Jon-Paul Pittman hopes that the simple act of sharing his own experiences as a player and coach will help the next generation of emerging young talent.
After a playing career that included spells at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, Brentford Under-18s assistant manager Pittman is determined to pass on his knowledge and inspire more Black and Asian players to move into full-time coaching roles in the professional game.
"What I really like is the transfer of knowledge – from what we do in training and from conversations we have in the changing rooms or in the classroom – seeing the transfer of that onto the pitch just puts a smile on your face.”
Pittman was one of the first participants to complete the Professional Player to Coach Scheme (PPCS), a Premier League, EFL and Professional Footballers’ Association initiative designed to increase the number of players from diverse backgrounds to transition into full-time coaching roles within the professional game.
Since 2020, the scheme has provided six candidates per season with an individualised learning and development programme and a 23-month intensive work placement at an EFL club, supported by the Premier League.
The 36-year-old was quick to acknowledge how PPCS has helped his own personal development, and highlights those coaches and managers who have inspired him on his journey.
“The Professional Player to Coach Scheme certainly put me in the best place to grow and flourish," said Pittman. "All the support from mentors, the courses and the peer-to-peer stuff is really important. I owe the position I’m in now to the Professional Players to Coach Scheme.
Personal approach pays off
“I certainly learnt something from all the coaches I played under. Gary Megson gave me my debut and put some faith in me. When I was injured, Gary Waddock called me every day for about two months. Peter Taylor was great, and I played at Wembley for Paul Hurst. The trend is not the master tacticians necessarily, but those who had that personal approach.
“Thomas Frank is a coach I look up to. The other day we were talking about football and life in general. I think it’s quite unusual for the assistant U18s coach to have that kind of bond with first-team staff so early on.”
From talking to Frank and being a role model to young players himself, Pittman believes that visibility is important. He hopes that his progression as a coach will encourage more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and women to pursue their dream, ultimately providing greater diversity at all levels within football.
A huge welcome to Lydia Bedford and assistant coach Jon-Paul Pittman who will both be working with our Under-18 team at the Robert Rowan Performance Centre next season #BrentfordFC pic.twitter.com/wPyoOVVIle— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) June 1, 2023
“Diversity and inclusion is a big target for the key stakeholders of the game who want to try and improve the numbers," he said. "We have diverse playing staff and want to represent that in the coaches as well. We don’t want ‘groupthink’. We don’t want everyone to think the same, but we want to have the same values and respect.
“Premier League jobs are difficult to come by and the numbers don’t lie. There aren’t that many Black coaches who are in those positions or in the running, but I think with time, and with people starting to open up to the idea that diversity of thought is really important, we’ll start to see more.”
Strength in diversity
Ameesh Manek understands the all-round benefits of a diverse workforce, both on and off the pitch, in his role as Brentford's business operations & academy director.
“We have seen some real benefits of the Professional Player to Coach Scheme already and hope it continues to have a positive impact," said Manek.
“Jon-Paul stood out to us as the most suitable person for the role and he has taken to life at the club with excellence, tenacity and a smile on his face.
“He has demonstrated strong coaching credentials and an understanding of what an Academy of the future needs to look like and had the ability to connect with players and staff at both a professional and a human level.
“[Generally speaking] A diverse workforce helps us develop better ideas, represent our community, solve problems and ultimately contributes to success. It brings us different perspectives which helps us make better decisions."
Also in this series
Part 1: How the Premier League is fighting racism
Part 2: How Sarr's family prepared him for success
Part 3: West Ham achieve Premier League equality standard
Part 4: How clubs and players supported No Room For Racism campaign
Part 5: Ogbene: It's important to teach younger generation about diversity
Part 6: Danjuma: My greatness comes from going through hardship
Part 7: How Wolves are educating young people about inclusion
Part 8: 'It's everyone's responsibility to do something about discrimination'
Part 9: Caicedo: Learning through diversity helped me reach the top
Part 10: Darren Bent on the men and women who've inspired him
Part 11: Benjamin Zephaniah on the Premier League and the legacy of Windrush
Part 13: Jimenez: Family support helped me become great
Part 15: Szoboszlai: My father helped me achieve the impossible
Part 16: Amadou Onana on the people who've inspired him
Part 17: Why family support is so important for Mbeumo and Wissa
Part 18: Gomez: Positive black role models are so important