While some of the top coaches can now be found in the Premier League, either developed in England or hired from abroad, what fans may not know is the hard work going on behind the scenes at the Premier League in developing the next generation.
“Our vision is to develop a world-leading coaching development system that's unmatched across all sports,” says Head of Coaching Support, Sean Reed. “We want to be recognised globally for developing the best coaches.”
But the Premier League can only develop the best coaches if it is able to select from the broadest range of people in the country. That’s why in recent years, the Premier League has implemented key initiatives such as the Professional Player to Coach Scheme (PPCS), and Coach Inclusion and Diversity Scheme (CIDS).
The coaches of each scheme have all been placed at professional football clubs. CIDS participants take part in a 23-month programme with a Premier League or Category One club, while PPCS is run in collaboration with the PFA and EFL, with coaches placed at clubs in the Championship or Leagues One and Two.
The programmes focus on increasing diversity within coaching, providing opportunities to under-represented groups, including those from ethnically diverse backgrounds and women. This work is one of the key pillars of the League’s No Room For Racism Action Plan.
“We recognise the importance of people coming from different experiences, different backgrounds to ensure that we can thrive in coaching and developing players,” Reed adds.
Which is why coaches from the PPCS and CIDS were at St George’s Park last month to take part in a Coaching Craft Workshop to further develop their skills. The Premier League provided attendees with practical and learning and development sessions with a three-day workshop that gave the coaches the opportunity to develop their craft in a safe and challenging environment.
The workshop targeted three specific areas of their ability as coaches: their skill in designing and adapting problems for players to interact with; their skill to provide healthy interactions to support the players’ problem-solving; and their skill to work collaboratively as a coaching team to maximise the overall impact.
“It's intense in the meetings, planning sessions, delivering quickly and it's always good,” says Gabriel Kubwalo, who is coaching at Blackpool via the PPCS.
“It's almost a good break and a good reset because obviously when you're in the club, you are so engrossed in everything you do and it's good to kind of take a breath, come out, see something a little bit different, and then when you go back in, you're a little bit revitalised and energised.”
Kubwalo was born in Malawi but grew up on the Wirral in Merseyside, playing for Tranmere Rovers. His football journey to coach is one of many varied paths on display among the cohort at St George’s Park.
Reda Johnson, a former Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle and Coventry City defender who is on placement with Cardiff City, joined the PPCS after a spell trying to progress as a coach in an environment where he felt isolated. However, since joining the scheme he has been grateful for the doors that have been opened.
“The benefit is the way they try to develop us as a coach,” he says. “We get every support from the Premier League.
“My goal is to become a manager. That's my main focus, but I know I'm far away from being a good manager. And I've got a lot to learn. So that's what I'm trying to do every day, try to become better and have no regrets.”
Justin Richards, who is on the PPCS scheme at Forest Green Rovers, shares the same sentiments. "I probably wouldn’t be coaching at the level that I am at now if it wasn’t for the scheme,” he says.
“The scheme is enabling players of a certain ethnicity and background to get the opportunities they might not have got.
“Now it's proven to be successful with a lot of coaches part of the scheme in full-time jobs in football and doing really well."
Each coach at St George’s Park had to design and present their own training sessions. When it was time to present, the coaches spoke with great conviction, but there wasn’t a sense of complacency from those within the room. Coaches were questioned and challenged as it was evident that this was a safe and competitive environment where coaches could learn.
“The respect of your peers is important, and if you can get that with genuine honesty, it is a massive tool that can help you improve,” Richards said.
The programmes and the workshop are also aiming to develop the participants beyond being just coaches, as that is a fundamental part of their business.
“This week, we’re obviously learning more about our coaching craft, but there's a lot of events through this placement that develops the human as well as the coach,” explains Nicola Cousins, who is at Brighton & Hove Albion through CIDS. “Those are the key moments or the key things of my development that you wouldn't necessarily get outside of this placement.”
After reaching the highest level, playing in the Premier League for Stoke City and at internationally for Jamaica, Ricardo Fuller has the support of the PPCS to fuel his ambition in coaching.
“I want to manage in the best leagues in the world, preferably the Premier League first,” says Fuller, who has returned to coach at Stoke. "And internationally I want to manage my own country Jamaica and be the best manager I can be.”
The CIDS and PPCS are helping these coaches along their pathways, as Ahmet Akdag, who is coaching at Newcastle United through the CIDS, explains.
“I’m very proud that I’m representing,” he says. “So, it's important that we’re always being that role model people can look up to and that we're always looking to inspire.”
Another scheme that has been introduced to diversify the coaching talent pool is the Coach Index, which launched in December 2021 following collaboration between the Premier League, The FA, EFL, LMA and PFA.
The self-registration system provides black, Asian, mixed heritage and women coaches with access to information about employment and development opportunities within professional football.