Former UEFA Technical Director Andy Roxburgh talks, MLS, Coaching and the Future of Tactics

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Source : The Blizzard. 

Andy Roxburgh, the new Technical Director for the Asian Football Confederation is now in his 70th year. Nick Ames interviews the former UEFA Technical Director on all aspects of his previous career, what drives him and where he sees the future of coaching and football tactics.

Question : As well as working with managers at the highest level, you’ve spent most of your career nurturing prospective coaches. Is it difficult to ask players, or ex-players, to take a more academic view of the game?

That’s a word I really don’t like — “academic”. I’d just call it “thinking”. I don’t find that there’s anything academic about coaching; it’s all extremely practical. Coaching guys for their Pro Licences, the stumbling block is that they’re still thinking like players. On the pitch, a player thinks from back to front. That’s why, when you’ve got your tactics board in the dressing room, you put the goals at the top and the bottom. A coach sees the game from side to side, and it’s totally different. As a player, you know what’s happening in front and behind; when you’re coaching, you’re responsible for the whole show. A lot of them just follow the ball around when they start, can’t stand back, because it’s what they’ve always done. Sometimes, when you give them a crowded 11-a-side game to work with and say “Stop — what happened there?”, they’re totally lost. You need to teach them how to isolate a problem within a game and then develop it, and that’s an art. You need a trained eye to do it. Some master it straightaway, but others can’t take that backwards step and see the big picture.

Question : In an environment where ex-players have often walked straight into jobs with barely as much as an interview, was it initially difficult to assert the value of coaching qualifications?

Maybe, but we worked hard at it. My 18 and a half years at Uefa can be boiled down to one crusade — a crusade to make coaching a genuine profession in Europe. All 53 countries are now part of Uefa’s Coaching Convention and, while it’s not complete by any means, the foundation is now in place. Everybody understands what it means and respects its value — the fact that you can’t work at the top level without your licence has seen to that. You’ll always get a few individuals who are naturally gifted, but relying on that doesn’t protect the business at all. To protect football players, at whatever stage in their careers, you need to develop people who know that they’re doing — people who know how and when to give input, and who can make you better.

Question : In your first club role since you were a player. What took you to New York Red Bulls?

Somebody asked me to come! I’d already extended my term at Uefa twice and it was an appropriate moment for us both to go in our own directions. It was a very polite parting of the ways, a natural conclusion. I spoke to a number of people after that but Gérard Houllier, whom I’ve been friends with for 20 years, told me about this project and stressed that it had fantastic potential. It would be a completely different role for me and I’d find it fascinating. So I went to meet the owners twice, and between them and Gérard they really sold it to me. There was a third factor — I came here on holiday last August and went for a walk with Thierry Henry, who tuned me in to everything and added to the impression that this would be a great challenge. Now I’m sitting at this desk, and we’re about to open a new training ground that will put us right up there in terms of facilities. I didn’t know the finer points of how MLS worked, and I’m getting to grips with them now, but it seemed an intriguing project in an environment that was quickly growing. It just shows you that none of us ever stops learning.

Read the full  article at : The Blizzard. 

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