Millwall’s Neil Harris and Blackpool’s Gary Bowyer both had cause for celebration in the last month after leading their sides to play-off victory at Wembley – and now the managerial pair can add another achievement to their successful season as graduates from The FA UEFA Pro Licence.
Harris and Bowyer, along with 23 other candidates from the across the game including former England internationals Robbie Fowler and Marianne Spacey, completed the prestigious 18-month long award - the highest attainable football management qualification - with a graduation ceremony at St.George’s Park this week.
The event was attended by many of the country’s leading coaches and alumni from the course.
For Harris, the opportunity to share knowledge and discuss ideas with other coaches and managers has been a highlight of the course.
“The people you meet on the course are key,” explained the Millwall boss.
“Having four days at a time for each learning block where you are with your peers from the profession is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge.
“Over the course of the 18 months I’ve probably spoken to all of the group away from the formal element of the course to pick their brains on players, recruitment, development and different things from leadership to budgets - it has been key.”
Jamie Robinson, The FA's head of professional game coach development and its Pro Licence course director, believes the individual success of the candidates on the course has contributed to the richness of discussion throughout each of the modules
He said: “Each year on the Pro Licence we welcome the very best candidates from across the game – including managers, first-team coaches, technical directors and outstanding individuals from youth development.
“Both the variety of experience and common leadership challenges that the candidates can share from their day-to-day lives at different football clubs is something that we build the course around.
“We’ve had lots of different success stories over the course of the 18 months including Gary, Neil and Michael Emenalo (Chelsea's technical director) but also many others that haven’t finished with silverware,” added Robinson.
The Pro Licence course includes a number of learning modules based at St.George’s Park covering leadership, management, communication and dealing with the media as well as a study visit to an international tournament. Each learning experience is tailored to the needs of the individual and the context in which they work.
“We have developed the group through a number of intense modules to enhance their technical and tactical aspects of the world game,” explained Robinson.
“The course is wrapped around the context of the individuals; the way they need to make sense of their challenges and how they make effective decisions in the highly pressurised world of professional football,” he added.
One area in which all the candidates can celebrate is in the completion of an independent study visit report – a fundamental part of the course programme.
“We asked each candidate to take a genuine ‘issue’ which they faced in their work within the football industry, turn that issue into a question, and go outside of the industry to find some possible answers,” explained Alistair Smith, a learning consultant with The FA.
An Apache helicopter pilot, a prison governor and the watch officer at the London Fire Brigade were some of the innovative sources of knowledge that the candidates researched. Others visited the NBA, NFL and British Army.
“The answers to the challenges posed by the industry don’t always lie within the industry,” explained Smith.
“The process of taking a challenge, turning it into a question, reading around the issue, formulating a line of research, pursuing the research and then writing focused conclusion is something that most of the course participants will not have done before.
“The experience is worthwhile. It models a way for dealing with any challenge.”
The UEFA Pro Licence award is a pre-requisite for all coaches and managers working at the highest level of the game.
Craig Short, Darren Way, Steve Spooner, Benjamin Futcher, Gareth Jennings, Michael Cook, Michael Gilkes, Garry Haylock, Kieran McKenna, Robbie Fowler, Scott Marshall, Stephen Gallen, Ashley Westwood, Kevin Nancekivell, Marcus Stewart, Nicholas Haycock, Gary Bowyer, Marc Canham, Michael Emenalo, Neil Harris, David Livermore, Gary Rowett, Joe Edwards, Marieanne Spacey, Steve Eyre