A Decade with Oxford Utd, then to Olympic Qualification - Des Buckingham

'The saying of ‘knowledge is power’ is only true if the application of that knowledge can be transferred effectively to the people you work with. People don’t care about what you know, until they know you care....'

Name, age, where are you based?

Des Buckingham, 35yrs old, Auckland – New Zealand

Current Role:

Men’s U23 Head Coach for New Zealand Football


Pro Licence,


FA Academy Managers Licence,

MSc Advanced Performance Football Coaching

How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?

I started coaching in Oxford United’s Academy at the age of 18 which turned into a wonderful eleven-year period working at every age group, transitioning into the Head of Coaching role and then 1st Team Coach.

A move to New Zealand followed and I took on the role of Assistant Coach in the Australian A-League with the Wellington Phoenix. This progressed into the Head Coach position after three years at the club, at 31yrs old becoming the Leagues youngest ever Manager.

A move to the then Premier League side Stoke City to work with their U23’s followed for a season before, being offered the opportunity to return to New Zealand, this time with the National Organization. I accepted the role as New Zealand Football Men’s U20 Head Coach and Assistant Coach to the Men’s Senior Team (All Whites).

Post FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland 2019, I accepted the role as U23 Head Coach with a view to continue the playing style and culture we had built into a Pacific Games and Olympic qualifying campaign.

Any Major achievements?

· Qualification to Tokyo 2020 Olympics as Head Coach

· Highest place finish at a FIFA U20 World Cup, reaching the round of 16 in Poland 2019 as Head Coach

· Gold Medal at the Pacific Games as Head Coach of New Zealand

· Oceania Football Confederation U19 Champions as Head Coach of New Zealand

· Oceania Football Confederation U23 Champions as Head Coach of New Zealand

· Coaching and helping the transition of 24 players from Youth into First Team Senior Professional Football Contracts at Oxford United Football Club

· Youngest Head Coach in the Australian Hyundai A-League professional league

· Coach Educator for UEFA, Asia and Oceania Confederations at ‘A’ and ‘B’ licence level

How valuable was your 10+ years with Oxford Utd and what main experiences from the various roles there, have helped you in later roles?

Oxford United allowed me the opportunity to work with some excellent Players and Staff over a sustained period of time and grow on and off the field. Working across every age group during my time gave me the chance to be continually challenged in a hugely supportive environment. This helped me to gain great experiences and develop my own coaching beliefs and values which would become important in the later roles.

It helped hugely in the past two and half years to create and develop a playing style and culture for the New Zealand U20 & U23 teams and has been one of the proudest moments of my coaching career.

The team now has a clear identity and players are able to express themselves in a framework that is able to constantly out possess, out pass, out shoot and out score opponents and has led to several historical and memorable moments over 23 games.

What was it like competing in the A-League as Wellington Phoenix’s Head Coach and how was the transition from previous 1st Team Coach roles, to being the Manager?

To be entrusted to lead New Zealand’s only professional club into the A-League was a huge privilege. I was fortunate, the previous Manager, Ernie Merrick, had exposed me to a lot of the workings of a Head Coach on a daily basis in the previous two seasons, working as the Assistant. I had been fortunate to spend my final years at Oxford United working under Chris Wilder and had been able to gain so much value from these Managers’ that helped the transition.

Coaching can be similar to players wanting to play – you work hard and wait for somebody to give you the right opportunity.

What main advice would you suggest to coaches, who are looking to make the transition from working with youth teams, to moving into senior football?

I think everyone has to find their own path. When I started out coaching, I wanted to be a Senior Coach, as that was where the full-time jobs were.