"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
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.
- 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.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development thus far?
I think just putting in the hours watching games, sessions, players and teams is an absolute must. Whether it’s volunteering or paid, I feel if you’re not prepared to go put the hours in then it may be a struggle.
I drove all over Wales and North West England watching games, taking in coaching courses, going to watch other coaches take training and it certainly helped me though players may say different!! haha.
Having the nerve to put your name to a team or style that you think is right has been important. I've seen a lot of people offer a lot of opinions in football and rightly so, but then when given the opportunity to put it to the test it becomes a different story. It’s tough to be a coach and have conviction in what you’re doing but if you believe your right, then stick to your guns.
What things have been challenging in your current or past roles?
I think frustration at times that others don’t take things as serious as myself, but as I’ve become more experienced, I think maybe that’s more my problem and not that of others! Young players’ and indeed young people have changed as society is always changing, so the way we have to get our message across, how we treat players and what we can demand from players has to evolve.
I do believe that it’s not everyone else who has to change, it’s me as a coach (or at least try to!)
Someone could be the best coach in the world but if they cannot connect to players or get their message across, then being the best just doesn’t matter. If you’re not willing to change you’ll end up a dinosaur, and we all know what happened to them.
The future -what’s next for you?
As the work has now finished at Salford University, I am actively looking for employment be that short or long term or sporadic opportunities. I would hope my experience may lead to other roles and ideally working in a coach education/mentor environment may be a good next step.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
If ever I have coached a player, no matter what level, age, club and they are still playing and enjoying football, then I’ve already won.