I was invited to join the first cohort of coaches on the Elite Coach Placement Programme in 2018, while I was working as first-team coach at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Admittedly, I was a little unsure as to what the setup would be like but to get the opportunity to work with Gareth Southgate, Steve Holland and the rest of the senior men’s setup was something I couldn’t turn down.
I felt very privileged to join this environment as a coach and I went into it knowing I needed to observe as much information as possible, while also helping the group in any way I could by sharing my experiences and insight gained as a coach and manager.
Thankfully, Gareth, Steve and I have a very similar outlook when it comes to the principles of the game and our approach to coaching teams and individuals.
The biggest challenge I found was that, if working inside a club, you get to work with the players and other coaches on ideas each day. You start preparing for a match at the weekend at the beginning of the week, with days to get the clarity of message through.
But on the international stage, there’s a finite amount of time to get critical information across and to develop strong harmony across the squad. It’s a challenge that makes you acutely aware that every moment during an international camp counts.
The quality and technical level of the group was as high, as one could expect. The way the players conducted themselves and their ability to take on information in a short amount of time was second-to-none.
Harry Kane was one of many who epitomises that level of elite mentality, where every part of preparation counted. From the warm-up and simple technical drills, to passing and finishing, and the due diligence done on penalty taking after training sessions.
It takes that level of work from everybody - players, the manager, coaches and support staff - to build a strong squad that can challenge with the best. It was brilliant to help contribute to what was a successful period for the team, ultimately finishing third at the 2019 UEFA Nations League Finals.
First and foremost, I felt the programme built my own confidence and credibility. There’s a lot of talent within the coaching pipeline and visibility and credibility are hugely important, and this was a crucial step in my development journey.
Unlike many other coaches, I’m not somebody that has played hundreds of matches as a player at the top level, but I’ve worked with the very best, and this helped reaffirm that.
Programmes such as this, led by the FA and PFA, are importantly helping to put diverse coaches on the bench. We know that unconscious bias can be woven into all industries, and football isn’t exempt from that, so challenging ideas and ensuring roles off the pitch better reflect what we see on the pitch can only lead to positive outcomes.
What’s important is tackling inequality at all levels across the game, from the makeup of coaching setups to those in more senior positions. Ultimately, to positively affect the game in the long-term, we need to see greater diversity in those within decision-making roles, and I hope that is something we start to see more of as we move forward.
My advice for anybody reading this who may wish to apply for the Elite Coach Placement Programme is to absolutely go for it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with our international teams and it’s an opportunity to gain exposure to different high-performance environments.
It’s most important that people recognise that coaching is a journey and to not give up. Keep persevering, working hard and grab any opportunities that you see or hear of with both hands.