is available to purchase now, pretty much everywhere! For the price of £10.