Macca has lived the football dream since leaving Rebels

FEW people get to truly realise their dreams. Some fall short, but others thrive on opportunities given to them. They turn an opportunity into the adventure of a lifetime.

Simon McMenemy looks on when the Philippines won 2-0 at Vietnam in front of a 40,000-strong crowd
Simon McMenemy looks on when the Philippines won 2-0 at Vietnam in front of a 40,000-strong crowd

This is true of former Worthing Football Club assistant manager Simon McMenemy, who, after leaving Woodside Road, got chatting to Chris Greatwich – a player he knew from his younger coaching days at nearby Burgess Hill – on Facebook back in 2010.

Little did he know that conversation would change his life.

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“He told me they were having some problems with the manager of their national team”, McMenemy recalls, still in disbelief at how it came about. “He said I should put a CV in and I just laughed. I told the wife that I had just applied for the Philippines national job because I thought it was hilarious.

“In all honesty, I totally forgot about it but six weeks later I was sat at my desk at work and I took a call from the Philippines and they asked me if I could get on a plane to Manila.

“It was a bit of a shock but ten days after that I arrived there as the new national team manager.”

He stood in Manila airport about to embark on a journey few have ever taken before. Just several weeks previously, he was standing in a dugout at Worthing FC barking orders to semi-professionals.

Now, he was the youngest international manager in the world at the age of 33.

McMenemy took to the job like a proverbial duck to water. He fought through the initial problems, the language barrier, the unknown entity of the job and the realisation at the giant leap in level he had just taken, and he ended up transforming football in the Philippines.

He guided the ‘Azkals’ to the Suzuki Cup finals for only the third time in their history, and it was this tournament that made him a superstar as they reached the semi-finals, beating Vietnam in Hanoi along the way.

McMenemy said: “That game changed history.

“We hadn’t got a point against them in 50 years and we beat them 2-0 in their own back yard in front of 40,000 people.

“No-one even knew there was a national team in the Philippines and suddenly we were playing in front of a TV audience of 450 million. It was incredible and from there it just went mental.”

His brave, spirited side lost both legs of the semi-finals against Indonesia in front of 90,000 people, yet that mattered little. They had entered the tournament as no-hopers; with McMenemy’s tutilidge, they left as heroes.

Despite his tenure with the Philippines ending in controversial circumstances, he was then offered the head coach role at Dong Tam Long An in Vietnam, before spells with Indonesian clubs Mitra Kukar and Pelita Bandung Raya.

He possesses a CV that many young managers could only dream of having, and after almost a year out of the game, his journey now looks set to take him to the unknown footballing depths of Luxembourg, where he is waiting to become the new manager of a third-tier club, who have ambitions of reaching the Champions League in the coming years.

However, McMenemy admits the success he has had so far in his career will be difficult to match, and he said: “If I can get close to the success I had over there, I’m a lucky man.

“In terms of what we did and the effect we had, that doesn’t happen much in world football.

“People ask me where do I want to go and I’m stumped because, in a way, I’ve kind of done it. I’ll be lucky to experience that ever again.”

Despite what he might say, do not bet against McMenemy surpassing his achievements to date. After all, he has proved that dreams can come true once already.