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Dean Sibson - Winning Trophies in Scandinavia

'...I was invited by the Chairman at the time to join the First Team at Macclesfield Town and assist the integration of a new Manager on a voluntary basis, who I didn’t know at the time was to be Sol Campbell'.

Name, age, where are you based?

Dean Sibson, 33, Stoke-on-Trent

Current Role:

Having returned to the U.K. last year, I agreed to take on the Head Coach position at Salford City Ladies which is a part-time role and I coach there on top of my daytime work, currently self-employed as a Motivational Speaker. I travel around the North West talking to Colleges, Schools and Community groups about Resilience in Sport, working hard to achieve your dreams and educating young people that just like they did for me, opportunities can come around that give you a chance of showing what you can do. I also teach Meditation and Mindfulness, deliver Relaxation Massage and I am Director in a not-for-profit organization that sources funding for Sport-related work for disadvantaged young people.


I am a UEFA A License qualified Coach which I achieved in 2016 and I recently qualified for the Assessment Centre as a candidate for the UEFA Pro License course. It is an ambition of mine to complete the UEFA Pro License, a course which is much sought after and very competitive to get on, so I know I’ve got to use the feedback given to keep working hard to achieve that coveted qualification.

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

I started coaching at 17 locally delivering grassroots coaching clinics and helping local junior teams but I always knew I wanted to be a Football Manager. I took my time, gained my experience, developed through Football in the Community work for five years at Port Vale, building relationships with Schools, delivering projects around Health, Recreation and Lifestyle working up the system to become Lead Football Participation Officer.

Upon completion of the UEFA B License in 2008 I knew that I had to get out and watch games and learn more about the game before going into Academy Coaching with Wigan Athletic in 2013. I coached across the Academy Spectrum from the Foundation Phase through the Youth Development Phase and into the Professional Development Phase at Stoke City, Yeovil Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers always with the aspiration of improving as a Coach and becoming a Manager.

My first taste of Senior Football Management came at the age of 25 when I stepped up from Youth Team Manager at Congleton Town to be appointed First Team Manager. I felt that I did well in my time there and improved the league position but was always conscious that with promotion being sought, a more ‘experienced’ manager would be bought in to achieve this.

I subsequently went on to Manage again at North West Counties level with Stone Dominoes and Eccleshall and in 2017, I accepted an offer to go to Iceland and Coach the Women’s Team professionally at Premier League club IBV.

A top four finish and League Cup Final win was the outcome of my time in Iceland and I have since been Head Coach of Swedish Third Division club Grythyttan IF, winning a League Championship medal which bought about a big move to Finland as Head Coach of P.S Kemi.

Sadly, my time in Kemi was cut short by financial problems and only a few months after signing a three year contract, the club was closed due to failure to recover from financial difficulties.

Any Major achievements either professionally or personally?

The League Title in Sweden was a huge achievement professionally, to lose only once all season and to score over 70 goals with a squad made up of players from all over the world, with language barriers, having to learn Portuguese to help communicate with South American players, when you weight that job up, that was one of my biggest achievements.

The first trophy abroad though, I will never forget, playing the Icelandic Cup Final in the National Stadium under lights and winning in the last minute of extra time to save a potential penalty shootout was an incredible experience with the Northern Lights shining brightly in the night’s sky!

Even though I only had three games in Finland, after the club’s relegation the previous season they still had to complete the Europa League qualifiers and although we suffered three defeats with a very young team against seasoned pro’s competing in that setting was a special experience in extremely low temperatures up in Lapland.

Going back right to the start of my career, reaching the First Round Proper of the F.A. Youth Cup with an Amateur U18 team and being drawn to play Rochdale, established EFL opposition who train full time was a tremendous experience for me and my players who acquitted themselves admirably on the night and were only one game away from Villa Park in Round Two!

Before going to Finland last year, I was invited by the Chairman at the time to join the First Team at Macclesfield Town and assist the integration of a new Manager on a voluntary basis, who I didn’t know at the time was to be Sol Campbell. To spend nearly 6 weeks day to day working alongside some of Sol’s experience and stature was a big learning curve and I was appreciative of the club and Sol for giving me that opportunity.

