Blackburn, Bolton, Jordan, China & Sam Allardyce - Iain Brunskill

'Part of the reason for the signing of Diouf he explained to me, was that statistically he was one of the most fouled players in the Premier League. Sam played Diouf on the left of a front three and he was often the outlet for long switches of play'....

Name, age, where are you based?

Iain Brunskill, aged 43, currently based at home in UK but will back in Beijing, China soon.

Current Role:

National Coach Technical Department Chinese FA





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

I started coaching full time in 1997 at the age of 21 after a short professional playing career with Liverpool and Bury. I was still playing semi pro which only required a couple of nights training and a match on a Saturday and was lucky enough to bump into Steve Heighway, who had been my youth team coach at Liverpool and he explained that the Academy was opening and asked if I would I be interested in a role as a Community Coach.

The job involved coaching in the local schools and grassroots clubs during the daytime and weekends, as well as being an age group coach in the Academy three nights a week and a match on a Sunday. I was part of a group of five coaches all who had been ex Liverpool Youth team or Reserve team players and who all had an affinity to the club. Karl Robinson, the now Oxford Utd Manager was also part of this group and he has gone on to have a fantastic Managerial Career reaching over 500 games recently.

It was a perfect situation to be able to develop as a young coach and I was lucky to have good senior people around me to give pointers here and there. I say to a lot of younger coaches now that it is vitally important to get the practical coaching hours in. Planning, learning to organize, adapting to different circumstances and most importantly learning to communicate with the players no matter what the age. I was very lucky to have worked at Liverpool FC Academy for 11 years in various roles across all age groups U6-U19 and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

In 2008 I joined Blackburn Rovers as Reserve Coach in 2008 when Paul Ince was appointed Manager, and remained in the position under Sam Allardyce before being appointed First Team Coach in 2010. Although my role took a big change with the pressures involved with being at the senior end of the game, this was a brilliant period for my own development as I had the opportunity to work with a whole host of different staff over a four -year period.

Among them, Paul Ince, Archie Knox, Sam Allardyce, Neil McDonald, Bobby Mimms, Steve Kean, Eric Black, John Jensen, Paul Clement. All very different in personalities and style but approachable and always open to discussion.

Photo Credit: The Bolton News

In 2012 I took the opportunity on a short term contract with Floriana FC in the Maltese Premier League, which was my first experience of both being a Head Coach at Senior Level and of working overseas. Being alone and working away from the family for the first time was obviously difficult, but I found it I was able to fully focus on the immersing myself in the club on and off the field role and I thoroughly enjoyed my brief but successful time in Malta.

I then took a different direction as I accepted a role to work for the English FA as a Youth Coach Educator. This was an 18 month period I really used to re-educate myself, as I had been out of the Academy Youth Development system for a number of years and the changes due to the EPPP had resulted in a much more detailed focus, placed on Youth Coaching including planning, evaluating and reviewing. It was also the beginning of the establishment of the England DNA making it a very interesting time.

Working within the FA, I was fortunate enough to work with Neil Dewsnip and the U18 National Team with the likes of Deli Ali, Demari Gray, Dominic Solanke and Harry Winks. After this, I then left the FA to take the role of U21 Coach at Bolton Wanderers, as Neil Lennon and I had completed our Pro Licence together and had kept in contact up until he was hired there.

Photo Credit:

Although this was a difficult experience in the end due to the financial problems the club found themselves in, I still regard this as a successful time as Neil and his staff were always looking to promote young players whenever possible and in those terms, we had seven Academy players make their debuts during a season and a half including Rob Holding, who was later sold to Arsenal.

An ex colleague of mine from Liverpool Academy, Stuart Gelling, was appointed Technical Director of the Jordan FA and I accepted the role of U23 Olympic Coach in the summer of 2016.

The 2018 AFC U23 Championships was not an Olympic Qualification year, but we qualified for the finals in China with the 1995 age group for the first time and possibly more importantly, five players progressed into the Senior national team. The experience of adapting to a vastly different culture was invaluable and I look back on this period very fondly.

Due to this experience in Asia and together with having played China in a friendly, I was approached by Chinese Super League club, Shanghai SIPG, to work with their U21 / Reserve Team for a nine-month period. The initial three months was to prepare the U21 players for an Olympic U23 selection event after which, we returned to play the second part of the CSL Reserve Team League.

The games in the Reserve Team League mirror the fixtures of the CSL games and are played the day after, which often resulted in senior players playing who had not featured in the first team game the day before. This is something I thought was a good idea for two reasons;

Firstly, it allowed the senior players to maintain some sort of match fitness which was important as Shanghai SIPG where involved in all competitions, domestically and in AFC Champions League. Secondly, it meant that the level of game was high which helped the younger players experience playing regularly with the senior players.

The obvious negative is that sometimes the younger guys lost the opportunity to play full 90 minute matches but overall, I thought it was a positive structure.