Another British football coach in Australia and another title victory. With a well rounded educational background from the ‘elite’ Loughborough University, Graham Harvey has also coached the University team. With an earlier stint coaching in Australia with Brisbane Strikers in 2012, Graham then had a spell at Rotherham Utd’s Academy before heading back to Oz and taking the reins at Western Pride F.C.
Name: Graham Harvey
Club: Western Pride F.C
Competition: National Premier League (NPL) Queensland
Role: Head Coach
AFC 'A' License FFA/AFC Instructor MSc Sports Coaching BSc Sports Studies GRAD Dip Education
What’s been happening over there?
We’ve just been crowned Champions after beating Moreton Bay United 2-1 in the Grand Final. The 2017 title is the first silverware ever for the club (we are only five years old). Our squad is made up of young Australian players, with one English player. I have total faith in young players with ability and this is shown by our squad’s average age of 20 years old. Our oldest player is 24!
The best thing for my development right now, is having a board that trust the vision of playing home grown Australian players. Most importantly, they have given me time to develop these players. Since taking over the role two and half years ago, we have climbed away from near the bottom of the league, and ended up winning the final. What was most pleasing for myself and the club was, it has been with most of the same squad who have been given the opportunity to learn about senior football. It’s been a challenging time losing games through silly, naive mistakes but this was all part of the learning journey. It’s certainly helped them develop as players and seeing these changes in the last two and a half years, I’ve been rewarded with a profound sense of job satisfaction and achievement.
In addition, Six players have been re-integrate back into professional football, as a result of our program and this gives me the most satisfaction.
What’s it like over there?
The heat and humidity of a Queensland summer is incredible, trying to condition players is a challenge and certainly has an impact of your style of play. We also have extensive travel commitments (more so than any other state in Australia). We fly to away games, although this has reduced over the years. The good thing is, it gives me great experience which I wouldn’t be exposed to in the UK.
In the league we have restrictions around foreign players as well as a ‘points cap’ that clubs must not exceed. This helps to ensure that there is a competitive fixture most weeks, with only the odd team occasionally being well off the mark.
When I took over, the expectations were just to be competitive and construct a program / vision to try and establish the club within the Queensland football scene. The club had only been in existence for two and a half years so it’s been a proud moment seeing the club on a whole, surpass expectations.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development?
One of the most challenging aspects of the role, has been trying to convince the wider football community to show faith in our younger players. We want to show that our philosophy will pay off and we don’t need to buy our way out of trouble, or sprinkle the team with experience (as this is very subjective). Watching the program grow has been satisfying. We have more young players coming through our system, as well as young players within Queensland now actively seeking to play for us.
What things have been a hardship or testing?
When I arrived at the club the U18/20s were a mess. While attempting to establish the club’s youth development policy, these two age groups were pulled apart as the best players were drafted into the first team squad. The difficulty here was then retaining a competitive group in these ages to build a foundation for the first team to call from. During my time, we have taken these groups from bottom of the league to finishing fifth in the 20’s, and the 18’s also going on to win the league. This capped off a great season for the club, not to mention winning its first ever silverware. Six players from the U20’s have been given first team contracts this season.
Being such a young organisation there are teething problems, funding is always an issue and building a bank of resources has been a priority. Last ‘off season’, we built a gym. This had me begging and borrowing equipment from anywhere and seeking help from anyone willing to build the facility.
What has your career ‘road map’ been thus far, and what other qualifications have you gained?
Previous coaching roles have seen me work in Australia and England, with my first coaching job being Head Coach of the Whitsunday Miners. The time with the Miners in the Queensland State League lasted for two seasons between 2011-2012. I then moved down to join the Brisbane Strikers as Assistant Coach between 2012-2014. During 2014 I returned to the UK where I held positions at Rotherham United’s Academy as U14 coach, and at Notts County as their U13 Coach. My final role in the Uk, was with Loughborough University’s Men’s team, as a coach. The team play in the ‘Midlands Alliance League’ (Step 9 on the English football Pyramid). Finally, I returned to Australia in the middle of 2015 to take up my current role with Western Pride.
I am an AFC ‘A’ holder and an AFC Coach Instructor for courses up to ‘B’ License. I have just completed a ‘Masters in Sports Coaching’ from Loughborough University, where I researched ‘how coaches learn’, by taking a sample from International football coaches. I am a qualified PE teacher with a BSc Sport Studies from Southampton University and a Graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Queensland.
