The coaches that inspire me….

During this period of isolation and no football to coach or to watch, its a great time to reflect on the people that influence your coaching.

Below I have listed the guys that inspire me and the reasons why. Some of these people I have worked with on a daily basis, others are people who I haven’t met but who have had a big impact on me from a distance.


Johan Cruyff –  This is due to his style as a player but more importantly his mind and ideas on the development of football. My dad was a fan of him as a player and as a boy growing up he would tell me to ” wear number 14 as it was Cruyffs number”.

So as a young boy I knew the name and then as a coach I have studied and read so much about his ideas on the development of football and players. It is my opinion that he is the most important person in the history of football.

Image from the Bleacher report


Carlo Ancelotti – He has a wonderful coaching CV which reads Parma, Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Napoli and Everton. He has won major league championships in Italy, England, Spain and Germany along with three champions league titles. These achievements speak for themselves and it’s no doubt that he is one of the greatest managers in the history of football. The area that I find so impressive is that he goes into the different countries and learns a new language, manages world class players (the interviews from players he has coached always praise his personal skills in building the 1:1 relationship) and carries himself with huge class as a person.



Sir Bobby Robson –  The “trailblazer” for English coaches by going outside of the UK and working for huge clubs in Spain, Portugal, Holland and also coaching the England national team. His personality is infectious, with his energy and passion for football coming across whenever you watched him being interviewed. The impact he had on those that played for him was huge and when he spoke, you could see the care he had for his players and staff. 

Click here for a trailer of the Netflix documentary on his management career Sir Bobby Robson – more than a manager



Steven Gerrard – As a player, he was the ultimate leader on the pitch for the way he played the game and conducted himself. I now have the unique opportunity to work alongside him on a daily basis and he has excellent personal qualities. The time that he gives to people each day, his humility, his energy levels and desire to improve are great examples to those around him. As a coach, he communicates at a very high level inside the changing room, setting the tone for the individuals and the group as a whole, this is a very important quality for any coach.



Alex Ingelthorpe – The current academy manager at Liverpool FC and a guy that I have worked closely with since 2012. We debate everything about football, we argue about things, we grill each others ideas and really push each other to the limit. He is like an older brother and often the calming influence on me. He is doing a fantastic job at LFC in regards to implementing a vision for the academy and driving elite standards on a daily basis. Alex is someone that I have a huge respect for in football but, more importantly as a close friend

Below is an interview with Alex by the coaches voice. Its a really top read for anyone working in youth development. Alex Inglethorpe – The coaches voice



Pepijn Lijnders –  Currently the assistant manager of Liverpool FC. A guy who has a huge passion and creativity for the development of football and players. I remember our first phone call and sharing of ideas prior to introducing him to Alex Ingelthorpe and  him then joining LFC. That was a big moment for me personally to have the strength around me of guys like Inglethorpe, Critchley and Lijnders – together we had a fantastic period of inspiring each other and working to develop the young players in the academy.  Pep’s journey over the past six years has been great to see as he works daily with a group of players that have become the best team in the Premier League, European champions and World club champions. As a friend, I could not be happier for him or his family.

Below is an example of his work at Porto FC at an earlier stage in his journey demonstrating his huge passion for player development

Pep Lijnders – Porto FC


Damian Matthew – He is the person who gave me my first job coaching at Chelsea FC and opened the door for me to develop as a coach. Damian was the youth development officer and u16s coach at Chelsea FC, he then moved on to Charlton FC working as u18 manager, reserve team manager, first team coach and assistant manager. Recently, he has been a senior scout for both Celtic and Everton and then first team coach at Southend FC. He currently works in India as youth team coach at Punjab FC. We have followed each others journeys over the last 17/18yrs and he is one of my best friends for the support, time and care he gives me on my journey. We speak at least twice a week on the phone and debate all areas of football from grassroots to the senior professional game. In Football, having someone like this is very important for everyone.

Damian is an ex player for Chelsea FC, Crystal Palace, Burnley and England u21s


Tim Jenkins – The u23 assistant manager at Liverpool FC and the academy head of analysis. Tim is a person that I worked with closely on a daily basis for 5 years. In that time, I never see him lose his composure, lack energy or speak badly about any person – no matter the situation we faced or pressure we were under. He is always able to see the bigger picture and promote the right things. He is outstanding at his role as an analyst/coach in how he puts together video and data to support the on-pitch training. In addition, he is obsessed with developing the individual – both as a person and a player.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League 2
Neil Critchley (a top person) and Tim Jenkins working together for Liverpool FC u23s

Click the link to read an interview with Tim on the LFC website Tim Jenkins Liverpool FC


Jose Mourinho – At Chelsea FC academy, we had a fantastic personal development programme and was able to watch sessions from the top coaches at the club and also guest speakers coming in from outside. It was a huge development experience for me. One experience sticks out above the rest and it was watching Mourinho and his staff coach in his first season at the club. The session was close to perfection, the lay out of the pitch, the rhythm and flow of the practices and how each coach worked together was light years ahead of anything I had seen before. That day was a huge moment in my coaching journey as it showed me what the ELITE level should look like. At this time, Jose Mourinho was the best manager in the world.


Below is a link to an interview by John Terry about the sessions that Mourinho and his staff put on at this time Terry – Mourinho inspired me to coach


Arjen Robben – I could have picked so many players, as I have been inspired by a huge number of footballers over the years playing and watching the game. Players such as Ronaldo, Iniesta, Gerrard, Xavi, Kaka, Gazza, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo to name a few… but Arjen Robben has always been my favourite player. As a Chelsea fan, he arrived at the club and he really excited me. It was clear to see that he was going to develop into a world class player, the way he dribbled at top speed and outplayed 1v1 was outstanding and he got me off my seat. I have followed his whole career.


Please click the link to read Arjen Robbens letter to his younger self. Its an amazing insight into his career – Arjen Robben – letter to myself – Players Tribune


Ajax FC – This follows on from my love of Cruyff, Robben and dutch football in general. As a youngster, I went across to Holland and played in different football tournaments. The experiences I had were fantastic and it is a great football nation. Ajax are a special club, the unique home kit, the excellent playing style and the traditions of the club in developing top young players each season.

I always follow the coach of Ajax, because I believe that if you are given the position of manager at this club, then it immediately tells people something about you as a coach. Ajax demand that you play in a certain way and also that you integrate and develop academy players into the first team. So anyone that is chosen to coach Ajax FC is being given a huge compliment that they possess these qualities to coach the Ajax style and also develop young players to reach their potential. As a former youth coach, I love this aspect of Ajax.



Stillness & speed by Dennis Bergkamp – This autobiography reads more like a coaching manual and gives a fantastic insight into the mind of Dennis Bergkamp. I recommend this to all coaches of young players either at grassroots or academy level.

Stillness and speed by Dennis Bergkamp

Quiet Leadership by Carlo Ancelotti – As mentioned above, he is a big idol of mine and someone who has a fantastic reputation for his man management skills. This book details how he build those key relationships with players and staff

Quiet Leadership by Carlo Ancelotti


Thank you for reading and please look out for the following

  • PLAYERID podcasts coming in the next few days.
  • My next blog will be on “Player and Position Specific coaching” and will hopefully have this completed by mid April
  • My new book “11 v 11 Tactical Development Games” is being released on the 15th April





1 Comment

  1. Again, this is purely brilliant. Thank you for sharing. Just purchased Ancelotti’s book yesterday and look forward to going through all of these links. Would love to find out more about Mourhino’s sessions and the way he laid out both his philosophy and trainings to get the team where he needed it to be. What does it take to think with type of fluidity and purpose?


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