MICKY Barron must have laughed when the subject of his latest university assignment was revealed.
Determined to garner all of the necessary qualifications in a bid to further his career in the game, the caretaker boss is currently enlisted at Warwick University on a sports management course.
In the midst of that education Barron has been thrust into the best working-practice environment imaginable – for a lecture theatre cannot compete with Victoria Park right now.
Barron acknowledges as much, although he is still keen to extol the virtues of the course.
And the 37-year-old admits that the nature of his most recent homework task could not have been more timely.
“The next assignment is on stress would you believe?” he smiled.
“You have to write about the most stressful week in your career and how you deal with it, what you prioritise and what you don’t.
“This has probably come at a good time!”
He’s not wrong.
Handed the reins of a side rock bottom of League One and without a win in 12, that run has extended to 15 under his care, including the 6-1 hammering at Chesterfield last weekend.
However, the County Durham-born boss is keen to harbour the merits of every experience, be it good or bad.
And Barron - in his second temporary tenure within the past 12 months - says there is one over-riding positive.
“The one thing I can take out of the last few weeks is that I’m clear in my mind of how I want a football team to play – that’s a big thing for me,” said the former Pools legend, who has tried to instil a style of play which sees passes knitted together and patient build-up encouraged.
“I’m happy with the type and style of football I want to play.
“I was unsure last year I must admit.
“I’m confident now, no matter whether we’re playing Dunston Fed or Liverpool, that’s how we’ll play.
“Keep the ball and you are more likely to score.”
Possession isn’t over-rated is the message.
That much was clear during the 2-2 draw at Brentford a fortnight ago, a performance of such improvement it catapulted Barron into the frame for the full-time job.
He remains in contention but accepts that the Chesterfield debacle – as chairman Ken Hodcrodt labelled it – was hardly helpful.
But has he enjoyed it?
“Probably not this week after Chesterfield,” he conceded.
“But I had a walk with the dog on Wednesday morning and cleared my head and had a light-bulb moment where I thought ‘why not enjoy it?’.”
Once he had disrobed from the dog-walking attire, Barron donned far-smarter apparel.
“People told me to wear a suit last time and I wasn’t comfortable,” he said.
“This time I have and you feel more like a manager – I think it’s the right thing to do.”
And his relationship with the players?
“It hasn’t really changed,” he insisted, “I know the majority of them very well.
“I’m comfortable speaking to them and I’ll sit down and have one-to-ones with them.
“I’ll try my best to lift them again and get them ready for this weekend at Yeovil because there is no reason why we can’t go there and win – there’s nothing I’d love to do more than string together the wins which would get us out of this.”
Either way, when Barron submits his next assignment, he’s sure to get top marks.