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Training football’s off-the-pitch stars


ANTHONY FERGUSON is the FA County Coach Developer responsible for leading coach development and education delivery in London.

Having had the opportunity to work with professional and grassroots players and coaches, his enthusiasm and passion is contagious and this comes across as he is always happy to share his experiences.

As a quali ed teacher, lecturer, and A Licence diploma and Youth Award holder, Anthony has been instrumental in the change in the coach education landscape across the capital, supporting over 1,000 coaches in the last three years.

A member of the Chartered Management Institute and the Professional Football Coaches Association, he leads the London Football Coaches Academy and provides support to the Female Coaches Network.

Anthony is one of the most respected men in the game. For his commitment and hard work, he has been recognised with various awards, including one from the prestigious Football Black List.

He treats everyone like somebody and supports people to reach the peak of their potential at the right time. On September 28, he hosts the London Football Coaches Conference 2018.

The event is intended to inspire, educate and empower those in attendance. Guest speakers on the day will include Michael Johnson, head coach of Guyana’s national men’s senior team, and former Premier League player Linvoy Primus.

This week he talks to The Voice's Rodney Hinds about his early days, coaching role and ethics...

RH: When did your love of football begin?

AF: It was 1975, when West Ham won the FA Cup. The next day I went down to the Boleyn and it was just a different atmosphere to what you normally had in Forest Gate at the time. And at the time I wanted to play like Trevor Brooking.

He had the ability to bring the ball down and control it or pass it in one touch and then move the ball and do a ick or trick, which was inspiring. The next year, Manchester United won the cup. I liked Gordon Hill and Steve Coppell, they seemed to just play the game with a freedom that no one else did at the time and that, along with my mum and dad’s belief, inspired me to go from playing on the streets to what I do now.

RH: Becoming an FA County Coach Developer must have had its challenges. How proud are you of that achievement?

AF: I can’t lie, it was tough going through the early qualifications. Most of the time, I was the only black person on the course. It didn’t put me off, but it did de nitely spur me on and ignited my passion.

Whilst there have been vast improvements and we have a more diverse tutor workforce, there are still times when I feel isolated. Having a great network really helps and reminds me of the bigger picture and my personal ‘why’ I do things in the manner I do.

COACH: Anthony with England striker Harry Kane

RH: You’ve turned it into a positive.

AF: I realised that I wanted to be better and had to be to even get an interview for roles. When I went for my UEFA B Licence – and I failed it four times – that was pivotal, especially in how I was treated, which as I recall wasn’t great. In wanting to improve, I travelled the country and abroad, seeking a deeper understanding of the game from a number of coaches and perspectives. I also really wanted to ensure that future coaches would have a more positive experience on courses. That is now part of my mantra.

Went I went through my UEFA A Licence, the rst year was a real eye-opener in terms of segregation. Again, as a group, we formed relationships from that course which meant that we could help each other. My mentors were instrumental in my motivation and success on a gruelling yet fantastic learning journey.

RH: What does that role actually entail?

AF: First and foremost, it is about supporting people. Generally, it’s about people working at grassroots level who are going through their quali cations, from just starting out on their coaching journey to UEFA B.

This means our introduction to coaching has to be a solid platform on which to build. I would like to think, especially in London, where we have such a diverse community, that our approach to how we deliver is exible and also adaptable to meet the needs of the people we work with.

So something I am extremely proud of when I talk about our approach as tutors in London is that we don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach and we act and treat people with fairness and integrity.

Across the country, our job is to work primarily with the local county FA within which we work so the role itself is about building relationships with the county, local clubs, coaches, players and parents to create a holistic approach to their own development.

I have set up our academy, which gives further opportunities to specially selected coaches willing to develop themselves. The effect of this cannot be underestimated. I also support colleagues in neighbouring counties.

RH: Do black coaches in the professional game make any impact on your own work?

AF: Definitely. They show what can be achieved. For me, knowing the likes of Chris Hughton, Darren Moore, Hope and Chris Powell and others, personally inspires me to help others to live their dreams. It’s not easy or fair at times. I can also refer to other coaches, including England manager Gareth Southgate, who I think is a genuine person.

They are just a few who must be celebrated for the way they go about their business. Equally there are a number of others who should not be forgotten because they are under the ra- dar or behind the scenes.

All of this has an impact on what I do because we are always being judged – not just how we coach, but also how we interact with others. This hopefully has a domino effect on those we work with.

The coaches I mentioned have time for people and live the values that they want others to exhibit. Whilst it is not utopia, change is happening, doors are being held open and this must be recognised.

RH: Tell me a little bit about your philosophy?

AF: My aim is to live the behaviours that I would like others to exhibit. I try to instil values which support and develop technical excellence, innovative coaches and players with exceptional decision- making and application skills both on and off the pitch.

This sparks ‘fire’ in me, knowing that we are supporting this and shaping future generations. Robots are only going to create more robots. deeply understand their players and can bring the game to real life.

Recognising constraints for many coaches, this approach encourages and allows players to learn by seeing, doing and feeling success and learning from failure. Supporting all of this, for me, is phenomenal in developing the ‘person’. A critical thing for me in terms of learning goes back to the old saying: ‘People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.’

RH: Professionally you sound as if you are where you want to be. Is that so?

AF: I am in the right place, right now. I have been in football for as long as I can remember and have been coaching now for over 25 years at various levels in the UK and abroad. I always knew that this was my true vocation, even when I held a variety of senior management roles.

Football is a way I can support others both on and off the pitch, whilst I express and con- tinue to develop myself. It’s also been amazing to be recognised by my peers, colleagues and also the wider football community, especially like the Black List and things like this interview, which I really honestly appreciate.

I do it not for the money but because of the benefit I see and the fulfilment I get which makes me almost like a proud dad when I see coaches transforming, developing and being creative for “our” future players. It’s a humbling experience. The upcoming coaches conference is aimed at people who want and need more opportunities for support and meet like-minded people. I wanted to turn the idea into a reality at an affordable cost.

While this may be the first of many, the interest has been overwhelming and I am really looking forward to see how the whole thing develops in future years.

For further information on the London Football Coaches Conference, visit londonfa. com or follow @B19ALF and #LCC2018 on Twitter.

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