The 10 most influential football managers of all time

Yes, it is another one of those most influential and greatest football managers of all-time lists. These are devilishly hard to produce as everyone has their own opinion on who is the greatest coach ever to sit in a dugout.

Each of the 10 men on our list was famous for the characteristics needed to succeed in coaching. From flexibility to organisation, to man-management, to being able to think outside the box, those attributes enabled each of them to leave a lasting legacy on football and help create the sport that we know and love today.

10) Rinus Michels

A four-time Eredivisie winner, three-time KNVB Cup winner and one time European Cup winner with Ajax. A La Liga and Copa Del Rey winner with Barcelona. A DFB Pokal winner with FC Cologne. A European Championship winner with the Netherlands.

And yet is it the team he managed who never won a trophy with whom Rinus Michels most influenced football – via Total Football.

That was the term lavished upon the playing style of his Netherlands side of the 1970s, considered by many to be the greatest never to win a World Cup. 

They came close, losing the final in 1974 to West Germany. It was the team in Oranje who lit up that tournament, delivering some of the most magical football the world has ever seen, led by Johan Cruyff as the on-field conductor.

Cruyff the manager will feature later on our list (no spoilers) as will several other managers who can trace their style and philosophy back to Michels and Total Football. That is some legacy.

9) Jose Mourinho

Heaven helps us if The Special One ever reads this list and sees himself only in ninth place. The ultimate Marmite manager, you either love Jose Mourinho or you hate him. There does not seem to be any middle ground.

In an era of possession football, attacking fullbacks and goals galore where money was often seen as the most important ingredient for success, Mourinho showed us another way when bursting onto the scene with Porto in 2003.

He led the unfashionable Portuguese outfit to a remarkable Champions League win in 2004. Inter Milan were perennial dark horses in Italy before Mourinho arrived. During his time at the San Siro, he won two Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia and his second Champions League trophy.

Mourinho’s success with Porto and Inter came because of a masterclass in man-management. His sides were drilled in how to win games and they highlighted how far organisation can take you. 

He did not need bundles of cash to succeed, although that helped him as league titles with Chelsea and Real Madrid proved.

Given what has happened at Manchester United since his sacking from Old Trafford, you could even argue that he did an excellent job at Old Trafford – a statement perhaps as controversial as the man himself.

8) Bill Shankly

Music and football dominated Liverpool in the 1960s. Whilst the Beatles were busy conquering the world, Bill Shankly was setting in place a dynasty that would last for 30 years and turn Liverpool into one of the most famous teams on the planet.

When Shankly arrived at Anfield in 1959, he found a rundown stadium and a club wallowing in the second tier of English football. He delivered the promotion back to the top flight in 1962 and his first league title as Liverpool boss in 1964.

Two more championships would follow alongside a UEFA Cup and two FA Cups, the second of which arrived in 1974 and was followed a few weeks later by Shankly’s shock retirement.

The silverware and taking Liverpool to the top of English football were only part of Shankly’s legacy, however. He believed in a strong connection between players and fans. 

He talked about the Kop having the power to “suck the ball into the net”. Shankly was a manager who tapped into the power of football beyond what happened on the pitch in a way nobody else really had.

That feeling of family was central to the concept of the Anfield Bootroom. Shankly was succeeded by his assistant Bob Paisley, who was succeeded by his assistant Joe Fagan, who was succeeded by his player Kenny Dalglish.

Shankly championed continuity and left the foundations in place for each of his successors to continue winning domestic and European trophies for Liverpool.

7) Matt Busby

Adversity is something that all coaches must face and overcome at some point in their careers. It is that ability to stand up and find a way through when all hope seems lost that turns a good football manager into a great football manager.

No manager in history had to battle adversity like Sir Matt Busby. He was already well on his way to immortality at Manchester United before the events of February 6th 1958, having led United to the FA Cup in 1948 and league titles in 1952, 1956 and 1957.

The latter two championships were won by his Busby Babes, a marvellously talented squad of fearless young players with an average age of only 22.

That squad would have won so much more too had eight of them not been killed in the Munich Air Disaster. Busby himself was badly injured. He then faced the challenge not only of rebuilding United but of helping to mend the broken hearts of everyone connected with the club.

Seven years after Munich and Busby miraculously won another title for United. Two seasons later and it happened again. 

Then in 1968 came his crowning glory as the Red Devils became the first English side to be crowned European Champions. A remarkable rise and recovery from the depths of despair.

