Chris Morrell - Coaching his country & facing Terry Cooke

"I managed Wales in the UEFA Regions Cup on 6 occasions in Europe, facing Sweden (twice) N. Ireland, Macedonia, Kazakhstan and Estonia. We were the first Wales team to gain a competition point in 2012 and followed that up with 6 points from 9 in 2014..."






Name, age, where you are based?


Chris Morrell, 46, North Wales



Current Role:


For the past 4 seasons I have been the Head Coach at Salford University FC and worked concurrently at Ellesmere Private College as Head of Football Academy, as well as assisting with some coaching at local grassroots club, Meliden FC.



Qualifications:


- UEFA A License (ongoing)

- UEFA B License

- Talent ID Level 1 English FA

- UEFA Youth Level 3

- First Aid Certificate

- Welfare & Child Protection Cert

- National FAW Coaching Conference

- Safeguard of Children English FA

- Tiki Taka Football

- Teaching Games for Understanding



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


Late on in my playing period I suffered a bad ankle injury, so I was unable to continue playing properly. Having always been pretty obsessed with football, I wanted to stay involved and was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to coach with a local grassroots team.


From there, again I was very lucky to quickly be offered the manager position of a Youth representative team at the North Wales Coast FA, which eventually lead to taking the UEFA Regions Cup team which I did for 5 years. These were both volunteer positions and so it was very tough to justify at times, but I fully committed to it, put some serious miles on the clock and hours on the pitch and really enjoyed the time there.


With the teams having some success, I was then offered a position to run a Welsh Premier League Academy, followed up by becoming Assistant Manager at another Welsh Premier League club among other coaching roles. It was then, just 'right time right place' to be given an opportunity to work at Salford University Football, where I have spent the past 4 years which has been amazing.





I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many different players from all nationalities and cultures, learning so much from them in turn. I designed the technical plan and deliver 90% of all the coaching, alongside some great student coaches we have brought in. The level of players has been very high, none more so than in this past year where our 1st and 2nds both won leagues so it’s a constant challenge on the pitch, for both players and coaches which is great.


Over the years since I began coaching, I’ve suffered some serious knocks and downs that have really hurt, and most don't see. There's been several times when I’ve genuinely just thought I’d give it up, but I suppose you have to believe what you’re doing is right, stick at it and hope it will pay off. Genuine passion also helps push through the hard times.



Any achievements or interesting stories?


Probably won’t seem like much to most but I am very lucky and incredibly proud that I have managed my country (all be it at amateur level), which growing up as the only Welsh member of an all English family, certainly meant a lot!


I managed Wales in the UEFA Regions Cup on 6 occasions in Europe, facing Sweden (twice) N. Ireland, Macedonia, Kazakhstan and Estonia. We were the first Wales team to gain a competition point in 2012 and followed that up with 6 points from 9 in 2014, which given we faced all higher tier opposition, was a pretty good achievement for the players. My biggest frustration however, is that I haven’t had the opportunity to do more with the FAW, but you never know what may come up.





With being on coaching courses and working in football I’ve been again so fortunate to meet many great coaches and players, and always have been pleasantly surprised at how normal and down to earth they are. I fortuitously met several pros on the coaching pathway and they are keen to help the fellow coaches just as much as anyone. Steve Sidwell, Mathew Jones (Leicester/Leeds) and Mark Hudson (Cardiff/Huddersfield) were amongst those I found incredibly helpful on my recent A license course, and it was an honor to have Osian Roberts the Wales Assistant Manager, be a part of the course delivery.


As a youth I played against several lads who went on to a good pro career (including Danny Coyne who went on to play for Wales) however Terry Cooke at Manchester United stood out as he absolutely destroyed me! At least I think it was Terry Cooke as I only saw the back of him!

He played in a team with Chris Casper, Phil Mulryne, Kevin Pilkington etc and to be fair, they even let us have a kick of the ball in the second half which was nice of them.



What is your training focus with your current teams/players?


Currently at Salford University FC we have 4 Mens teams that I coach on a weekly basis, as well as working alongside the student coaches we have brought in this year. It can be a challenge to keep things varied, deliver at the right level and get the points across as there are so many personalities within the groups. Devotion for players at that age and situation is quite rightly their education, so it’s a balance understanding between what I can expect from players given at times their work-load off the pitch can be heavy.


I am a big believer in playing the ball on the ground, which is how I liked to play myself (which various degrees of success haha) but it’s just my opinion that teams and players will have more success, become technically better, actually enjoy the game more and therefore work harder if they are versed in a passing style, so a big focus in training is our movement on and off the ball in order to be able to play that way.