Has anything developed you more, than if you was working in Uk?
If I was in the UK I don’t think I would have got the opportunity to spread my vision at a club. In my first season we went nine games without a win (5 loses and four draws). I’m sure most clubs would have panicked and started to add pressure to drift from the original vision.
From past experiences of coaching in the UK, I don’t think I would have been given the job in the first place. Ex-Players with a ‘name’ still seem to be the coaching preference to fill up roles.
As mentioned before, the extensive traveling for matches throws up different challenges for me, which I wouldn’t come across in the UK.
Development at home and abroad?
I find the UK a strange place to work in football. I believe the jobs that should be paying the most are the academy roles such as U12-16s. These coaches need to be very effective at developing the young players, so they need experience, drive and a passion to make a difference! Unfortunately, these roles are often so poorly remunerated, that they are often filled by kids straight from university who sometimes lack the needed skills or experience. It is a very ‘top down’ approach and I believe clubs need to invest in changing this.
How supportive has your home FA been with you while abroad? Have you had to develop yourself through other countries FA? Or has your development stalled?
The FA in the UK may as well be non-existent to me, they do not recognise my AFC Qualifications and the experiences I have from Australia are seen as irrelevant. I think Australian football is still viewed as second rate in every aspect. When I did work in UK academies, I found the FA Licensed Coaches Club a useful resource however, being overseas it really does not benefit me in anyway.
What do you feel, could help open more opportunities for development in the UK
I think there needs to be more exchange programs and study opportunities worldwide for coaches to learn from each other. I think this would open people’s eyes to what other countries and football associations are doing.
I also think the confederations need to find a way to agree on recognising coaching licenses. I’m not saying all should be treated on an equivalent basis, but certainly some form of acknowledgement of what it takes to obtain an A-license or a Pro Diploma. Regardless of location in the world, it takes extensive time, motivation and demanding work.
Are current pathways suitable to help bridge development gaps between home England and Australia?
There’s still a huge discrepancy between coaching qualifications across the confederations. In turn, this limits the availability of roles across the board.
That said, I also strongly believe this is down to us as an individual! We need to constantly work towards bridging the gaps ourselves.
What Perceptions of British coaches have you come across, if any?
I think here in Australia, there can be a perception that UK coaches are old dinosaurs, arrogant and stuck in the past. I believe this to be inaccurate. If you look across Australia, there are a lot of British coaches playing a modern brand of football. They’ve also educated themselves globally to gather best practice to set them apart from this stereotype. For example; you have Warren Joyce at Melbourne City, Warren Grieve at Manly United in NSW and you have Chris Taylor at South Melbourne. These British coaches are all working at big clubs and doing very well. Drew Sherman is Academy Manager at the Brisbane Roar and he has been doing a fantastic job under challenging circumstances.
I think there is an issue here in Australia that unless you have played for the Socceroos, you can’t do anything to help football in the country. This only strengthens my resolve to continue to be better in every aspect of my career, to continue educating myself and looking for opportunities to learn about my philosophy.
As previously mentioned, I’ve just completed a Masters Degree from Loughborough University, where I researched how international football coaches reached the top of their profession and their learning pathways. I am planning to develop this further and complete a PHd in this area, whilst aiming to secure myself a role within international football.
I’m really excited for the upcoming season at Western Pride as it will be a new chapter in the development of this young squad. Now as champions, it presents new learning opportunities for the playing group and for me as a coach. Another reason to look forward to the future is to continue my journey as an AFC Coach developer. I love this role, as it exposes me to so many different people within the game and keeps your mind constantly active during course delivery.
I am inspired by the belief that if you work hard and are continuously open to learning and challenging yourself, your qualities will shine through. Football is such an opinionated game and a crazy world, which sucks you in and makes you want more. I love the concept of the British Football Coaches Network, as it’s inspiring to see so many people doing well in their roles
Completing my masters research allowed me unique access to the some of the best coaches in the world. I had the opportunity to go to their respective countries, watch training sessions, be in on team meetings and see first-hand, how they control their environment. What surprised me is just how open these individuals were to share their experiences and help me learn and complete my project. This inspired me to keep pursuing my goals and be ambitious within the game. Forge your own path!