Danielle Every is The FA’s Associate Director of Football Operations. In part one of a two-part interview, she explains more about her role as well as her vision for St. George’s Park and its role in developing better coaches.
Q: Can you explain what your role as Associate Director of Football Operations entails?
DE: The Football Development department within The FA contains around 180-200 staff, so I see my role as fulfilling chief executive type functions for the department.
It is not a technical role and so I take a lead in things like recruitment, strategy, planning, budget, finance, operations and the delivery of The FA business plan strategic targets. If I can help with all of this then our coaches get more time coaching, which is what they prefer.
I also help represent The FA with our stakeholders - the Premier League, the Football League, the League Managers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association on things like policy issues that need discussion.
So essentially I try and bring together all the different parts working across Football Development and FA Learning from teams to coach education to scouting to grassroots issues, and I try to get things delivered by maximising our staff and financial resources.
At the same time I have to make sure whatever we are delivering we have listened to the feedback we are getting from stakeholders and that everything is collaborative.
Another element is communication internally within the division because it has got so many home-based staff and we have just moved homes to St George’s Park. So I work very much to support Sir Trevor Brooking in making sure key messages are cascaded down.
Q: What are those key messages?
DE: The FA is working in collaboration with the Football League and the Premier League on the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) at present, which is the plan to modernise the Academies and raise standards.
It is really important that our staff are informed and understand what the academies are going through, where we are in the process and how they help to support the process on the coaching side.
That’s the sort of thing where I will make sure the information is shared, and where the leagues and clubs ask for our expertise I will make sure the right person is there to feed it in.
That may be a medical matter, psychology matter, a request to help to shape the talent ID courses or the work to collectively develop the Advanced Youth Award, but I will make sure those conversations happen.
Q: The FA announced recently the appointment of Dan Ashworth as Director of Elite Development. Can you explain a bit more about how he will fit in?
DE: Dan has got a really fundamental role to play at St. George’s Park, where he will be based.
He will work with Sir Trevor Brooking in a leadership role on elements such as coach education, the evolving women’s game, FA Performance and Medical services, and of course linking up with Roy Hodgson on the international teams and our England DNA.
At present I am helping pave the way for when he joins us. That means helping to set up proposed structures and finalising strategic documents to make sure we are well placed when Dan joins us and that we can be as efficient as possible, internally, in our delivery.
When Dan comes in he can look at things and make any adjustments that he wants to make to drive the team forward.
Q: St. George’s Park hosted the annual Licensed Coaches’ Club Conference last week. How successful was that?
DE: The Licensed Coaches’ Club conference captured what St. George’s Park should be about because you had like-minded people in the same place chatting and exchanging ideas.
We had some from the grassroots game and some from the elite game and they joined together at a conference with loads of great content.
Then they had the sports facilities, the indoor and the practical sessions that you could walk to seamlessly.
I genuinely think coaches felt they belonged. Those four days, with all the different conversations, the different sports, the different levels of coaches talking together and the input we had on the conference programme, really captured what this place is about.
Q: The first six months at St. George’s Park have been hugely successful, but what do you think the next six months holds?
DE: We are already seeing the benefits of St. George’s Park because we are seeing coaches using it virtually every day and the buzz and exchange of ideas is already apparent.
The things that will be discussed in the next six months, which Dan and Sir Trevor will lead, will be how we affect the coaching culture, elevating coaching as a profession and creating a workforce of youth coach specialists with a new FA Coaching Strategy.
Also what is the England DNA? What is the England playing style? What does it mean to play for England? What types of players are England looking for?
They are all conversations that have been had to a degree, but for the first time there is a real opportunity to get everyone in the game, both female and male coming together and exchanging those ideas and getting them down on paper.
It will be very much in the same way as clubs have been defining their own vision and their philosophy for the EPPP. We are going to put ourselves in through the same sort of process.
Q: So if it is about getting the answers to those questions on paper, how can St. George’s Park play its part?
DE: St. George’s Park itself is a wonderful facility – it is bespoke for FA learning programmes, it is bespoke for FA teams – we couldn’t ask for any more.
But I think it represents far more than being a facility. It is a statement that coach education and young player development is right back at the top of The Football Association’s agenda.
To be honest I can’t remember it being as prominent in The FA’s strategy as it is today.
So, why do you need St. George’s Park? Well, what we were doing, the content was okay, but there was never that strong, cultural focus on coaching and coach education or a central hub or campus.
We have all of the component parts at St. George’s Park now and the next challenge and the next chapter is about how our message is cascading down and working incredibly hard to improve what we do, what we teach and how we deliver it.
St. George’s Park must help get the messages out – not just at the elite end of the game but we have to make sure that everyone working in grassroots has some connection to the centre.
If we can’t get those messages out and maximise this opportunity then it is has kind of failed.
The second part of our interview with Danielle Every will be published on Friday 21 December.