My job is to co-ordinate the Under-15 and Under-16 age groups, bringing them in line with what the Under-18s do in terms of training drills and the system they play. If any make the step up, then it’s easier for them to adapt. While it’s great to see that when it happens, my job is also to try and bed some of the Under-15s into the Under-16s side as well so they’re playing a year ahead of themselves.
If we can keep pushing them to develop like that, then obviously they’ll make the step up to the Under-21s and then the First Team which is the ultimate goal. Day-to-day it’s a balance between their work at Coombe School, video analysis, fitness/conditioning training and match preparation. Colin Omogbehin helps me out and he mentors the kids over at the school. He’s involved in all aspects of the school and then comes across here to coach the Under-15s and Under-16s with me.
I was a midfielder at Luton Town for five years, then went to Derby County and spent three years there. I joined Sheffield Wednesday for three years and then had a spell with Portuguese side Benfica for a year. I was at Everton for four years and Fulham for four years where I ended my professional career in 2007 and took up coaching.
I’m in my seventh year as a coach now and started doing my coaching badges very early, even when I was still playing. I had a lot of time on my hands because I was injured for a lot of the last 18 months of my career, so that led me to do the licences. I did the ‘A’ licence, under the old Academy Director John Murtagh, with Lee Clark, Mark Crossley and Billy McKinley. At the time it was great because he came in and assessed us in our own environment.
Getting used to the sound of your own voice was the hardest part about moving into coaching because as a player you have to listen all the time and you’re part of a larger group. You have to plan ahead a lot and make sure everything is set up for things like half-terms, Easter and Christmas when there are lot of kids about. It’s our busiest time as we bring lots of trialists in to have a look at. It never slows down when the holidays are on – just the opposite!
My aim is to make sure that the players I have are ready both technically and tactically for the step up. Hopefully then they can push them on in the Under-18s and then the Under-21s with Kit Symons and eventually into the First Team.
It’s vital for our players to work off the pitch as well as on it. With Coombe School, it’s a balance between schoolwork and training and if the schoolwork isn’t done right then they don’t get to train. The school comes first, so even though it’s 50-50 between the two in terms of time, they know they have to work hard and make sure they get that right.
We want to make sure they’re good human beings as well as footballers so as coaches we have to set them a good example to follow and, win, lose or draw, the team spirit and how they react is something that’s key to their learning curve.