6) Viktor Maslov

It is a travesty that so few people have heard of Viktor Maslov. In some quarters, the Russian is viewed as the inventor of the football we know today, having pioneered both the 4-4-2 formation and the tactic of pressing that are still staples of the sport 70 years later.

Up until the late 1950s, the formation played by virtually every major club in the world was 4-2-4. Teams would allow their opponents plenty of time on the ball, preferring to seize on loose passes as possession came towards the four front players rather than force errors.

Maslov changed all that. He figured that two extra bodies overloading the midfield would allow his side to dominate. Combine that with his players denying the opposition time and space through pressing, and his teams could win possession more frequently.

To play a high energy game, Maslov also had to focus on speed and fitness. That meant experimenting with nutrition to increase his players’ stamina. In the 1950s, all of this was completely alien.

Maslov ended up winning four Soviet league titles and six cups with Torpedo Moscow, Dynamo Kyiv and FC Ararat Yerevan. His methods soon seeped beyond the Soviet Union, leaving an everlasting imprint on football. 

5) Arsene Wenger

Before an unknown French bloke called Arsene Wenger rocked up as Arsenal boss in 1996, player nutrition consisted of 10 pints of Guinness.

Scouting went as far as driving 50 miles up the road to watch a game before turning around at the halftime. Tactics did not matter, as long as you played with passion and shouted a lot.

Okay, those are pretty sweeping generalisations – even if Wenger did famously ban ketchup from the Gunners’ training ground as one of his first acts in charge.

But the impact that he had on English football was massive. Wenger’s focus on diet, training methods and his desire to scout rough diamonds from across the world were unheard of – to the point that Arsenal’s players wondered if their club had appointed some sort of madman.

Arsenal hadn’t. In his first eight years in English football, Wenger won two doubles and led the Gunners to the 2003-04 title unbeaten, only the second-ever team to be crowned champions of England without losing a match after Preston North End in 1888-89.

His methods – once-seen as bizarre and farfetched – were quickly adopted by every club in the country. Wenger rose the standards and quality of English football across the board, helping the Premier League establish itself as the best league in the world. 

4) Pep Guardiola

Whenever Pep Guardiola features on one of these lists of the most influential football coaches of all time, the usual reasons are wheeled out as to why he is not worthy of a place amongst the greats.

Guardiola’s critics say anyone could have had success at Barcelona working with Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and the rest. 

Winning trophies at Bayern Munich is nothing special as German football is a one-horse race. And City’s dominance can be put down to being backed by the wealth of an oil-rich nation.

And whilst all those arguments are valid, you only have to look at the way football has changed since 2006 and Guardiola bursting onto the scene to see his influence. 

Tiki-taka became the style of play every side in the world adopted. It fed into Spain dominating international football between 2008 and 2012 in a way few national sides ever have.

That led to almost every national football association trying to copy the Spanish way. The FA’s own England DNA project – which has started producing Three Lions players good enough to reach finals at major tournaments – was based on what had made Spain a success. 

Spain’s success was based on what Guardiola did at Barca. His impact on English football, therefore, began long before City’s money lured him to the Etihad Stadium. His impact on world football stretches far beyond trophies with Barca, Bayern and City.

Guardiola’s greatest achievement might still be yet to come. He once said that his dream was to name a team consisting of 10 midfielders and a goalkeeper. 

No side in football history has ever won trophies consistently without a striker. If Guardiola can win the Premier League or a first Champions League using a false nine, then striker-less teams could be the next revolution in the sport. Now that is influence.

3) Arrigo Sacchi

Arrigo Sachi stands as a beacon of inspiration to coaches everywhere, his story proves that anyone with the right work ethic and ideas can go on to become of the most influential and famous football managers in the world.

Sacchi started as a humble Italian shoe salesman, something which led to questions over his credibility when he was appointed as AC Milan manager in 1987. 

Always ready with a fantastic soundbite, Sacchi responded to those who wondered whether a man who had not played professional football before was qualified to take charge of an Italian giant by saying: “I never realised that to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first.”

Of course, Sacchi needed to back up his words with success on the pitch. He did that by rewriting the rules of how football was played in Italy. 

Adopting a back four rather than a back three appalled traditionalists. In came zonal marking, a high defensive line and an aggressive press which went on to influence both Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

Sacchi won the Scudetto in 1988 and followed that up with back-to-back European Cups. The Milan side of that era is remembered these days for their defence – little wonder when Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini were part of a backline that conceded only 15 goals in the title-winning season.

