Students on the pro licence course – from the much-decorated Gary Neville to Graham Kavanagh at struggling Carlisle – outline the benefits they are gaining from it
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I had a huge stimulation and adrenaline rush every day playing football and I couldn't afford not to be at full capacity when I came out of the game, but I didn't want to expose myself to areas that I wasn't comfortable to go into. That's why I've kept out of football management and out of coaching at club level, because I needed to vary my experiences and see different things in life, away from Manchester United, to hopefully enable me to become better and more rounded.
Being with this group on the pro licence course is fantastic. I was in Turkey for eight days in the summer with them, after I'd been away with England. There are people still playing, assistant managers, reserve-team managers, youth-team managers, League One managers; listening to all their experiences broadens my outlook on things because I was in a Manchester United bubble for 20-odd years, where I only experienced one manager, one way of life.
I know that eventually I'll have to choose paths. What I would say is thatI'm very aware, particularly working in the media, of the cut-throat nature of football management – managers don't get enough time and they don't get the opportunity to turn jobs down at times; they have to take the next one. I'm also aware that you can finish football with a good reputation and all of a sudden within 12 months you are some sort of numpty in the eyes of the media and the world – that's something I believe to be unfair.
I'm preparing for every eventuality but as I sit here today, and I'm not speaking with arrogance, it would have to be the right position to go into management. I've got a very open mind. I'm probably 18 months away from the four-year plan that I had when I left football to complete my licences. I've got my contract with England, my contract with Sky, which also finishes in a couple of years' time. You never know what pathways are going to open up because the England job just came completely out of the blue and I've loved every minute of it.
Former England international, sacked as Charlton Athletic manager this month
"I never thought about not coming for these few days on the pro licence course because of what recently happened at Charlton. We know the industry and it's very rare you walk away on your own terms, like Sir Alex Ferguson. Even José Mourinho has been sacked. And, in selfish terms, this course is for me, to make me a better coach, a better manager and a better person.
"I'm looking to prepare for my next challenge, my next step, and I want to make sure that I put myself in the best position I can to take advantage when that comes. Of course it is hard when you lose your job, but I don't want it to ever dispirit or show someone they cannot get there, because you can.
"There were four black managers at the start of the season – Paul Ince and myself are on the course, Chris Kiwomya and Chris Hughton. Now it's just Chris Hughton – I think that is something that will nag away at people that are thinking about doing it. There will still be one or two that want to do what we're doing, get qualified and get on the pathway, but there will be some that think: 'Look what's happened this season. Why put myself through it?' But actually someone has to keep doing it and try and be a role model, otherwise it will just die.
"You've got ex-players that have been lost who could have quite easily coached and managed at a good level, and I think they just feel the opportunity won't come. People could have said that about players 20-30 years ago and eventually we overcame that and black players are the norm at every club.
"With managing, there may be an element of people not sure of credentials, education – and that's why I'm here, because I don't want that to be used as an excuse. I want to be seen as a football manager who happens to be black. End of story. I've got my B licence, A licence, my certificate in management at the LMA [League Managers' Association], touch wood, I'll get my pro licence in June. And I've got three years' experience in which I've won a championship [the League One title]."
Dagenham & Redbridge manager
"I don't think people go on courses any more to get qualifications. You'll find two or three that go because they need to, but I think the majority of people really want to come and absorb and get better.
"I was fortunate in that I did a number of different courses before I came on here, so I had a real understanding of my philosophy, how I wanted to manage and how I wanted to behave around people. But I think the key is about being a student of people rather than a student of the game, and I think the different facets of this course have enhanced that for me: man-management, leadership.
"When you are in a football club you can sometimes get channelled – this is the way and this is how we have to do it – but I think the course opens your mind a little bit and you look at things slightly differently. Certainly that's what it has done for me, because you can take bits and pieces from others and put that into your day-to-day working.
"The informal chats have been invaluable in terms of the information you gather. You talk to Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, but not just them, people like Richie Barker, Mark Yates at Cheltenham, there is such a diverse group that you can't not learn. The speakers that have come in from all walks of life – the SAS, business, people who have sailed around the world, as well as football managers like Steve McClaren and Paul Lambert – have also been very insightful.
"If you come on this course and you can't take something away from it, then you've failed as far as I'm concerned. You guys from the media came in a couple of months ago and you were grilling us – I thought it was fantastic."
