The ESPFA are proud to work with such a great pool of coaches that train and prepare our teams up and down the country. All of our coaches have at least a UEFA B License and are passionate about coaching and improving the ESPFA students, not just in a football sense but also as individuals.
To highlight the brilliant work the coaches do and to allow you all to get to know them better, we present the Coaches Corner. In this terms edition you will hear from Ossett United academy coach Ben Ledger, Carlton Town academy coach Luke Weatherill and Kidlington academy coach Redd Pratley.
BEN LEDGER: OSSETT UNITED – ‘It really sets them up for the real world’
Q: What previous experience do you have as a coach?
A: My first coaching role was when I was 16 at the Scunthorpe United Development Centre, alongside playing for the club full time. I originally started to build my coaching hours and experience as I was completing my Level 2 at the same time but quickly found my love for coaching and developing footballers of all ages. When I signed for Harrogate Town, I trained and helped with the U23's and put-on sessions for the goalkeepers there. After that I have had a few different roles in male and female football, I was a player/Goalkeeper Coach at Sheffield FC, and Goalkeeper Coach at AFC Emley, AFC Bolsover, Barnsley Women's FC and York City Ladies. All in that order.
Q: What made you want to become a coach for the ESPFA?
A: I’ve always liked the idea of having my own team and putting a stamp of how I like football to be played and creating a positive environment where players can flourish and the ESPFA offered me that chance. Being able to coach nearly every day and call it a job is perfect for me as coaching is what I want to do. I also have a great set of lads and a good working relationship with the tutor James which makes everything that bit easier too.
Q: How does the ESPFA help their students get involved with the first team and help them progress with their education?
A: I think it's excellent what they do. From an educationally point of view it’s great that the lads all come out with qualifications that will help set them up for university and further life. It really sets them up for the real world. With the football again it's something that not many other places are able to offer. To be able to offer high quality coaching three days a week as well as a games programme will aid their footballing development of which has seen players progress to professional clubs and if not, a good level of non-league football, of which may not have been achievable without the ESPFA.
LUKE WEATHERILL: CARLTON TOWN – ‘I enjoyed connecting with players and realising how important the role of a coach is in a young players development both on and off the pitch’
Q: What was your first coaching job and what was it like? A: My first coaching experience was back in college, I would been 16/17 years old just getting the hours in for a qualification on the course that we had to do by volunteering for a local grassroots team, I think they were u11 or u12 at the time. I loved it but I dread to think what the sessions were like; I remember asking the manager every week what he would want me to work on so every session every week would have been different, and I’d imagine not very specific to the player’s needs. That said, I still loved it and it was a great chance to get started on my coaching journey.
Q: What made you want to become a coach when you first started out? A: Towards the end of playing at u15’s and u16’s I’d find myself taking a closer look at warmups of professional games I’d go and watch at the weekend and then actually deliver these warmups for the teams I’d be playing in at the weekend. I got a real buzz out of delivering something to a group of individuals and seeing the impact that could have them on. Over time this just grew, and I enjoyed connecting with players and realising how important the role of a coach is in a young players development both on and off the pitch.
Q: Who do you think the best three managers in the world are? A: Jurgen Klopp is clearly doing a superb job at Liverpool since he arrived all those years ago, the consistency has gone to a whole new level after a very up and down 5 or 6 years for the club. Pep Guardiola continues to do an amazing job at Man City and regardless of what people say about all the money he has available, so do most of the other top managers these days. His playing style and the way he gets players to buy into his methods is amazing. I think an underrated one is Brendan Rodgers – just look at the job he’s doing at Leicester, it’s remarkable and year upon year he’s turning them into a very well-respected team across Europe.
REDD PRATLEY: KIDLINGTON – ‘I put a lot of the emphasis on the players and allow them to work things out for themselves when I can’
Q: How would you describe your coaching style?
A: I would say I put a lot of the emphasis on the players and allow them to work things out for themselves when I can. I like to ask the players lots of questions to see what they think they could have done differently rather than telling them what to do all the time. I really enjoy preparing to play against specific teams and working in depth on the tactical side of the game.
Q: What does one of your typical training sessions look like?
A: I will always try to pick a theme that will run throughout the session. This will be an aspect of the game that I think we need to work on off the back of our last game or in preparation for our next game. They will tend to start with a much generalised warm up or possession block, and then we will move into specific or functional practice centred around the theme. I will always try and allow the boys to have a small side game at the end where they can have a little bit of a laugh at the end of the session.
Q: If you had to liken yourself to one premier league manager, who would it be?
A: Although I’m sure the boys would say someone like Sean Dyche because I don’t shut up, I would compare myself to Mikel Arteta. Similar to Arteta I have come from a playing background, to then working with some really good coaches as an assistant and then stepping into a head coach’s role.