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Michael Jolley tries to prevent Grimsby from being relegated from League Two.

New York and Grimsby aren’t a comparison that many people are urged to make, but Michael Jolley is in a unique position to make it. The Cambridge graduate and former HSBC trader has taken an unlikely career path that saw the Sheffielder move from Manhattan to managing football – taking over the struggling League Two club on the Lincolnshire coast earlier this month.

The 40-year-old says the two places have more in common than you might think, especially when it comes to local pride – but Grimsby has the edge in at least one area. “The fish and chips are better in Grimsby than in New York! I’ve been very lucky in life to have a lot of different experiences and living in New York and living in Grimsby are very different experiences. But Grimsby has a very strong community heartbeat, the same as New York.

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“There are some really good people here, they love their football club and want it to be successful. “

Michael Jolley on the sideline as Grimsby faced Port Vale earlier this month.

It was a rough start in his brief stint in charge at Grimsby, with a draw against compatriots Port Vale followed by losses to Lincoln and Coventry in their opening three games.

The team are now just one place above the relegation zone and face the real prospect of dropping out of the Football League with seven games to go. But Jolley is well used to the tough challenges, having been thrown out of the game as a teenager, winning a place in Cambridge, seeing 9/11 unfold from the 25th floor of a nearby skyscraper, and performing the nearly impossible task of making a coach for clubs such as Burnley, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest, although he did not play as a professional.

As a young football madman living in Sheffield, he played for schoolchildren in the city and ended up being signed for Barnsley Center of Excellence. But after two and a half years on their books, he was released at age 16 – taking his life on a very different path as he focused on his studies.

“I could have gone around and tried to get another club but my dad really cared for me to continue my education and said I could always come back. I am one of the thousands and thousands of young people that the professional game leaves behind. I am very honest about it – I was not good enough to be a pro. But I always felt that I had a pretty good football brain and that I was not capable to do the things I wanted to do.

The Cambridge graduate worked for HSBC in New York before starting a coaching career

While doing his baccalaureate at university, a teacher advised him to apply to Oxford or Cambridge and Jolley later won a place at the latter university to study economics. “Obviously Cambridge has a reputation for being pretty elitist and there’s no escaping it, there’s an element of that. But there are a lot of people from normal backgrounds who end up in Cambridge. or Oxford who are hard working or talented or both It is a fantastic place to go and expand your mind and it teaches you to think and see the world and opens up all kinds of possibilities.

Upon completion of his studies he was offered a job by HSBC’s investment bank as a junior trader and, after a brief stay in London, was offered a position in the bank’s operations. on Wall Street in New York, before moving to the United States in 2000.

“It was a truly amazing experience for a 22 year old boy from Sheffield – it’s an amazing place to live and work. As a youngster, it was an incredible time. Being a trader is a difficult environment, it is very demanding and focused on daily results in terms of profit and loss with large sums at stake. There is pressure and competition. In many ways it was good preparation for what I’m up against now – you’re judged by your results.

Jolley was working on September 11 – witnessing the terrible events unfolding from the 25th floor of his office building from where the Twin Towers were visible.

Michael Jolley on the sideline as Grimsby faced Port Vale earlier this month.

“It started like any other day. The weather was absolutely beautiful, the sky was very blue and it was a busy morning in New York. There were elections, so there was a lot of activity.

“We were in our office and a news flash fell on the first plane. We started calling people we knew in the building. When the second plane hit, that’s when everyone went from worrying to realizing it was a terrorist attack. We were asked to stay in our office, but there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether we wanted to be there, especially since we were very close to the Empire State Building.

“My decision was to get down on the ground and I walked home to my Upper East Side apartment. When I walked it was when the towers fell. It was very scary.”

In 2002, Jolley returned to the UK to be closer to his family. He continued to work for HSBC, then moved to another bank called Toronto Dominio, but began to rekindle his interest in a career in football. While completing a coaching qualification, he was put in touch with Crystal Palace coach Bob Dowie. Jolley, then in his mid-twenties, was asked to help the club’s academy.

The Cambridge graduate worked for HSBC in New York before starting a coaching career

“I continued to do the day job so I would get up at 6.30am, go to work, get off the train to the Crystal Palace training ground at 5pm and work there in the evening three to three. four nights a week and I was doing Saturday morning coaching. Training was something that I had a bug with and I could see I was having an impact on these young players. I enjoyed the process of trying to help them improve and progress.

By the age of 30, Jolley had obtained further coaching qualifications and knew he wanted to pursue a job in the sport as a full-time career. He was offered a job at the Nottingham Forest Academy and decided to leave the bank for good.

“My family really supported me, they knew how much training and football meant to me. While I was doing my career well, they understood that if I didn’t, I was going to be dissatisfied. It was a bit of an impossible task to take on – come from a non-playing background and try to become a coach. ”

After Nottingham Forest, he worked for Lincoln City and Crewe before being offered a job at Burnley as an Under-21 coach, where he worked on the side of much-regarded manager Sean Dyche and is eventually became the club’s Under-23 manager.

Jolley says Dyche had a major influence on him. “I think I could go through my whole career and not see a club that performs as well as Sean Dyche and his team at Burnley. There is so much I could say about Sean – he has great clarity on what he does and very clear on what he expects from people.

“I had been very, very happy and happy at Burnley and felt I was learning all the time working with Sean and his team. I had access to the staff and the players of the first team and working with Premier League footballers is a great experience.

But Jolley left Lancashire last June to take up his first coaching job with the Swedish Premier League’s last club, AFC Eskilstuna. Despite wins over some of Sweden’s top teams, Jolley couldn’t prevent relegation and left at the end of the season by mutual agreement.

Jolley says it was an amazing experience. “It was an interesting club that was originally based in Stockholm, but the owners decided to move the club to Eskilstuna, a town of around 100,000 people. It was a bit like the situation with MK Dons when they moved Wimbledon to Milton Keynes trying to build relationships and establish themselves.

“Almost everyone spoke English, but I had started learning Swedish and was just starting to gain confidence when the club and I jointly decided to go our separate ways.”

Jolley says he had other vacancies in Sweden and the UK, but jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Grimsby job when it became available.

“I felt like it was a really good fit.”

When the Yorkshire Post spoke to him earlier this month, he and his wife were in a hotel but were sorting out a house in the area.

“It’s really important that if I want to be the manager, I have to live in the area. I want to be part of the community and get a feel for what it’s all about.

“We are in the middle of a relegation fight and have to work our way to a position where we can secure our place in Ligue 2 for next season.

When you trade, it is about yourself and the bank, whereas here you carry the hopes and expectations of a city, a territory, a community. There is a lot more pressure in many ways. All these people will enjoy their meal on a Saturday evening or not depending on the progress of the team. You have to be able to give everything you can. ”

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