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  • Writer's pictureESPFA


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 Brighouse Town academy coach Simon Ward, Chesham United’s academy coach Gary Forde and Witton Albion academy coach Martyn Irvine.


Q: What coaching experience do you have?

A: ‘I have quite a lot of varied experience, I started at University where I took a team on which was the seventh team. I progressed through university and took lots of teams and also in America doing summer camps as well. Then when I came back, I applied for the U18s manager at Brighouse Town which I got, then I progressed from there and went from the U18s manager to development coach to under 21s manager and a first team coach as well and now in with the academy. There is another side to it where I work with the county as well with the U18s and England university men’s football team as well which is basically a team made up of the best players out of all the institutions in England.’

Q: What was your first coaching job like?

A: ‘Chaos. Unorganised chaos! I mean we were the seventh team so I had to buy my own kit because we didn’t have one, had to buy my own equipment, we had to share footballs between seven teams, I got a small 20x30 patch to train on a 4G for 40 minutes on Thursday and Friday nights. It was just difficult to organise, we were always running out of players, obviously with being the seventh team, if the team above you don’t have enough players that week, they’d pull all your best players out. It was fun, but unorganised chaos.’

Q: What does one of your typical training sessions look like?

A: ‘I’d say it looks like a two-minute punk song and to make sense of that for people who don’t listen to the music, its fast, high tempo, unique, simple and full of personality so that probably gives you an idea.’


Q: How did You get involved with the ESPFA?

A: ‘I first saw the coaching application and I’ve worked at the community trust at Watford, pretty much doing a similar thing so I was doing that prior. I thought it’s an environment that I know, and I thought yeah it sounds right, I’ve read some of the literature for the league and It looked good, so I decided to get involved.’

Q: What made you want to become a coach when you first started out?

A: ‘I sort of just fell into it, then I took the local grass roots side. Many dads will tell you when your sons playing football and someone says can you help out, and then it just snowballed from there really. I love having young people fall in love with the game and for me the reason why I perhaps love working with younger age groups is I treat the game really like a subject, it’s not just win win win. I fell in love with coach educating, player educating and for me what you teach a player now, he can take that and use it for the rest of his career.’

Q: How would you describe your coaching style?

A: ‘One of the things I say to players, particularly being mindful of the age groups that I work with, is that I treat it like learning to read and write. When you look at a drill in its simplest form, when you started learning to read and write you’d just work on letters and you simply develop the skill and the technique to write that letter. Then that letter becomes a word and the word becomes the sentence and then the game is the essay. For me it’s about having players that can understand how to connect the dots. I think because I work in youth football the results aren’t the be all and end all. Depending on my environment obviously, I work more around objectives then results because you can play badly, get a result and learn nothing so definitely for me, my philosophy would be understanding the game I think it’s vital that my players understand the game.’


Q: Who was your biggest inspiration when you first got into coaching?

A: It has to be my now wife, she’s the one who got me into actually delivering sessions. She was playing at a great level, refereeing and coaching and was just such an inspiration to the effort she put into developing every single player she worked with. I had done the odd session when I was in the Army at Regimental levels, but coaching week in week out with youngsters was where I really caught the bug and that’s all down to her.

Q: What has been your most enjoyable/rewarding coaching experience?

A: Without doubt, it has to be the grand final with Warrington Town in 2018. To be 2-1 down with 5 minutes left to play. To come out worthy 3-2 winners, just really epitomised absolutely everything we were about and the hard work that had gone into the season. Matlock were a very good side that year, so it made the result even sweeter. We also went unbeaten in the league, that was something that I’ll not forget in a hurry either.

Q: Who do you think the best three managers in the world are?

A: How long have you got? So many to consider for so many different reasons. Up there for me straight away is Jurgen Klopp, I just think the bloke is exceptional and it must be amazing to work for him. Bielsa is just a genius, isn’t he? El Loco, you can see how much he puts into his work and how Leeds have adapted so well to the Premier League. Finally, its between Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Robson for me, the longevity Sir Alex had and the continued success, I feel will never be matched or seen again. Sir Bobby Robson achieved success everywhere that he went, and you won’t find anyone with a bad word about him. People like Sir Alex and Sir Bobby are once in a lifetime gentleman.

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