This blog is the sixth of a regular series on The 94th Minute where I ask various people, who are involved in football in some manner, eleven questions to get to know them better. The first ten questions will differ for each person asked, but the final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI!
In this edition of the Starting XI, the interviewee is Gareth Jones. He is a FAW C-Licence certificated coach, who has just completed a degree in ‘Football Coaching and the Performance Specialist‘ at Glyndŵr University. Gareth is heavily involved with youth team coaching, being involved in Prestatyn Town’s academy, coaching a number of the Flintshire School Girls F.A. teams, and was recently appointed as part of the coaching staff for the newly created Holywell Town Ladies team.
You can follow Gareth on Twitter: @gazburger83
1. Firstly, how did you initially get involved in football coaching?
I first got involved with coaching when I saw an advert on Facebook for a football coaching degree down at Glyndŵr University in Wrexham. I contacted Sara Hilton, who runs the course, and arranged a meeting with her, and before I knew it I was enrolled on to it. A friend of mine then informed me that my local kids football team, Greenfield Juniors, were in need of some coaches so I went and met with them. Again, before I knew it, I was their new under 7’s coach and I haven’t looked back from there since.
2. What coaching courses have you done in the past, and which ones are you currently doing or plan to do in the near future?
I’m currently just finishing my Level 4 year on the ‘Football Coaching and the Performance Specialist‘ degree at Glyndŵr, within that same course I have already completed my ‘FAW Leaders Award‘, ‘FAW Safeguarding‘, ‘FAW First Aid‘ and I am currently just finishing off my FAW C certificate. I will then begin my UEFA B license in September.
I have also gained the FAW Futsal certificate and last month had the pleasure to attend the FAW performance analysis conference, down at Dragon Park, with key speakers such as Ryan Giggs, Osian Roberts and Jane Ludlow, as well as members from the FAW analysis team and even Belgium’s head analyst. So I’m always looking at ways to further my knowledge and understanding of the game.
3. What is your coaching philosophy; how do you like your teams to play?
My philosophy is simple: enjoy the game! It doesn’t matter whether your playing in the park with friends, or in front of hundreds of people, you are still just playing football, so enjoy it.
With regards to how I like my team to play, the kids always look at me confused when I say if we have possession, the goalkeeper is the first point of attack, and when we lose possession, the striker is our first defender. That is how I like my teams to play though, build up from the back using width to create space and be calm in possession then really work to press the opposition once we lose the ball. Pretty simple but effective!
4. What has been your favourite moment or achievement in your coaching career so far?
I have two moments that are equally my best moments. The first one was our first win with the Greenfield Juniors 7’s, when I took the role I only had 2 players but I worked hard with them, and as time passed, we’d get a couple more turning up to training until we had enough to enter the league. Their first ever game was a 25-0 hammering by one of the top teams, but the boys learnt from that and they kept working hard and 2 months later they managed to get their first win! The joy in their faces that day will live with me forever.
Equally as good was our first victory with the Flintshire schoolgirls’ team this season. We knew we had some really outstanding players in the squad but we started late in the year, and were playing catch up to the others. Again we all worked really hard in training and were unfortunate with a couple of draws which should have been wins, so when we finally got that victory we were all ecstatic. I think both of those moments show what hard work can achieve in football.
5. Is there any coach or manager who has been an inspiration or a great help in your coaching career so far?
I’ll try and earn some brownie points and say my tutors at Glyndŵr, Sara Hilton and Chris Hughes. Sara is also a coach educator for the FAW Trust and most people will know Chris as the current first team manager for Newtown AFC. Both have good knowledge of the game and are always happy to offer advice. I also work with 2 good friends of mine, who I really don’t want to name drop, but myself and Stephen Boyes have really worked hard with the schoolgirl setup this year, and Dave Edwards for bringing me into Prestatyn Town’s academy, where we’ve also worked hard to create a very good team who go into the under 11’s next season.
6. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
There is no right or wrong way to coaching. Different people learn in different ways, and each coach has their own opinion on how the game should be played, so always do what you think is best for your players to develop to the best of their abilities. That’s the best advice I received and is what I strive to do with each team I coach.
7. You are involved in coaching the Flintshire schoolgirls’ team, how would you say the development of girls and women’s football is going in Flintshire (and North Wales) so far?
First of all, I’d like to thank Gary Downie for bringing me into the setup and then asking me to run the football side of things. I’ve had an amazing year and enjoyed every second of it, as well as meeting some great players and their families, who are the best bunch you could ask for.
