St. George’s Park boasts some of the most advanced football facilities in the country. Their effectiveness, though, remains dependent on the team of experts employed at the £105 million centre.
St. George’s Park is home to The FA’s research team who are responsible for analysing and developing The FA’s coaching strategy to ultimately improve the calibre of English coaches.
Wayne Allison, former Sheffield United and Chesterfield centre forward was appointed The FA’s Research Manager for Coaching earlier in 2012. Here the PHD and Pro-Licence holder talks about his role at St. George’s Park.
Q: As FA Research Manager for Coaching here at St. George’s Park, can you explain a little about what your role entails?
WA: It’s varied and I think that’s what I like about it. My role includes investigation and research into The FA coaching strategy which looks at developing a world-class coaching system. We’re looking at how to improve it and make it better. If we have better coaches, then hopefully we have better players.
Q: How will the £100m centre benefit football research?
WA: With all The FA Research staff and coaches in one central location it is a lot easier to share ideas. It means we can use the research we are conducting to effectively provide feedback to coaches across the game and also improve our coaching courses in line with the findings.
Q: What specific projects have you been working on since starting at St George’s Park?
WA: At the moment we’re looking at the different CPD [Continued Professional Development] opportunities we provide for coaches. We’re also looking at all our coaching courses to see how effective they are and gathering the opinions and views of the candidates on the courses. It’s all about finding out information that can improve the quality of our courses.
Q: Your list of qualifications is significant [UEFA Pro-Licence, UEFA A and B Licence, PHD in Sports Science]. You could have followed a career in coaching, management, sports science or academia, how did this role come about?
WA: I wanted to be employable, that was where the academic qualifications came into play and I studied for my PHD whilst I was still playing as well as doing my coaching badges. I wanted to ensure that when I finished playing I could have a pathway into academia, sports science or coaching. The research job is an amalgamation of the experiences I have collected.
Q: What was it like trying to complete your studies whilst you were still playing?
WA: It’s one of my biggest achievements. It was an escape [after training] and it challenged me to develop a different mind-set and to use different skills. It allowed me to compartmentalise things: focusing on football when I was there and then academia afterwards.
Q: You played for a number of different managers in your 22 year career? Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
WA: Neil Warnock [manager at Sheffield United] was excellent. He was great at creating an atmosphere and an environment that everybody wanted to play in. Everyone always says players want to play for Neil Warnock and it’s no fluke: it’s a skill and an art that he’s perfected. He could make you feel a million dollars even when he was dropping you.
Q: Aged 35 you signed for Chesterfield in 2004, going on to play well into your late thirties, what was the secret of your longevity?
WA: It was how I was managed. Roy McFarland [Chesterfield manager from 2003 to 2007] was brilliant with me. He gave me responsibility. He knew if I wanted to carry on playing then I would have to look after myself in the correct manner and I responded to that. We had a good working relationship and I would ensure I was ready and fit for the weekend, if selected.
Q: Before moving to Saltergate you enjoyed a successful spell at Sheffield United, playing in a number of cup runs. How did the move to the Spireites come about?
WA: I had another year left on my contract at Sheffield United and I got a call from Roy [McFarland] and he said: “Do you want to spend your time on the bench at Sheffield United or do you want to come and help some of our younger players come through and also play”. I thought it sounded like a great opportunity. So my role at Chesterfield entailed passing on my knowledge to the younger players as well as trying to score a few goals.
Visit TheFA.com each Friday for an insight into the personnel working behind the scenes at St. George’s Park, The FA’s national football centre.