Yet they were devastating in attack too, none more so than in the semi-final on route to their first European Cup success when hammering Real Madrid 6-1 on aggregate.

Sacchi changed the way Italians viewed football and set the foundations in place for Serie A to become the leading league in the world in the early 90s.

2) Johan Cruyff

21st century Barcelona is known as one of the most successful teams in world football, famed for tika taka and churning out world-class players from their famous La Masia academy at a rate of knots. It has not always been this way, however. Before 1988, Barca had won only 36 trophies in 89 years and had never been crowned European Champions. That all changed when Johan Cruyff returned to Camp Nou.

A popular figure during his playing days with Barcelona, Cruyff would go on to write his name even deeper into the history books during his eight years as manager. 

Having been the star turn in the Netherland’s Total Football side of the 1970s, it was no surprise to see him adopt the same principles once sat in the Barcelona dugout as part of a complete overhaul of the club.

It was Cruyff who introduced Barcelona’s style of play, indoctrinating every youngster at La Masia in his ways. The focus was on technical ability rather than physicality, something which now underpins every single football academy – but at the time was considered a questionable approach.

The result? Since 1988, Barca has won five Champions League titles and 47 other pieces of silverware. Players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta have been unleashed on the world from La Masia and coaching disciples such as Guardiola continues Cruyff’s work to this day.


1) Sir Alex Ferguson

No manager in world football has delivered success over such a prolonged period as Sir Alex Ferguson. In the 1980s, he broke the Old Firm’s monopoly in Scotland by leading Aberdeen to three league championships and a European Cup Winner’s Cup success which involved eliminating Bayern Munich and Real Madrid along the way.

A move south of the border to Manchester United followed in 1986. Over the next 26 years, Ferguson would win 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues.

The secret to Ferguson’s success? Flexibility and a willingness to reinvent himself. His first Premier League title was won thanks to the Class of 92. 

Six years later and the treble Winners of 1999 were a different kind of United. Skip another nine years and Ferguson had changed approach again as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez formed a deadly front three.

The best coaches are those who know that football does not standstill. They are constantly learning, adapting and comfortable in changing their approach. 

Such flexibility kept Ferguson at the top for three decades. No other manager in the world has a CV quite like it.

Think you have what it takes to follow in the footsteps of these 10 influential football coaches? Then find out more about starting your coaching journey with We Make Footballers.




What Makes a Good Grassroots Football Coach

What Makes a Good Grassroots Football Coach


What makes a good grassroots football coach goes beyond simply being able to teach a child how to play a 10-yard pass. 

The best grassroots coaches possess special characteristics that not only help players improve, but that also have a profound impact on the lives of the children they work with.

From the ability to take feedback on board to adopt a child-centric and player-focused approach, here are some of the attributes which the best grassroots youth football coaches in the UK all have in common.

A positive attitude and approach

A grassroots football coach must ensure that the players they are working with enjoy themselves. For many children, their future relationship with football is shaped by what happens through their early experience of the sport – the experience given to them by their grassroots coach.

When players enjoy themselves and look forward to every session, they will end up falling in love with football. It is a relationship that will last a lifetime, regardless of their ability, success or the level they go onto play at.

To have that impact on young players, a grassroots coach must be positive, enthusiastic and passionate about their role. 

Children better engage with coaches who show great enthusiasm in what they do. That enthusiasm is infectious to players. If the coach appears indifferent to the session ahead, that often rubs off on their players – and there is nothing enjoyable about indifference.

Players respond more quickly to the methods and teachings of passionate coaches. When children see that a coach clearly loves what they are doing and cares deeply about it, they will be filled with belief that what the coach sets out for them to do is geared to helping them improve. 

At the same time, the best grassroots coaches acknowledge that things might not always go to plan. When that is the case, a positive attitude is a must. No child is going to respond well to being embarrassed, humiliated or told off when they get something wrong.

Instead, the coach has to look for the positives. Identify why the player failed at the task, coach them through what to do next time and help them achieve their target. Praise the good and offer feedback on the bad.

There is no better feeling in football as either a player or coach than seeing an individual master a skill they had previously struggled with – and climbing such mountains can only be done through a positive attitude.

