Throughout my career I have been fortunate to work with, and for, some inspirational people who have had a huge influence on me and who have played a massive role in my development, both personally and professionally. However, one of the most important of those figures was my former General Manager at Charlton Athletic, Arnie Warren.
Arnie gave me my start in professional football and he taught me some extremely valuable lessons which I have never ever forgotten. Arnie recruited me as Charlton Athletic FC’s Commercial Manager in 1988 from my position as Regional Sales Training Officer at the Midland Bank and I freely admit that the cosseted world of banking was not exactly the best preparation for a career in professional football and I’ll own up to being somewhat ‘wet between the ears’ when I first turned up for work in that old portacabin at Selhurst Park, the ground we shared at the time with Crystal Palace FC.
Arnie knew this and took me under his wing. In fact, he taught me something in my first week that has stayed with me to this day and which my former colleagues at The Football League, Swindon Town FC and Charlton Athletic – in fact everyone I’ve worked with since – will instantly recognise.
Towards the end of that first week as Commercial Manager in January 1988, I managed to ‘sell’ an Executive Box for Charlton ‘home matches’ – something that was extremely difficult to do at Selhurst Park as our fans did not want to be there. As you can imagine, I was elated and I couldn’t wait to tell Arnie my good news. When Arnie arrived in our portacabin base at Selhurst Park – announcing himself with his usual, loud refrain, ‘afternoon all’ – I rushed to tell him the news. ‘Arnie, I’ve sold an Executive Box today’.
Arnie’s reply was not the enthusiastic response that I was expecting – ‘is the money in the tin?’ he said, without looking at me and continuing to turn the key to unlock his office. Taken aback somewhat I said ‘well, I only shook hands with the guy this afternoon, I’m sending him an invoice tonight,’ to which Arnie then said, this time looking at me full in the face, ‘what a shock’ – a favourite ironic put down phrase of his –‘if the money ain’t in the tin then you ain’t sold it, ‘ave you’. He then he went into his office and shut his door to make ‘a private call’.
My immediate reaction was of deflation and disillusionment but I quickly realised that, of course, Arnie was absolutely right – nothing is ‘sold’ until money changes hands – until ‘the money is in the tin’ – and it’s a mantra that I have adhered to and passed on ever since and which has now been adopted widely wherever I’ve worked.
Sadly Arnie Warren died in 2010 but I owe a huge debt to him as without his guidance, encouragement and the invaluable lessons he taught me so early in my time in football, I strongly doubt whether I would have had the career I’m very fortunate to have subsequently had.
As Arnie would have said, ‘what a shock’..!
Edited version of an article first published in 2017