Player-coach Manchester United
"I've always been someone who wants to learn. The course teaches you a lot but also you have interaction with the other students and the experiences that they've got. We did some stuff on sport science, we've got five or six sport scientists at Man United; one of the lads said they haven't got one and have only got 12 full-time staff. It just makes you feel how hard it is for them, the challenges that they've got that could be different from the challenges you've got.
"The other coaching courses you go on, you would do a bit of preparation and a bit of planning, but actually speaking and communicating, you probably wouldn't do a lot of. You would do it as player but wouldn't address a team or a group. These are all skills that they are teaching us how to get better and preparing you, really, for when you do have to do it.
"I think you've got to be natural as much as you can [as a manager], find your own style, not try and be somebody else. Different people have different characteristics. Sparky [Mark Hughes] would go on the pitch and kick lumps out of everyone, you would think he would be the most outgoing person ever but he wasn't; he was quite quiet off the pitch. Roy Keane – what you see is what you get on and off the pitch; he'll tell you how it is. Paul Ince similar. Steve Bruce – different again, he was someone who helped you as a young player, a great character. And he's not changed, he's still the same person.
"I think what this course does teach you is that there is no right or wrong way, so I might have a [playing] philosophy but you have to be adaptable as well. Maybe you haven't got the players to play that way, which was what Carlo Ancelotti was saying [during an interview with John Peacock, the FA's head of coaching]. I found that really interesting, it was similar to me, growing up on 4-4-2 really. He didn't sign [Roberto] Baggio because he didn't fit into his philosophy [at the time]. So you have to be adaptable and maybe not be: 'I'm going to play like this.' You evolve really."
Ireland international, now managing Carlisle United
Every aspect of the course – leadership, management, finance, media, analysis – is what you have to deal with as a football manager. When you're in the hot-seat, as I find myself now, scenarios present themselves that you've never really been accustomed to. You've got all your playing experience prior to going into the job but it doesn't prepare you for difficult conversations, managing up and budgets.
The only money issue I had as a player was dealing with my own contract; now you're dealing with spreadsheets and hearing from the commercial department about how much money they are or they aren't generating and how that's going to impact on what you're likely to do in the market.
Being here on the course is also a real eye-opener in terms of hearing what some clubs have access to. At Carlisle we don't have a sports scientist, we don't have any scouts, we don't have any recruitment staff – we do it all ourselves. Fair play, the staff get to as many games as they can and we all try to carry that load. And, of course, you know what it's going to be like going into the job, so you can't moan about it.
I think the biggest problem we have as managers is time – you look at this course with Chris Powell and Paul Ince, the turnover is huge. In most businesses you get time to develop and implement your ideas. When you're talking about Elite Player Performance Plan which we all are – and about what status you are going to get, that's a process and a project that takes a long time. In your own mind you're thinking 'Am I going to be here long enough to see this come to fruition?'
Former Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers defender & Switzerland international
"The course is a really big commitment for everyone, but especially for me coming from Switzerland. John [Peacock, the FA's head of coaching] said on the first day that if people didn't think they could attend all the time it was better to step down straight away. To cover the cost it comes only from my pocket, because the club I was with in Switzerland [FC Bulle] didn't have the money to pay for me. But I think it's definitely worth it.
"Looking back over the last 15 months, I've learned so many things that I'm sure will really help me in the future and help me in terms of developing myself. The course opens your eyes and makes you think whether you do it the right way, whether you should change. At first, because you have been playing maybe 15-20 years, you think you know football. And you probably do. But being a player and knowing football is totally different to being a coach or a manager.
"In my experience, probably in England, there was a bit of a culture that once you have been a player you can go straight into a management position. That's not really the case in Germany, France or even in Switzerland. They realise that because you've been a great player doesn't mean you will be a great manager. I can see that culture has changed now in England.
"If one thing stands out above the rest on the course I would say it was when we did the communication module a couple of months ago. I thought that was really useful, because we had three or four different scenarios, all realistic, where you were in front of the papers and television cameras, professional people from the media.
The feedback we got after that, for me, was very, very helpful. When I do something I always try to do the best I can and see how far I can go. My target now is to have a club for next season, when pre-season starts. Obviously coming back to England would be a target at one point but I know that I'm not the only person who would like do that. You have to go step by step."