Being a great two-way communicator

It is not merely enough for a grassroots football coach to be a great communicator – they have to be a great two-way communicator. Listening to players and taking on feedback is every bit as important as being able to get a message across clearly.

When it comes to outwards communications, a good grassroots coach will know that talking is sometimes not enough. They will also use clear demonstrations or diagrams to make their point, knowing that different children find different learning methods beneficial.

Asking for and listening to feedback from players is one of the easiest ways that a coach can find out if what they are doing is working. An honest appraisal from a child or parent can inform the approach taken for an individual child going forward and open them up to further improvement.

Players will feel more comfortable giving feedback to an approachable coach. The best grassroots coaches show their players they are willing to listen and make them feel comfortable about saying what they think. It is to the benefit of everyone that they do so.

Being flexible

Receiving feedback from players or parents is only useful if a coach then acts upon it – which is why the best grassroots football coaches are flexible in their approach.

Every child is different and so a one size fits all approach to coaching is an ineffective method. Coaches who are steadfast and rigid in their methods will have far less success than those who are willing to experiment and be flexible.

When one approach does not work with a player, a grassroots coach should not seek to lay blame at the feet of the child or question their ability. Instead, it showed be viewed as a challenge – how can the coach help the player overcome their struggles and master the skill?

Children are not the only ones who should be learning with every session. Coaches too can always improve or reinvent themselves as time goes on, building their knowledge through trying new coaching techniques in a never-ending quest for becoming better.

Realising it is about the players, not the coach

One of the biggest traps a grassroots coach can fall into is thinking that they are Jurgen Klopp or Jose Mourinho – coaches with an ego to make it all about them.

There are numerous reasons why top Premier League managers are desperate for the limelight. Often, it is to relieve pressure on their players. Other times it is to try and coerce their board into a new signing or referees into favouring them or casting doubt on the integrity of the opposition. And some just like the sound of their voices.

Grassroots football is a world away from the billion-pound industry that is the Premier League. The best grassroots coaches know this and make everything about their player’s enjoyment and improvement rather than making it all about them.

Results are not important when it comes to children’s football. The best coaches do not worry or think that their team losing reflects badly on them; instead, they realise that failure is just another path to success and that individual improvement and enjoyment matters more.

The grassroots coach is there to help children have fun. They are there to serve their players and give them a football education. Child development should always come above winning, which is why the players are the most important part of any grassroots football academy. 

Setting a good example

Children are impressionable and that means that to be a success, a grassroots coach must lead by example. Many young players will look up to their football coaches as role models, so what a coach says and does matters.

Setting an example starts from appearances. A coach who turns up to a coaching session in jeans and a flat cap like something out of Peaky Blinders will not be taken seriously. 

Players will think if their coach cannot be bothered to dress appropriately on the training ground or professionally go about their business, why should they? Appearances set the standard for what happens on the pitch. 

A grassroots coach can lead by example by being punctual and organised. If the coach arrives five minutes before training starts and is still trying to layout drills or plan what is going to happen when the session is meant to be underway, then their players too can start thinking it is acceptable to be late or unorganised.

Everything that grassroots coach does whilst working with their players can make an impression and inform what they think is acceptable in football and life. Setting a good example is key.

Getting to know players as people

The best way for a coach to understand the players they are working with is by getting to know them as people. This is especially true when it comes to children through the impact that a grassroots coach can have as a role model.

Football can be a powerful force for good in the lives of young people. It gives them focus and can help keep them out of trouble. The professional game is full of players whose stories feature a theme of “I don’t know where I would be without football.”

A coach who takes an interest in a player’s life off the pitch is in a better position to understand their background. This in turn can help to make a positive impact on a child’s life, both on and off the pitch.

When it comes to football, a player will better respect and trust a coach who they feel is looking out for them. That leads to improved performances through motivation and hard work.

Away from the sport, if a child believes that their coach has their best interests at heart then they are more likely to look up to them and listen. A strong relationship between coach and player can be a vehicle for change.

We Make Footballers are the UK’s number one football coaching academy for children aged 4-12 years old. 

If you think you have what it takes to become a grassroots coach, please contact us through our website to find out more.



The Power of Visualisation

David Beckham puts down the ball 25 yards out from goal in front of the Stretford End. It is the final minute of the last match of World Cup qualifying. The England captain knows that if he scores, his side is going to the World Cup finals. He takes a short run-up. He strikes the ball perfectly. It bends up and over the wall and crashes against the back of the net. 66,000 fans explode with unbridled joy. What does Beckham do? He turns around, picks up another ball and repeats the free-kick. For none of this is happening on Saturday 6th October 2001 at Old Trafford. It is all taking place in Beckham’s mind in the weeks, months and years leading up to him scoring one of the most famous goals in English football history.