Wanting to become a Manager, was your focus on becoming a Manager as soon as possible or did you think Academy roles would be of benefit?

I never wanted to be someone who raced through, got the badges but not the experience so I took my time, learnt as I went along, made some mistakes as we all do and surrounded myself with people who would help me progress in my career.

I have established some excellent contacts over the years and to those Managers who I can now pick the phone up to and ask for advice, I will always be indebted to them for their help. I felt that working through the Academy system as a Coach would teach me what I needed to know and help me develop further but getting out and scouting games, writing reports and going to watch training sessions to see how professional Manager’s work with players day to day have all been part of the development package.

What’s it like managing in the lower leagues and in your opinion, how can other coaches use it to boost their career?

When I arrived in Sweden and looked at the squad with players from around the globe and I knew the challenge was going to be twice as hard. However I learnt so much about myself, I didn’t have the backroom team that you would expect, I had to plan, deliver and evaluate every training session, set the player objectives and do the opposition analysis so you learn more about managing your time and prioritizing what can be done and what needs doing.

When you’re in the lower leagues around Europe, every point really does count and establishing that winning mentality from an early stage helped us when we did get to a slight wobble as it was a case of reminding the players about our expectations and core values. I would always advocate a Coach going abroad to learn more about themselves, getting out of your comfort zone I felt was one of the best ways to learn.

With a solid background at pro youth academies, what would be your advice be for any coaches working at youth level and wanting to get into senior management?

I would advise taking your time and keep researching the game and everything within the game that could change. I remember driving down to Forest Green Rovers to watch them train and have a chat with Mark Cooper a good contact and friend of mine and just spending half a day down there getting a feel for what that environment is like.

These experiences as a Coach are irreplaceable. My other advice would be not underestimate the power of reflection and how important it is for us coaches to evaluate what we have done and where we want our journey to go, allowing for a plan B if things don’t go right like they didn’t for me in Finland.

How did your coaching background support you in your scouting roles, and what would a week in the life of a 1st team scout look like?

My Scouting roles again came from contacts of mine and I was appreciative of Grant McCann the Manager at the time of Doncaster Rovers. Again he allowed me time on the phone to talk, invited me to training sessions so I could see what he was looking for in relation to his style of play when I was out there scouting in the EFL.

You can spend a lot of time on the road when Scouting, up to 3-4 games per week if you watch the U23 and U18 games as well which also means writing up and submitting your reports. I am a big believer in detail and would always spend time on the report making sure it was as detailed as possible but specifically to how the Manager wanted it.

Some want more, some want less and it’s knowing within the constraints of time what you need to include and what you don’t. When scouting for Ross County that didn’t allow for as many trips up there due to the distance but two of my recommendations were acted on and recruited which is always a nice feeling when you can get players over the line.

How did all this lead to a move to Finland and what experiences were you able to transfer across to your role overseas?

There was interest from PS Kemi in Finland, after I had won the League Title in Sweden. I knew it would be difficult to stay in Grythyyttan because our team was breaking up, the club’s remit wasn’t to achieve promotion at that time and we had exceeding the expectations so I felt that moving to a big club such as Kemi would be a good development move for my career.

I went across, had the interview, viewed the club and was appointed in December 2018 to start January 2019. I knew that the climate would be severely cold being based in Lapland but having lived above the Atlantic, below a volcano on an island off the South Coast of Iceland I had that experience so didn’t find that part of it too tough.

The club had excellent facilities and although there was a lack of senior players at the time, I used my experiences working with Youth players in Academies in England to motivate the young players every day despite the rumours about the financial crisis we remained professionally and focused on the football.

It was difficult to finish training and then have to take press conferences and answer questions about the off-field issues at the club which I wasn’t privy too but all these were experiences that I shall use in the future.

You won a league title in Sweden, what were some of your principles which helped guide the team to success?

I very quickly realized that the group was split in terms of nationalities and personalities. We had some players that were loud, some that were quiet, some introverts, some extroverts and we had to bond quickly over pre-season, going out on team building days, watching games together, building a rapport and an environment where everyone wanted to come in and be better than the day before. We established some core values and always to our beliefs. I developed a group eager to learn and we had a strong winning mentality where competition was healthy and everyone pushed everyone to be better.

