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Odhiambo: 'As a coach, I must still think like a player'

1 Dec 2020
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Ex-Leicester player Eric Odhiambo on becoming a coach via the Professional Player to Coach Scheme

After a playing career in England, Scotland, Turkey and Ireland, Eric Odhiambo is eager to use his experience on the Premier League, EFL and PFA Charity's new Professional Player to Coach Scheme to forge a career in coaching.

The 31-year-old is on placement at Championship side Coventry City, working with the next generation of players.

"I've completed a month and already the stuff I've learned will stand me in good stead anywhere I go, for any position I end up going in the future," Odhiambo says.

He started his playing career at Oxford United's academy, becoming the fourth member of his family to represent the club.

Odhiambo credits playing against his four older brothers as a big reason he made it as a pro.

"It definitely instilled some competitive edge in me," he says. "Being the youngest of five, it was always difficult for me but those challenges stood me in good stead for the future about competing with older boys, bigger boys and stronger boys."

His senior career began as a 17-year-old when he signed for Leicester City in 2006.

Eric Odhiambo LEI 2006
Eric Odhiambo playing for Leicester v Aston Villa in the League Cup shortly after joining in 2006

His career included spells at Denizlispor in Turkey, Hereford United and Sligo Rovers in Ireland, while he also helped Inverness Caledonian Thistle win promotion to the Scottish Premier League under former England captain Terry Butcher.

And those experiences as a player will prove to be important as he explores the world of coaching.

"I need to continue thinking like a player, thinking what would I feel like in a given situation," he says. "Would I enjoy the session? How would I feel about what a coach said to me?

Building a rapport with players

"Constantly you have to relate to them as players and that's the best way to build a rapport. And once the rapport is built, there's a lot more willingness to accept criticism and they're a lot more willing to take on advice and instructions."

Odhiambo will also use what he has learnt from the coaches he played under, including Leicester development squad coach Steve Beaglehole.

"He pushed me to be better than I thought I could be," says Odhiambo. "There was also a coach I had in Turkey called Osman and I really enjoyed his sessions.

"Every day you would do something different or challenging but it was fun. He found a way to put a twist on it.

"That's certainly something that I try to implement in my coaching today."

Shadowing coaches

As Odhiambo's playing career was winding down, he began his UEFA B coaching badges and spent time shadowing youth coaches at Leicester.

And he has taken that a step further by coming through a tough application process to earn a place on the Professional Player to Coach Scheme, which was launched this summer to increase the number of black and Asian players moving into full-time coaching roles in the professional game.

He is one of the scheme's first intake of six coaches. Each will participate in an individualised learning and development programme.

The club’s backing of the scheme has been key, notes Coventry Academy manager Dan Bolas.

"The CEO [Dave Boddy] and Mark Robins the first-team manager have been really, really keen to be part of this [Professional Player to Coach Scheme]," Bolas says.

"We had regular conversations throughout the lockdown period and into March, when this first started up. They were really keen to hear who we were appointing.”

Background a big benefit

Odhiambo's background as a professional player will also be a big benefit to the Academy team, says Bolas.

“Anyone who comes who's got different experiences to myself and the staff we’ve got in the building is only going to add value," he says.

"We’re going to be utilising Eric’s experiences to find the best possible programme for our young players at the Academy.

"He has that experience of knowing what the boys have been or are going through, and brings an energy and enthusiasm, different ideas and different experiences that are going to influence our programme positively.”

Odhiambo's 23-month intensive work placement started in October.

'Opportunity is what's important'

"Coventry have done a really good thing getting involved," he says. "I hope that I'm repaying their decision to enter this process.

"I wholeheartedly agree with the people who have put this forward and made this possible. There's so much value in it and there are people who want these opportunities. I hope they keep creating them.

"The opportunity is what's important. I believe I'll add value to anywhere that I go, so I don't think I'll disappoint.

"But if I do then that's on me, it's not on the next person. That next person also needs to have the same opportunity."

Also in this series

Part 1: Professional Player to Coach Scheme starts
Part 2: Pittman: Player to Coach Scheme will have a big impact
Part 4: Pitt: Returning to football has been huge for me
Part 5: Gilkes: Scheme shows commitment to black coaches
Part 6: Rahman: 'Coach scheme shows a drive to change the game'
Part 7: 'Black and Asian players have chance to get a foot in the door'

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