This is the power of visualisation. To some, the notion that imagining a moment or action happening can make it more likely is the sort of thing that only happens in the movies.

Proof that it is a real-life route to success however comes from both science and the mindsets of world-class athletes in numerous sports over the past 50 years, all of whom used the power of visualisation in different ways.

Formula One world champion Niki Lauda would use it to prepare and familiarise himself with the task ahead. Walking every track before a race, he imagined his breaking points and the racing line he would take. Having already driven the race before in his mind, Lauda found it easier to do it the second time around when sat in his car. The result? Three world titles and a place amongst the greatest racing drivers who ever lived.

Mike Tyson used the power of visualisation for another purpose – to breed confidence and belief that he was the best in the world. He would box Muhammad Ali over and over in his head, always winning. Having beaten the greatest boxer who ever lived numerous times in his mind, Tyson convinced himself he could never lose to any mere mortal opponent during his heyday. And he hardly ever did.

Jonny Wilkinson visualised winning the Rugby World Cup for England from the moment he first started playing the sport. Very few athletes have ever had the razor-sharp focus as Wilkinson. It meant that when the opportunity presented itself for a last-minute drop goal in the final against Australia in 2003, he was not daunted or overcome. He could seize the moment because he had been there before inside his head.

Wilkinson talks about the power of visualisation in his autobiography: “If you have realistically imagined situations, you feel better prepared and less fearful of the unexpected.”

And what of the science behind it? During the 1980s, the US Olympic Team began experimenting with visualisation. Athletes were asked to visualise running their race, imagining how they looked and felt. When they were hooked up to a machine to measure the response of the body, it was discovered that the same muscles fired in the same sequence when they visualised as they would if the athletes were on the track.

Visualisation, therefore, helps to hardwire patterns to the brain through muscle memory, whereby the process to complete an action becomes second nature. 

What the US Olympic Team discovered is that you can train your body and mind almost as effectively through visualisation as you can practice. The major benefit of this is that athletes can visualise anywhere. On the team coach to games or events. In the evening when they are sat at home after dinner. In the shower. Whilst eating lunch. Suddenly, practice is not restricted to the training pitch, nor does it have to take a physical toll on the body. The power of visualisation can be utilised anytime, anywhere. 

This is particularly helpful when a player is out injured. They may not be able to train physically, but they can keep themselves ticking over mentally and remain connected to their sport. There are other chemical benefits to visualisation too. When a person visualises, the brain releases dopamine and noradrenaline, two hormones that are both proven to improve performance.

When an athlete visualises themselves taking that penalty kick, the body becomes trained to respond by releasing dopamine and noradrenaline. When it then does so when the situation arises in real life, the chances of success rise.

Football coaches who work with young players at the grassroots level tend to focus less on the mental side of the game. That is not the case with We Make Footballers, where franchisees are encouraged to embrace the power of visualisation. The reason for this is because it is even more effective in children. The power of visualisation works when the visualiser truly believes that they can achieve what they are imagining and that it will one day come true.

Dr Leslie Sherlin talks in her book ‘The Rise of Superman’ about how it is easier to work with children as they have few inhibitions, they are less cynical than adults and are more open to believing that anything is possible.

She writes: “Children are too young to know what impossible means. ‘Can you do something?’ ‘I don’t know? Let me go try.’ And they’re too young to know what to be afraid of.”

To a child, it is not impossible or unlikely that they will one-day captain England at football. They are therefore more susceptible to the power of visualisation; their belief is stronger and the effects more profound. Children do not just imagine themselves in such scenarios, either. When a child plays football in their back garden or down the park, then they will often pretend to be their favourite player. 

This is another example of a different strand of visualisation. They imagine that they are taking a free kick like Cristiano Ronaldo. Dribbling like Lionel Messi. Flicks and tricks like Neymar. This sort of visualisation is powerful. A child who watches the best in the world to imagine they are that same player will copy the same little details that make said player so effective. They will dribble with their head up like Messi. Strike the ball in the same sweet spot Ronaldo does. Take the first touch to get into space to perform a piece of skill like Neymar.