From a development point of view the girls’ and ladies’ side of football is currently enjoying its best spell in decades. The amount of participants in North Wales has risen astronomically, resulting in more demand for teams as well as the introduction of performance centres. In Flintshire, we have some great teams such as Northop Hall, Airbus and Buckley whilst their are new teams forming such as Nomads and of course Holywell. It really is a great time to be involved with this side of the game!
8. You have also been recently appointed part of the coaching staff for the newly-formed Holywell Town Ladies team. Are you excited on taking on such a challenge, and what tasks do you have to do in creating a brand-new ladies team?
I am extremely excited to be coming on board with the Lionesses. Kev Warburton is the man behind the whole project and is doing an amazing job to see that the ladies’ and the girls’ teams get the same amount of support from the club that the men’s and boys’ do. I had the pleasure to watch the girls under 8’s, and 10’s at training on Thursday night and can safely say the future is bright for those girls moving forward. I also met with the newly formed committee, who are extremely dedicated and full of great ideas that I look forward to seeing come to fruition in the future.
With regards to the ladies team, I’m looking forward to the first training session. I know it’s going to be hard to attract the top players at first but, with some hard work, we can develop our own players capable of challenging for top honours. There are also very good players from Holywell, who currently play for teams outside of the area, that hopefully we can tempt into coming and representing their hometown. All in all, it’s a very exciting project and any support we receive will be greatly appreciated.
9. What do you hope to achieve with both the Flintshire and Holywell Ladies teams in the future?
That’s simple for both teams, we want to promote women’s football in a positive manner, including the social, educational, health and well-being aspects both on and off the field, and hopefully encourage more and more girls to take up the sport. For the Flintshire girls, my aim is to get the teams qualifying from the groups and playing in the finals of the tournament, as well as getting as many girls as possible in the performance centres, regional camps and even the national squads, which we have already managed to achieve in our first season.
For Holywell, we want to make women’s football as strong as possible by developing a pathway that will start at the under 8 age group and progress right up to the ladies team. I want all players in the ladies team to be role models and mentors to the girls in the youth setup, so that they can see exactly what our hopes are for them, as they progress through each age group. And I’ll be happy if, at the end of the day, we can look back and say we’ve provided a fun, safe environment for ladies and girls to come and learn and enjoy the game in their local community.
10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get involved in football coaching?
Always strive to learn more! The best managers in the world are continually learning on a daily basis and admit they don’t know the answer to everything. There is so much information out there these days that it can sometimes be overwhelming, so just try to keep things as simple as possible (especially if your coaching kids football).
11. Finally, who would you be in your all-time, favourite Starting XI side and why?
People who know me already will know that I am a die hard Wales and Liverpool fan, so wont be surprised by most of my choices here. I’m going to go against my usual 4-3-3 formation that I always stick to and go for a 3-5-2 attacking team.
Formation: 3-5-2 Attacking
- GK: Peter Schmeichel – Hate that he played for United but for me the greatest to ever go between the sticks (slightly just head of Big Nev).
- CB: Seren Carrington – 13 years old and as cool as anyone at the back that I’ve ever seen. Remember the name because the girl will go far.
- CB: Virgil Van Dijk – Best defender in the world, I wont hear otherwise!
- CB: Paolo Maldini – Amazing defender who was equally as good at LB. What he achieved in his career says it all.
- CM: Steven Gerrard (c) – No surprises here for me, the best all round player of his generation and captain fantastic for the mighty reds.
- CM: Gary Speed – What a guy for Wales! Another who did a great job in various positions, gave his blood sweat and tears for our nation, and will never be forgotten. Gone far too soon! RIP
- CM: Mayzee Davies – Another 13 year old who’s too cool for school! She was in the Welsh under 15’s squad at 12 years old, on the books with Man City, another to watch out for in the future.
- RW: Mo Salah – ‘The Egyptian King’ has been a revelation since joining Liverpool and his goals and assist ratio is unreal.
- LW: Lionel Messi – The GOAT, there simply isn’t enough words to describe him!
- CF: Ian Rush – Flintshire’s finest! Bags of pace and 300 plus goals to show, would love to see him in the current national team. He’s exactly what we need at the moment.
- CF: Kelsey Blackwell – Flintshire Girls’ top scorer. She’s from Flint, like Rushy, and is exactly in the same mould as him – pace, power and accuracy. Another one with a bright future ahead!
A massive thank you to Gareth for answering the questions. If you wish to follow him on Twitter, his account is @gazburger83.
To check out the previous episode of Starting XI, with TNS’ media officer and ‘The Angling Rev’ Stewart Bloor, it can be found HERE.
If you have any feedback, comments or suggestions on who I should interview next in the series, please drop some suggestions in the comments box below, tweet me at @The94thMin, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to hear what you think about the new series.
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