One of our key principles was that the group came before the individual and a simple as it was this always helped maintain discipline or help us refocus when we had that blip. We had some big characters in the group and my focus from minute one was to create an environment where the players trained like they had never won a game yet performed like they had never lost one.

What areas of adaption are needed from coaches, when working with senior teams abroad compared to the English leagues?

I inherited some South American players in my group in Sweden where language was going to be a potential barrier so being open to learn new languages or embrace different backgrounds even if you are encouraged to coach in English is very important. I think knowing as much as possible about the club, the area, the history of the club, the supporters etc is vital so proper due diligence should always be done before any move abroad in my opinion though my time in Finland has taught me to expect the unexpected.

As with any club, you have to know your players, what drives them and how they respond best but from my experience you have to be patient when getting your ideas across abroad, not overloading too much information at once, which in turn will bring out your man-management qualities more on a 1 to 1 basis.

In your roles, what did you find best for your development?

I will always say, moving abroad and taking that first job in Iceland because I was happy and content at Wolves at the time, working for an excellent Cat 1 Academy with some very good staff and players but the offer from Iceland made me get out of my comfort zone, go and work with players from different cultures and climates and improve my coaching day to day out there on the grass, sharpen up my analysis and become and better motivator with senior players.

What things have been challenging in your current or past roles and is there anything you would do differently next time?

There were times in Iceland where personal issues back home come into your mind, but you have to stay strong and remember what you went out there for and what your end goal is. I think you have to be someone who is content with their own time and space, you don’t get a lot if it but when working in professional football abroad as a Manager you are the face of the club and you carry huge responsibility so respecting that is a must for me.

Of course, there were times in Sweden when the chasing pack kept winning and pushing us for the title, and you are only one bad result away from losing top spot, so keeping the focus and the intensity was crucial for us each and every single day. Away from the pitch there was financial and contractual issues that came into play in Finland and can affect you if you let them. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t but I found meditation and ways to relax, away from football and looking after your body, health and mind was my way of dealing with it.

Would you recommend coaching abroad and why you would or wouldn’t? any advice?

I would very much recommend coaching abroad to any coach who thinks that they want to challenge themselves more. It is a hugely rewarding thing to do, in my case you learn so much more about yourself and allow you the opportunity to experience something different.

There are no guarantees it will go the way you want, of course, that’s life but through hard work, perseverance and dedication to the jobs I came back with two titles from three countries and if the offer was right, would have no hesitation about working abroad in the future despite it being my career goal to Manage in the EFL one day.

Has anything developed you more than if you were working in UK?

I look at my career as a whole and even now when I speak to young people at one of the talks that I give, I do stress that it is never a continuous upward curve and that there will be setbacks, but its how we overcome those setbacks that define us I believe.

I have had the pleasure of working in England with and for some excellent coaches from Micky Adams with over 800 professional games under his belt as a Manager to Roberto Martinez who made a huge contribution in changing the shape of the Academy at Wigan Athletic to Grant McCann who bounced back from disappointment at Peterborough United as a Manager losing his job to becoming a successful Championship Manager so all of these experiences have helped me massively become a better Manager myself.

Going abroad for me, has taken it to new levels, as it has allowed me to express myself in senior football as a Manager, learn from some mistakes but develop I believe into a Manager capable of Managing for many years to come.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I have used my time wisely to expand my contacts and I do speak to current and former Manager’s on a daily/weekly basis. I listen to their views and experiences but ultimately make my own decision on things and follow my gut instinct.

My family have always been very supportive of my career choice and I have a good network of friends and contacts who wish me well and follow my career. I never forget any of them and always remain humble because that is the way I was bought up.

How’s the future looking, what’s next?

I am very keen to return to the professional game as a Coach, and have used the time out wisely to evaluate the last job and reflect on what did and didn’t work. I am very ambitious and want to progress and have some stability at a club that I can build and develop. I am enjoying my time at Salford City with the Ladies and want to help them achieve a League and Cup double as I feel they deserve that. There have been some inquiries into my availability but I am open to offers and will assess what is next best for me and my career.

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