Former England international Carlton Palmer would like the challenge of managing a non-league team.
The Sheffield Wednesday favourite managed Stockport County and Mansfield Town between 2001 and 2005. The years since have included time in Dubai, where he was a Premier League pundit alongside running coaching programmes and setting up academies, and Shanghai, his home for the past seven years.
The ex-Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion man is currently Wellington College China’s official ambassador, but he and wife Lucy, the school’s head of lower prep, intend to return to England in the near future. Carlton explained:
“I always said that I wanted to get to a position to retire at 55. That was always my goal so I could travel, go to major sporting events and do whatever.
“I’m lucky enough in life now that I can retire. My plan is to go back to the UK, go back into football, at some level.
“I don’t really wanna go back into League football, because I don’t want the stress of League football. I speak to a lot of mates who are managers and all they live for is the result on a Saturday. I was like that towards the end of my time when I resigned from Mansfield.
“I didn’t enjoy the week of training because I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play. I couldn’t chuck a young lad in because what was more important? The result.
“So I wanna come back, I wanna probably work in non-league, where the chairman’s got a project. Where he says to me ‘Carlton, go and play the way you want, go and develop some young players, and enjoy football, have the craic, take the lads out for a drink’.
“When I was manager at Mansfield, (ex-chairman) Keith Haslam was brilliant, he used to allow me to take the lads for a drink. When I was manager at Stockport, my missus used to come with me, and (ex-chairman) Brendan (Elwood) was like that.
“But the expectation of the supporters has become unreal. Every club wants their team to win the league, which is brilliant, but the fact is it’s not possible.
“So I wanna come back and I wanna get involved in a non-league project and something I can get my teeth into, where the chairman’s the same and we can enjoy the craic. Trust me, winning’s always important to me; if I do a spin class, like yesterday morning, I’ve got to come first.
“But to get to winning, there has to be a process, and the chairman has to buy into that with you. If I can get back to the UK, get into grassroots football and produce one player before I finish, that’s gone from non-league football into the League, then that would be a great achievement.
“I’ve already done it from abroad, I’ve had a couple of players gone back from Dubai and into the League, so that would be great if I could do that.”
The former Southampton and Coventry City midfielder, who won 18 England caps under the late Graham Taylor OBE, has been separated from family back home during the pandemic, another central factor in the wish to return. It will, though, be with a heavy heart when he leaves the Far East.
“There’s something about Shanghai when you get here that you wouldn’t immediately say yeah, but you wouldn’t immediately say no, so it was a difficult decision to make within a week (when he first arrived). I’m not gonna lie to you, the finances were good, so we made a decision to give it a go, and seven years on, we’re still here.
“It’s a magnificent place and I like the mentality of the Chinese people. They’re very loyal, they’re very supportive, if you look after them, they look after you, but it’s also cutthroat; if you were getting onto a metro, an old lady would shove you out the way, because back in the day, they had to fight for everything they got.
“We went to a pyjama party, we wore pyjamas on the metro and nobody batted an eyelid. That’s the type of culture it is, that people don’t judge you, they do whatever they believe is right and they wouldn’t worry what anybody else says.
“That’s the type of culture that I fit in, because I don’t worry what anybody else says, and we live in a world now where everybody worries what somebody thinks or what they say. Those people don’t even know you so why would you worry about them?
“So that’s the culture that’s out here, it’s a vibrant city. If anybody said to me a place that you should visit, I would 100 per cent tell them to go to Shanghai.”