We caught up with Brighouse Town academy coach Simon Ward to discuss his coaching philosophy, how he got into coaching and how he takes inspiration from punk music to plan his coaching sessions.
Q: What experience do you have as a coach?
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 made you want to be a coach when you first started out?
A: I think at University it was just so I could have a group of lads that I could manage and get together with and a bit more of a social aspect to be honest. When I started taking it seriously, it was to give lads an opportunity that I didn’t have when I was younger because the set ups weren’t as good I don’t think and there are a lot more opportunities now, like the NPLFA for example.
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: How would you describe your style of coaching?
A: I wouldn’t say I have a style that fits into your generic coaching methodology. I’d say passionate and hardworking but I’d also say I have a balanced style because It’s totally different with different players. I treat some players very differently because If I shouted at them for example if they weren’t working hard then it wouldn’t work for certain plyers as well as it does for other players so, I think you’ve got to do that particularly with young lads. Some of them you’ve got to be their mate where some of them you’ve got to be their boss and do it that way so it’s just a varied coaching style.
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 does the NPLFA help the students involved in the programme?
A: I think education wise there is a lot of opportunities and they’re always pushing it and its bigger than the football in some respects. A lot of the lads come for the football aspect but if you don’t do your work then you won’t be doing the football. In regards to the first team, I’m not sure on the whole NPLFA but from my point of view, because I’ve had insight into the first team for the last two to three years, I can bring some of those aspects into coaching so I might do a bit more running than other coaches do because when they go up to a first team session, that’s what they would be looking at, doing more intense running than more of the ball work that we’d do with 16 year olds so it’s just preparing them for that mind. I’m very honest with them because if they go up and make a mistake in the first team they might get shouted at where as a lot of 16 year olds don’t so it could be a shock to them. So I’m honest with them about their performance, it gets them ready and at Brighouse we have had two joint sessions with the first team already and a lot of integration going on to allow my players to see the tempo and the standard of it.
Q: Who do you think are the best three current managers in the world are?
A: First off I’d go Zidane, for what he’s done at Real Madrid particularly the first time around. He is one of my favourite ever players as well so I was so pleased to see him and Ronaldo tearing it up at European level for a good few years. Sean Dyche, which might be a surprise to some people but I think what he’s done with those players and that team, you couldn’t argue half of them being in championship teams and year on year he’s produced results with them and he’s not getting the best out of them, he’s getting over and above I think. Finally, I can’t look past Guardiola and what he’s done for football because now even Sunday league teams are playing out from the back and trying to get on the half turn and playing number fours and stuff like that on terrible pitches and I think that’s come largely from him coming to England and winning. I always thought that the better teams and the teams that would win it would be like Leicester’s team that was very direct and counter attacking and strong at the back, a bit like Liverpool’s team this year. He did it by just keeping the ball, dominating possession which I don’t think anyone has done really, some would argue the Arsenal undefeated team but they still had the Viera’s and Sol Campbell and Keown players like that, big physical guys in the team. Guardiola did it with one, which was Kompany at the back.
Q: If you had to liken yourself to a premier league manager who would It be?
A: I’m going to pick one of my favourite ever players which is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because I just think growing being a United fan, watching the way I tried to get my teams playing a bit like that but I like that way, I like the counter attacking way, lots of width, crosses in the box and I think he’s a bit weird as well which I hope I’m allowed to say. In the interviews he’s just himself, he doesn’t put an act on like Jose did, or how maybe Klopp does but he makes little weird jokes and you can see he thinks ‘Why’ve I just said that’ and just carries on, I like that about him, there is nothing pretend about him and that is probably similar with me.