Beckham, Lauda, Tyson and Wilkinson all dreamed of being the best in the world at what they did from a young age. They visualised it over and over again, took what they had imagined doing and put it into practice on the training pitch. When the time eventually came along for their moment of sporting glory that would write them into the history books forever, they were ready for it.

Whether it is the free-kick that sends England to the World Cup or the We Make Footballers student scoring with his weaker foot for the first time, that is the power of visualisation. 

Why do football coaches coach?

Why do football coaches coach? Is it their desire to help football players realise their potential by coaching them in the ways of the sport?

Is it to learn more about the game and have a better understanding? Is it to shape the lives of children at a time when community projects have never been so important or vulnerable? Is it to inspire the next generation?

Is it out of love? Or an ambition to turn that love into something more, that many people involved at the grassroots level dream of – a full-time football career?

Turns out the answer to all those questions is yes. We spoke to some of our We Make Footballers franchisees to find out how their coaching journeys began, what motivates them to run their academies and where they see their careers in football going.

From their answers, here are some of the reasons why football coaches coach.

Helping players to realise their potential

The overriding aim of every football coach is to improve the players they work with. For some children, helping them to realise their potential will lead them into a grassroots team.

For others, it might take them all the way into a professional academy and set them on the path to a career in the sport. That could prove life-changing for both the child and their family.

Just ask Raheem Sterling, who went from skirting away from gangs in London to a full England international whose prospects were utterly transformed by the sport. Or Kyle Walker, who went from Sheffield Council Estate to champion of England at Manchester City. Or any of the other countless examples of players in the professional ranks whose lives might have gone down a very different path had football not come along.

Helping players realise their potential is the reason that Russell Lew set up We Make Footballers Milton Keynes. Russel says there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a player take something you have coached them in practice and use it in a game situation. “We play one-on-ones and two-on-twos during training and when you see somebody do a stepover, a Cruyff Turn or a piece of skill we have been practising in the earlier drills, that just makes me feel good. You feel as though you have made a difference.”

And that difference can take a young player far. We Make Footballers CarshaltonCoulsdon franchisee Simon Karrie speaks with pride of the opportunities that his academy offers players through its links with Crystal Palace and other clubs in the south London area. “It is all little bits of a jigsaw that helps create a pathway for our players,” says Simon. “Top players at our academy, we create pathways for them to get into pro football potentially.”

Marcelo Graca from We Make Footballers Chiswick & Southall speaks with pride of his “Galacticos” who have progressed to professional academies from under his watchful eye. “Matthew Dennis is at Arsenal, Lewis Richards is at Wolves, Richard Olise at Reading, and there are a few more at academies. We have been fortunate enough to work with such a
a talented bunch.”

Marcelo’s own journey into coaching happened almost by accident. “I was asked to referee an Under 7s game and it took me by surprise because of the talent I saw that day, I was gobsmacked. It made me want to enter the world of coaching and have my own impact.”

It is that prospect of having their own impact on the stars of tomorrow and helping them to reach their potential which is why many football coaches take up coaching.

Because football gives a buzz

When Russell talks about the rewarding feeling of seeing one of his players pull off that stepover or Cruyff Turn, you can tell the almighty buzz he gets from it.

That is common across football. For there is no better feeling than the height that comes from coaching. It is a bug that bites you and once you are bitten, it is hard to shake the addiction.

Many coaches stumble into it as Marcelo did, taking up roles because of a lack of volunteers and suddenly finding themselves discovering how much fun grassroots football can be.
We Make Footballers Essex franchisee David Pipe was pushed into coaching when he was only a teenager himself. There has been no looking back from there. “I have been coaching since I was about 15 years old myself,” David explains. “My dad just said ‘Do you fancy coaching?’ one day and I took him up on the offer. I was handed loads of five-year-olds, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I really enjoyed it and got the bug.” David has been coaching grassroots football ever since, including part-time roles at Millwall and Colchester United. The reason he does it is simple – that unbeatable buzz that coaching brings. And now he gets to experience it every day. Setting up his We Make Footballers academy in 2018 allowed David to go full time in football, achieving the dream of many coaches – to turn their love of the game into a career.

To turn their love of football into a career

The prospect of a football career is one of the biggest reasons why football coaches coach. With hard work, determination and the right opportunities, a role that starts as volunteering at a local grassroots club can eventually lead to a full-time career.

