I’m the Under-21 Manager now so I spend a lot of time looking at the Elite Player Performance Plan and the new structure of youth football. It’s an Under-21 league now where you can play three over 21-year-old players, plus a ‘keeper if you need to or if you want to. It’s very much still linked in with the Academy but it’s obviously closely working with the Manager and the First Team coaches as well. It’s a really exciting opportunity for me.
We want to try and equip these boys for life in the First Team. So we’re looking at the technical, the tactical, the physical and the mental side of things. Obviously there’s a lot of work on the technical and tactical side done out on the pitch on a daily basis, but also that’s linked in with the mental approach and dealing with disappointments during games and outside of matches. These are still young lads who are developing in every way so we can have a big effect, we feel, in their development and, hopefully, if we get them into really good habits now, and they continue the good habits that they had in the Under-18s before, then they can take it onto another level.
That’s why I loved working with the Under-18s; you can see the players progress in all aspects during the course of their two-year scholarship and I’m hoping for the same with the Development Squad now; to see players over a year or two year period and see them develop and improve in every way. Ultimately, I’ve told all my players that I don’t want them - I want them up with the First Team. But that’s a very high level - our First Team - and obviously as a Premier League football club they’ve got to really pull out all the stops day in, day out and work their socks off. But we think we’ve got a really good group of players and I’m confident some of them will make that step up.
Career to date
I started at Portsmouth and played eight years down there before I moved to Manchester City and spent three years with them. Then I came to Fulham and had three and a half years here, and then went to Palace where I finished playing. My next step was into coaching and management; I was Caretaker Manager at Crystal Palace. I was Player-Assistant Manager then with Iain Dowie and we got into the Premier League. Then I worked with Peter Taylor and was Assistant Manager with him at Crystal Palace. I left when Neil Warnock came in and went to Colchester as Assistant Manager to Geraint Williams. I was then Caretaker Manager for a period of time before coming back to Fulham.
I was doing a lot of the European scouting to start with, and then I coincided the scouting with coaching in the Academy. Gary Brazil was taking the 18s then and I helped him and also did some of the scouting before I went full-time with the Under-18s as Gary left to move to the Premier League. For a season and a half I was taking the Under-18s which I absolutely loved, and now taking the Under-21s, or Development Squad as it used to be known.
Achieving Category 1 status
It’s brilliant - it’s absolutely an exciting time for our Academy. I was convinced we’d get Category 1 status because I know the setup we’ve got here and I know the quality of the people we’ve got and the environment we create. I know it’s a massive reward to get it, although I was never particularly worried as I certainly felt we deserved it. But it is a great achievement and it means a lot to the football club. Again it just shows the hard work and the planning that’s gone in over a number of years now.
Ambitions for the future
It’s all about getting players into the First Team. Last year it was about getting them up to the Development Squad and we prepared them the best we could but we’re that much closer to seeing players go into the First Team now. It’s all for the good of the Club. I want to see this group of players evolve and develop as individuals, because as much as it’s a development team, it’s the individuals within that who are more important. They need to be able to play within that team structure so hopefully we can get players up with the First Team and the Manager will be pleased with their progress. Even if players don’t get up to the First Team, if we see progress in them and they do well, then that’s all we can ask for; to see progress in players and for them to do as well as they can. It’ll be a lot of hard work but it’ll be worthwhile I’m sure.