Daz Sampson: Forget Eurovision, I’m chasing Non-League glory!

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Question: How many football managers who’ve spent time in Poland, Guam, USA and the Evo-Stik League have also taken to the Eurovision stage?

Struggling to find an answer? That’s because there’s only one man to follow that path.

We caught up with the individual in question, Daz Sampson, in the build-up to the qualification phase of the biggest singing competition in the world.

And if you thought this was a Where Are They Now?  piece, then you couldn’t be any more wrong.

Sampson is looking to get back into football management, and his search might just take him to Asia.

But he believes he can do a job in this country. And, judging on his record of defying the odds in the past, we certainly wouldn’t be backing against him achieving his dream.

Of course, we had to throw a few questions in about his time on the most famous stage in world music, and get his thoughts about the show.

So make yourselves comfortable – you won’t want to miss this interview…

On his Eurovision experience

You have to understand, I did Eurovision by total accident. I was with Uniting Nations when I got a call from Richard Park from Fame Academy.

He wanted to know whether Uniting Nations would do Eurovision. Our manager at the time wasn’t sure, but had said I was a fan of the show.

Now, I have always been a fan of Eurovision, but while we’ve all sat down and watched it at some point – it doesn’t mean we’d go and spend money on a ticket to go and watch it.

Would you pay money for a ticket to go and watch it if it was in Birmingham? Because I wouldn’t, and I’ve been on it!

Anyway, I wrote a song for Blazin’ Squad, and we sent it off to Richard for him to hear. But we had two versions of that song– there’s one with me on it, and one with them.

And my manager at the time – just by pure chance – sent the version with me on it and Richard said he wanted to keep it as it was.

If you listen to my interviews from back then, you’ll have heard me saying I thought we could have won the whole thing.

I knew full well we were not going to win, but if I was going to have a fight with Tyson Fury, I’m not gonna say ‘he’s gonna kick the hell out of me’, because I’d be beaten before I got in the ring!

On backing himself

Three weeks after that, I’m sat in a press conference thinking I’m gonna win this (qualifying phase).

And that’s when I started to back myself!

I was the outsider at 16/1 to make Eurovision when the betting opened. In hindsight that was a massive price!

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On why he did Eurovision

It was a great time – after Eurovision. I got offered Big Brother, I got offered the Jungle (I’m a Celebrity), all these reality shows.

But none of that was what I got in it for, because I’m just a normal geezer from Stockport.

And with all that comes the crap in all the tabloids. Believe me, that is bad.

Since I’ve been on there, they’ve not had the same viewing figures. D’you know why? Because I was representing the man on the street, the taxi drivers and the window cleaners.

On Great Britain’s chances

Let’s be clear. Even you’ve got as much chance as not finishing last as whoever it is who’s doing it for us.

Unless something drastically changes in the process, I don’t see how that will ever be any different.

You know, I don’t even know the people who are trying to go this year – but I know they’re going to finish last.

Here’s the thing – I’m not gonna rain on anyone’s parade because here’s me trying to break into football.

It’s exactly the same thing.

I work professionally in football but I’m still a wannabe because I’ve not had the chance in England as a manager yet, I’ve only been an assistant.

Whoever gets there is there completely on merit. But they aren’t there for the right reasons.

Until they send someone who can speak their mind, we’ve got no chance – listen, they didn’t want me there.

I played the game. Walking around with a cigar in a bathrobe with a multicoloured drink in my hand was irony. I was acting. I’m not that much of an idiot!

You could put me, Robbie Williams, [Gary] Barlow, that geezer from Coldplay or Bob the Builder on that stage, and we still wouldn’t win.

On doing Eurovision again

If you could wave a magic wand and put me back in it this year, I’d snap your hand off.

I’d do it again because aside from how it messes up your career – if you’re not too serious about it –  it’s like going to the World Cup of music.

The Eurovision fans are like football fans, it’s unreal.

Of course I’d do it again.

On his life post-Eurovision

I’ve been offered the chance to go down to India – to manage in their Super League – and it’s something I’m seriously considering at the minute.

I’ve actually had about four or five offers from the Evo-Stik League, but it’s got to be right for me.

You know, the success rate that I’ve got is phenomenal, and that’s because I studied sports psychology in Asia. I actually learnt more over there than anywhere else I’ve been in the world.

On football as a whole

Football is 80 per cent in your brain and 20 per cent physicality.

What separates me from Cristiano Ronaldo? Absolutely nothing, apart from the fact he’s got about £163bn, he’s a good-looking fella and he drives a Ferrari! And his brain, he’s got a better brain. People don’t understand that.

On Non-League football

There’s not a lot of room for skill down there, 80 per cent of the goals come from a mistake. 20 per cent come from a bit of individual brilliance, good team play, or a really, really great strike – which will usually originate from a mistake!

So what you do is you iron out the mistakes.

On working abroad

I remember taking my first training session in Guam. I get there – not a ball in sight.

It’s all about fitness and the shape of the squad. Fitness and shape, fitness and shape. And then at the end, they get these tennis balls out.

Honest to God, you could not get the ball off these players.

Now you stick them in the Altrincham side, or in the Stockport County side and they would look terrible.

In the last five seasons, I have a 72 per cent win rate. I took a team in Guam – with players who weren’t even being paid when I went there – to second in the league, to winning the cup, to now having three international players playing for them.

When I was in the Polish third tier, we played Wisla Krakow in a cup. Now at the time, I had a team of taxi drivers and plasterers, and they – a Champions League team – only beat us 3-2 over two games.

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On managing in England

There’s no two ways about it – I have the skill and the personality.

Another thing, I may have had 14 Top 20 records, and I’m known for the occasional Ron Atkinson-style tan, but every night in the belting northern rain, I am at a game.

Whether it’s Working Man’s XI or Timbuktu, I’m at a game.

I’ve been back in the UK for a year now. And in that time I have had one or two offers which just weren’t for me.

I’ve got to be careful because when I do go back in, in a way the spotlight is on me a bit more.

Listen, I have won leagues and cups abroad and it counts for diddly squat in England.

And what people don’t understand is that I’ve done 20 odd years of researching, watching and building on my knowledge.

On his past coming back to haunt him

The problem I’m having in England is that my musical career is getting in the way of me getting a job I want now.

I was approached by a club recently in the Evo-Stik League. I went along for an interview, laid out all of my plans, including a sponsorship deal I was going to put in place.

I gave them a list of about 10 top players from the division I wanted to bring in.

And they’d have played under me for nothing.

They’d have done that because they’d have known I’d have got them playing at a higher level.

I guaranteed the club money from my own pocket if I failed, just to get myself on the ladder.

They didn’t give me the job, they gave it to someone else, and they’ve not won a game since.

And this is because one of the people on the board probably watched some documentary about me 10 years ago.

On the short-term future

Make no mistake about it, in five years’ time, I will be managing at least at Conference level.

His message to clubs

I am here. Come and get me.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Alex Apati

Having graduated from Birmingham City University with a degree in Creative Writing with English, Alex joined the News team following a three year stint working for Ladbrokes behind the counter. When he's not watching darts, he's throwing them. Failing that you'll find him YouTubeing Thierry Henry's greatest Arsenal goals.