'We go into academies expecting the players to show those behaviors naturally and think it’s a given, but it really is not. Some players don't realize that could be the difference in their development'....
Name, age, where are you based?
Matt Brown 35 Years Old, Originally from midlands now living Near Portsmouth
Current and past roles:
Portsmouth FC Academy (Current)
Chelsea FC International Lead coach
Northampton Town FC Academy
Leicester City FC development coach
The FA Youth Modules 1, 2, 3 and Full Award
The FA Adult mentoring
Talent ID level 1
Sports, Fitness and management
Uefa A (Currently completing)
Any achievements or highlights you would like to share?
Whilst at Chelsea coaching in the development centre I coached Eden Hazard's, Matic's and Ivanovic's boys. Whilst working abroad I also coached Eddie Howe's and Ashley Cole's two boys. Eddie Howe was fantastic, we had a couple of great conversations about the game, how it’s evolving etc. He was very down to earth and even invited me down to watch a session a couple of months back, which was invaluable.
How was your experience playing abroad and was there anything which has helped you in a coaching sense back in the U.K? Was there any differences in the football environment in terms of the level you was playing at compared to the same in England?
My experiences playing abroad in Belgium, Germany and U.S.A all provided me something which has helped in shaping my coaching philosophy, including how I like my teams to play and how I develop an individual. I want to mention my coach in the USA, Eric Rudland, who's now working with Tampa Bay and Ann Arbor. Eric had a big effect on me by how he managed players, teams and his overall demeanor around match days and training sessions. He was always calm, very good with getting best out of players and when things were not going quite well in matches, he came up with solutions and never lost focus or got angry. Players respected this which in return, helped build connections with the players.
My experience playing in Belgium was fantastic, not just for footballing reasons but it also made me a stronger person mentally. It gave me different ways to think about the game as it's a very technical/tactical game over there - teams always try to build from the back when the time is right. My coach was Sunday Oliseh, who was a very intelligent guy and very tough on the players. He set standards very high and was very demanding, which is something that I have carried on through my life in and outside of football.
I felt the game in Belgium was very different in regards to the technical and tactical side, teams were difficult to break down and very organised, while players were better technically from a younger age. Managers I had conversations with had a good understanding of the game and about different solutions to problems they may be faced with in a split second.
Having coached within a number of professional club academy setups, are there any differences across each of them and how have they enabled you to develop in different areas as a coach?
The obvious differences would be the facilities that are available to the likes of Chelsea, compared to Portsmouth or Northampton. Also there's a matter of having more contact time with those players in Cat one academies, compared to those of Cat three academies.
Currently working at Portsmouth Academy, we are lucky enough to have so many experienced coaches like Shaun North (Lead YDP coach), Mark Kelly (Academy Manager) and Sean O’Driscoll (Head of coaching), who has had a big impact on how I think about coaching in a short space of time. Sean has supported me in bringing more of a focus on player behaviors instead of trying to immediately solve problems on the pitch. This may be - are they showing the desire and determination before the technical and tactical side of the game? Without these key behaviors the players will not progress.
We go into academies expecting the players to show those behaviors naturally and think it’s a given, but it really is not. Some players don't realize that could be the difference in their development.
Can you share more about the International coach role with Chelsea, what did it entail and what is the potential for coaches to work abroad within the role?
It was a good experience and I worked with some good coaches in my time at Chelsea. My role was split between working in the UK on a football college program with the 16 to 19 age group, and then travelling overseas, mainly across the USA, delivering coach education to grassroots/college coaches or working with partner clubs and club sponsors delivering clinics.
The problem with coaching abroad for a week here and there, was you never get to see the progression. Coaching for me is about helping individuals improve all areas of their game but also, to become better people. The frustrating thing is you never get to see the effect your coaching had on the people you worked with, because it would be only for a few sessions. All you could do was try and provide them with the best experience possible at the time.
What’s been best for your development so far and how do you ensure that you are constantly developing yourself in all the areas required?
Even answering these questions makes me think about my coaching and how I work. I am currently completing my UEFA A license so I'm always watching games, analyzing sessions and other coaches. I'm constantly asking other coaches to watch and feedback on my sessions, allowing me to be open to critical feedback.
I’ve always been open to coaches giving me constructive critic on where I can improve or what they would add. I prefer this kind of feedback because I have always been a person striving to better myself in all areas, not being satisfied with the level I’m at. I acknowledge the good things I do whilst at the same time, pay more attention and focus to the things that will make me a better coach.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how did you get past them?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced within coaching would be improving my self-belief. When I was younger, I hated coaching in front of other experienced coaches, as I felt I was being judged and wanted validation on what I was doing was correct. This was when I wasn’t coaching regularly. It’s important as a coach you believe in your way of coaching, show confidence and assertiveness within the sessions, get to know the players and build good relationships.
One thing I have learnt over the years, is to be prepared for sessions and have a plan B & C, for example, a simple one being (I’m sure every coach as come across this at some point) less players than originally planned or another example would having an attacking session ready only to find your strikers are all injured - you need to be prepared!
What’s next for you, any thoughts on the future?
I have always tried to aim as high as possible and although I'm not saying I am going to go on to coach England, I would still like to coach in the professional game at senior level.
My next step and it’s something I have wanted to do once completed my UEFA A license, is to work with a non-league club at senior level as a manager/assistant or coach and help the club progress. Personally, I am aiming to continue devolving myself as a coach every day, through reflection on past sessions.