Getting into football at a professional level is not easy. For every academy coaching job advertised, clubs expect to receive a minimum of 150 applicants. Some applicants will have BTECs or degrees in sports science. Others might have a Masters or a PhD. The competition is hot.

We Make Footballers can help their franchisees and coaches get their foot in that door. Opportunities to work in coaching and scouting roles for professional clubs arise frequently thanks to the reputation We Make Footballers has across the game.

Simon combines running the Carshalton & Coulsdon Academy with his role as a firefighter. The dream though is to eventually go full time in football, something which he is moving towards.

“The fire brigade takes up 48 hours of my week, so I fit in my franchise basically in and around that. I have been in the firefighter bridage for 12 years and I love my job, it is a great job, however, if I could go full time in football then I would. That is an ambition and a desire of mine to get there.”

“Being involved with We Make Footballers has helped me take the first steps towards transitioning into full-time football, absolutely.”

“From the point of the franchise itself, you can grow and grow and grow and expand. I’ve gone to four classes a week and over 220 students or thereabouts. Obviously, that is endless and you can carry on growing.” 

Turning a We Make Footballers academy into a full-time occupation is one way to launch a career in football. Simon continues: “But there are also the opportunities that have opened up for me with professional football clubs.” 

“I work with Crystal Palace and that has come from We Make Footballers Carshalton & Coulsdon. That would not have happened if I didn’t have my area.”

“It is a good environment not just for my players but also for my coaches as there are pathways into Palace for them if they want to pursue it. And obviously, my own pathway has come from that.”

Marcelo meanwhile has already made the jump to working full time in football: “We Make Footballers and my experiences coaching have enabled me to start scouting, firstly at QPR and now at Tottenham. The two jobs (coaching We Make Footballers and scouting young players) go hand-in-hand.”

To increase knowledge, understanding and gain recognised qualifications

To become a football coach in England, there are a series of qualifications which have to be obtained via the Football Association. These ensure that individuals can give a high level of coaching to players under their tutelage.

Previously, a coach would earn their FA Level 1 and FA Level 2 badges before progressing to UEFA’s qualifications. Recent changes in response to the pandemic however mean that the Introduction to Football Coaching qualification replaced FA Level 1 in 2021. FA Level 2 is now no longer running; the UEFA C Licence will be introduced in 2022 in its place.

The new qualifications feature more independent, remote learning to make them accessible to potential coaches who may not have otherwise had the time to complete the old courses, where physical attendance has been deemed a necessity.

Becoming a coach means passing the qualifications. Passing the qualifications means increasing your knowledge of football. This is a reason for some coaches taking up the role. 

They want to better understand the theories and ideas behind what happens on the pitch and how they are put into practice on the training ground.

We Make Footballers provide franchisees and coaches with in-house, additional training and qualifications, building on their FA and UEFA qualifications and deepening their knowledge of what it takes to be a successful football coach.

David describes the coaching session training he regularly receives to help operate the Essex franchise as “amazing”. The training provided by We Make Footballers does not stop there – off the pitch, franchisees are given help and guidance understanding the business side too.

“Everything is very detailed, from the finance stuff to the admin behind the scenes,” says David. “We had a week or so of training and then great support from head office since then.”

“I can’t count the number of emails I have sent head office but they always respond straight back. It has just been a dream.”

Giving back to the local community and the sport

The role of football in the local community has never been more important. Lockdowns have adversely impacted the physical and mental health of children and budgets were being cut to the bone even before the pandemic.

Physical education in schools is no longer a priority and local councils cannot afford to provide services or maintain facilities. It is a perfect storm having a detrimental effect on the life chances of children.

Football coaching, therefore, gives back to the local community. It provides a means of keeping children fit, active and off the streets. Coaches become role models and mentors who can try and shape the lives of their young players.

Academies provide safe spaces for children to play, exercise and socialise with like-minded children. When football coaches provide such a service, it is not an exaggeration to say that it can be life-changing.

Coaching football does not just give back to local communities. Many coaches take up the role to give back to the sport they love, repaying the fun and enjoyment it has given them.

At some point in a coaches life, they were once the player benefiting from the knowledge and wisdom passed down to them by their own grassroots coach.

Football coaching is cyclical in that way; players become coaches, who coach players who become coaches. Often, the best way to give back to football is by helping to inspire a new generation to love it as much as you have.

To find out more about joining We Make Footballers and taking your own first steps into a rewarding career as a football coach, please see the WMF franchisee website for more details.