Steve Wigley

Head of Coaching & Under-18 Manager

I'm Head of Coaching for the Academy and I’m also the Under-18s Manager so I’ll put, in part with others, the coaching philosophy at the Football Club from the Academy down and take the Under-18 scholars on a Saturday.

The Role

On a day-to-day basis I’m with the first and second year scholars. We have a coaching programme so we get them prepared to play on Saturdays where we’ll be in a nationwide league, which will be good. Really, my job is to get as many of them as possible to have professional careers. That’s how I view it. I’ve been successful at doing it before, so I’d like to think that as a group we’ll improve as a unit, and individually, as the year goes on. Hopefully many of them will actually get on the pitch for Fulham which would be great, but you can’t get everybody there. So the emphasis is on making sure we get the best out of all of them.

Career To Date

I started playing slightly late – I was nearly 20 when I joined Nottingham Forest after coming in from non-League and I had four or five years there before moving to Sheffield United, Birmingham City and then Portsmouth. I ended up on the south-coast where I’ve lived ever since. In coaching terms I started at Nottingham Forest and went into youth development there with Paul Hart - and we were successful there. We produced people like Michael Dawson, Jermaine Jenas, Andy Reid – we had a decent crop. Eventually I became first-team coach at Forest under David Platt and then I went to Southampton. 

I was director of youth at Southampton and, again, worked with the young players and it’s been well documented that we were quite successful, with the likes of Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale and other players, like Andrew Surman and Leon Best, so we did well there. I was the England Under-21 assistant coach from 2001 to 2003 under David Platt and, from then on, I actually became the manager of Southampton for a short period, which wasn’t something that I particularly coveted but I did. That didn’t last very long and then I went to Manchester City with Stuart Pearce and I went in as the development coach there. 

Again, I was fortunate to work with some good young players; people like Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha, Stephen Ireland and Joe Hart. So I’ve done pretty much every job in football – my last job I was assistant M=manager at Hull City with Nicky Barmby so you name it, I’ve done it. From being youth coach, reserve manager, the manager, and it’s turned full circle. I decided in the summer that I wanted to go back to youth development and that’s a decision I made. Then this offer came up and I thought it was a good fit.

Career Highlights

I suppose one of my proudest moments was in February 2012 when Stuart Pearce was manager of the England senior team and I was the assistant. It was for one game but I don’t think anybody could ever take that away from me. But my biggest satisfaction would probably be at Southampton when we knew we had a good crop of players. It’s always nice to look back and see that a lot of young players you’ve worked with have gone on to have good careers and I think that, if I was to say what’s given me the biggest thrill and enjoyment, it would be that. I view myself as a coach and I think the greatest pleasure has always been by seeing people going on and having good careers.

Category One Status

A total of 23 clubs applied for Category One status and Fulham have actually got it. I think there are a few teams out there that applied for it that aren’t going to get it because the rules on what’s needed are quite stringent. I think the Club’s placed itself in a good position. If you’re going to be serious about youth development then going forward, if you’ve got the funding, then you have to go for Category One.

Vision For The Academy

I just want to see the players improve. I don’t set out to say that we’ve got to win the league because it’s not about that. It’s about how many players we can get through to the First Team. So my goals are long-term because it is a long-term project and in this role that’s how you should be judged. A Club of this size should be producing players on a consistent basis, not one every four or five years, it should be producing players regularly. So for me, my long-term aim, is to help the other members of staff within the Academy and the Development Squad to help push people forward. If we’re in a position where people have been in the system and go straight through to the First Team then we’ve done our job.