With The FA, The League Managers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association all based at St.George’s Park, the new national football centre is a home for the whole of English Football.
Former Huddersfield Town and Gillingham striker Iffy Onuora is now a Regional Coach for The PFA and outlines how the new centre will help the PFA.
Q: Having recently joined the PFA as a Regional Coach, can you tell us a little bit about what that role entails?
IO: I have a dual role with The PFA. Primarily, I will be a coach educator and that will happen after Christmas as I have one or two more CPD events to complete.
I will then be based in the south west, delivering FA Level 2 courses to scholars from 16-18 years old.
On top of that I have also got responsibility for equality, which as you can imagine has all of a sudden been quite a big thing to deal with.
Q: Can you explain a bit more about your equality role?
IO: The PFA, in terms of the full time staff, cover a range of departments including coaching and financial management, but also equality.
In terms of coaching equality there is the issue of under representation of black managers and coaches, certainly in the higher echelons of the games.
So they are issues we are trying to address. I am not saying that we are just starting because there is a timeline behind it and many of those issues have been in discussion many years previous.
It is now a question of moving things from here.
Q: Can you give us an insight into your day-to-day role?
IO: It is a pretty much a 60-40 split.
My coaching is taking up 60% of my work at the moment and I have been shadowing the rest of the coaching staff at the PFA.
We have 12 members of staff covering the country and I think I have spent at least a couple of days with every one of them.
It has been eye opening and educational for me to watch the guys deliver to the scholars at the clubs. On top of that I will have coaching days at St. Georges Park and maybe a UEFA B course at a professional club involving ex-players.
The other 40% is spent in the London office dealing with issues with equality.
That is obviously a very broad remit. Recently it has centred on some of the issues surrounding the Kick It Out situation with players not wearing the t-shirts and on-going initiatives.
Q: How much of a challenge is it to teach players to become coaches?
IO: Up-skilling the next generation of coaches is a privileged role.
We are trying to give them skills for them to cascade down to the players, so there is huge responsibility involved with it.
There is a time when you get to a certain stage in your life and career where you do start thinking about the generations coming behind and you want to try and affect that legacy.
Q: What is The PFA’s role in coach education?
IO: Basically the PFA alongside other stakeholders, such as county FA’s, deliver FA Level 2 and 3 [UEFA B] coaching badges and coaching certificates to ex-professional footballers.
So a lot of players particularly come to us when they want to start their coaching careers.
Q: What is the benefit for ex-professionals of doing their qualifications through the PFA?
IO: I just think that the knowledge that comes from being an ex-player is important.
If you have played the game at the highest level, with regards to international players and those that reach the very top, then you are talking about players with a momentous amount of knowledge having been in football all their lives.
The challenge then is getting that knowledge out of them in a practical way and giving them the tools to transfer that knowledge to others.
Q: How do ex-professionals cope with the challenge of changing their way of thinking from a player’s perspective to a coaching one?
IO: That is probably the biggest challenge for players. You get to such a high level as a professional where you train every day and everything you do is unconscious – hitting the ball, striking the ball, your movement, passing, heading, shooting; it all becomes second nature.
The difficulty is breaking it down and asking them to describe what they do because they just do it.
Some of the classroom stuff is a challenge as well. You are talking about guys who have perhaps not been in a classroom environment for a few years.
Q: What are your thoughts on St. George’s Park as an environment for coach education?
IO: I like the idea of it being a seat of learning and that it can be a football university with a crossover of academic and business as well as pure football ideas.
I suppose with my academic background it chimes with how I see football and how it can benefit the national game as a whole.
We are very much in the early stages of its development and use, but once it becomes embedded in the consciousness of football then I think it can only go from strength to strength.
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.