'From that Friday where the next opponent stuff is finished, the next day usually is a matchday where we get the events tagged live and into the dressing room to use at Half Time...'
Name, age, where are you based?
Stevie Grieve, 33 years old, Dundee, Scotland
Current and past Roles:
Currently: Head of Analysis at Dundee United FC in the Scottish Premiership
Head of Coaching, Burlington Soccer Club, Canada
Technical Director & Head Coach, Garhwal FC, Indian I-League 2
Head Coach, Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, India
Head Coach, FC Gland, Swiss ACVF
Assistant Coach, Dundee FC u17
UEFA ‘A’ Licence
Canada Soccer ‘A’ Licence
Scottish FA Advanced Children’s Licence
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
I started at 16, in the local community centre. It went from there into creating a grassroots team for a few years then a job in USA, before coming back to my first job in Academy football with Dundee u17s. From there I moved to Switzerland, India, Canada then back home to Scotland.
Any Major achievements?
Being part of the staff helping to win the Scottish Championship and get Dundee United back to the premiership is a good achievement. That was a long season where any mistakes would be magnified or not winning would be viewed as a catastrophe, so everything the staff and players did together resulted in making sure we were consistent enough to be in a strong position to win the league. We were quite far ahead pre-Covid.
Now back home in Scotland after your roles in India and Canada, how have you settled back in and was there any ‘getting up to speed’ in your latest role with Dundee Utd?
Not really, I arrived home on the Tuesday morning then was in at work on the Wednesday! We had cup games, so it was Tuesday – Friday for a couple of weeks then the league started so it was a situation where I needed to hit the ground running.
It took a few weeks to get some processes in place and get to grips with a new role, new staff, new expectations and that sort of thing but the staff were very helpful from day 1.
The most difficult part was moving back home and living in a borrowed home with a new baby and a dog until we could find a place to stay, with no car or any of the stuff needed to just get back into life quickly.
The work-related stuff almost takes care of itself as you know what you are doing and what to focus on ahead of time, but the home-life things are the more worrying and time consuming while also being the most important.
My wife deserves a medal for what she has to go through being married to me!
What’s a quick overview of a typical week in your role, any challenges?
I’ll give a run through of a normal 2 week cycle.
I’ll study the opponent and cut clips of them in all phases of play, make some diagrams and annotations to show clearly where we should be and how to put it together.
Then I’ll outline a prospective game plan and how we can approach the game to win.
That’s an ongoing process and changes with injuries, suspensions and how we see both our team and their team evolving before matchday.
The opposition report and prospective game plan will be submitted 9-10 days before we play that team, usually on a Friday with the opposition player reports and videos for the players to study pre-match delivered on a Thursday.
From that Friday where the next opponent stuff is finished, the next day usually is a matchday where we get the events tagged live and into the dressing room to use at Half Time. I’ll mark on the board what subs and tactical changes they may be expected to make, for example predicting Celtic going from 433 to 352 and bringing on Ajeti.
After the matchday, the key events, player and team clips are put onto hudl.
Obviously Tuesday-Friday we have training and team meetings so all the associated work around that is done on an ongoing basis with the manager and his staff up to matchday
The weekly cycle starts again to prepare ahead of time.
Other tasks are
Team analysis – tactical observations and suggestions
Player analysis – us and the opponents players and suggestions
Data analysis – what can we find out about all of the other players and teams and
Recruitment – Using data to create a long-list for what we need and who to monitor and contact to find out more information on. We watch the players and use your judge of talent to assess if they are suitable. This list of filtered and suitable players then goes to the HOS and SD before they assess if it needs to go to the manager or not.
We recently hired an assistant 1st team analyst who takes care of the filming of sessions every day, getting it online, doing the post-match player clips and helping prepare team meetings.
We also invested in Spiideo to go into the stadium for AI filming, so we can dedicate more time to getting everything to as high a quality as possible in as little time as needed.
We also have a couple of PT data analysts who help with insight related tasks.
It’s a job which has a flexible structure – the manager and his staff may need something at short-notice so you need to make time for that as essentially the job of the analysis department is to help the manager have the best information possible.
What are you finding particularly enjoyable and have your previous experiences abroad proven to be useful?
I enjoy the moment where I understand enough about the opponent that I know exactly how to beat them, which information is important and what the team should be to use the weapons we have to win.
That leads to me putting the game plan information together to suggest how we can organize ourselves, to send to the manager and his staff to design training and what the meetings will look like and what the narrative will be.
Of course, the staff can choose to use my input or not – it’s up to the manager to make decisions based on what he feels is best to get a positive performance and result each matchday.
As always, it is important to mention that the analysis dept is an information source to assist the staff and not a decision-making position.
There needs to be a clear distinction between the two.
I would say that since I started becoming involved in recruitment last October, that I find I enjoy that quite a lot. Unfortunately due to Covid the whole planning side for everyone has been adjusted a lot so it’s unlikely most of the work put in this year will be seen in 2020 but it’s been a good learning curve to get things in place for 2021.
When we enter 2021 we will have a better understanding of what the world will look like and be able to plan with more understanding of where the world is and how we can best use our resources to plan ahead and be active in the market in 2021.
What value would you say working abroad can give a coach and any advice for coaches looking to head overseas?
For me, one of the biggest things you learn moving out of a western mentality is having a different perspective in life, understanding the viewpoint and the reasons why people think and act in another way. You may not agree or understand but culture is complex and you’re not going to change the people so you need to learn to understand and adapt to them.
Being a coach in USA or Canada gives you some understanding of youth football and economics involved in that, but its more or less a new version of what you already do.
Going to India was a life changing experience because I feel like I understand what ‘having nothing’ is and why the ‘best way’ to work is a total fallacy.
There is no best way - what is the most effective way in your unique circumstances?
People who have worked and lived in many different cultures, lived and coached in Africa, then been to Europe or coached in East Asia before moving back to Britain will be a far more diverse skillset and viewpoint with contextual understanding than someone who has only, and will only coach on these islands or in North America.
Sometimes the things you learn at ‘a lower level’ will be more valuable than things you do at the top level. Adaptability, Empathy, Integrity, Organisation and Understanding are all valid no matter where you go.
How you approach each of these in Scotland, Switzerland, India or Canada will be slightly different in each place for different circumstances.
For me, to not understand something can mean to not have done enough research or have a lack of experience in certain situations outside your comfort zone.
What’s been best for your career development so far and what do you do to keep upskilled?
Going to India made me realize that you need to think and act different to what you did before to reach your objectives. I also watched at least 2-3 games per day while I was there and maybe 6 on a Sunday, so my analytical skills and how I used that in coach education and subsequently session design and coaching information developed massively just from using analysis as an educational tool to be more objective and evidence based as a coach.
Maybe working in Switzerland with men of all ages and coaching in French was a bigger learning experience because I had to really concentrate on my coaching language and helped create a framework for positioning based on having limited communication skills in the initial few months when I became the Head Coach.
To keep upskilled, I spend a lot of time reading about data analytics, learning R and talking with our players about things they see and feel when they play, how they interpret what is said to them and how it impacts their performances etc.
Having access to talking to professional players is a massively understated resource. If you want to work with them, you need to understand them. You do that by talking with them and listening to what they have to say. They’re all human!
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced and how were you able to overcome them?
Moving country with a family was the biggest challenge. You have to balance your work and staying at the highest level of detail, quality and insight while being able to switch off and spend time with the wife, dog and my little boy.
When you combine that with doing important work in your first pro club in Scotland, it’s a big pressure as you are expected to be able to help the manager and his staff, expected to do all the things the players need from you and get all your own tasks done before going home and switching off and having a normal family life while knowing you have 2-3 hours more work to do after the wife and baby are in bed.
Doing the actual job isn’t a big challenge as I have the skills to do it, it’s the switching off and focusing on family time after you get home.
There are no days off in professional football so it’s a constant struggle with a work-home life balance.
How’s the future looking for Dundee Utd and yourself?
It’s all very positive, the club has been remarkably strong during coronavirus. I think we were the only club who didn’t make redundancies or cut wages, so the owner and executive staff should be commended for navigating that period without being forced into those decisions which would have put many people in financial trouble.
In terms of my long-term plans, I have spoken to the SD and made it clear I’d like to stay beyond next summer so I’m hoping to have that sorted out soon.
I always said before that I’d like to be a Head Coach – that’s still the ambition – but I can see myself in the medium term, in a Head of Recruitment role.
I think it suits what I am good at and mixes in my abilities as an analyst, scout and coach very well to give a good ability to do the role successfully.
For now, I want to focus on helping Dundee United reach as high up the premiership as possible and develop myself as much as I can within my current roles.
If I can do that and keep improving my work, then I feel like I can work at the highest levels in football.