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Q&A with Neil Day


Were you a football player in the past and what level? How did that experience prepare you to become a football coach.

My playing career never reached the heights I would have liked but looking back it was fair to say I gave 100% every game and made the most of my ability every time I pulled a shirt on. picking up much needed and valuable experience at spells at clubs very much at the level Woodford play at now, Eton Manor, Stansted, Epping, Leyton County and Bank of England FC to name a few. While I don’t think it’s a necessity for a good coach to have played the standard they coach, it does give an insight and some empathy for what they players are going through and likely to go through on and off the pitch and a feel for how the opposition are going to act in certain scenarios. When at Epping I was fortunate enough to play centre back alongside former pro Adrian Whitbread, and learnt valuable lessons about positional play, communication, motivation and the leap in levels in the game, lessons you can’t pick up in a book.

What aspects of Football do you get most excited about?

As I’ve grown older I have tended to detach myself from the excitement of the game, this started when Manager at Wadham Lodge when I realised it was unhealthy to have my highs and lows determined to inches of deflection or the bounce of a ball. Instead I tended to be pretty unemotional whether we scored or conceded and only concentrate on what comes next in the game. It’s a little similar to the results of games, don’t get too high if you win or too low when you lose, there’s always lessons to learn and a chance to bounce back.

What Are The Qualities That A Football Coach Need To Be Successful?

As far as the qualities of a successful coach ?, a lot of that question depends on how you quantify success, too many are caught up in equating that to cups and medals, personally I strive to be the best version of me I can be as a coach and that has too many facets to give justice too here. What I would say is that every coach needs to keep evolving, listening and questioning what they can do better. They need to be reflective, take criticism or praise with the same open attitude and be self motivated, work well within a team , resilient and open to new ideas. Most importantly they need to have the respect and trust of peers and players alike and be able to haul around a massive bag of cones, balls and bibs around without complaint. A good coach in my opinion should also have the knack of simplifying what he is communicating rather than making it sound more daunting as many tend to do. I have a simple philosophy to most sessions with a very basic checklist asking 1) Did players enjoy the session ? 2) Did players work hard ? and 3) Did the players learn anything new ? If you can tick 1 or 2 boxes the session has been positive, if you can tick all 3 you’re well on the way to success at any level.

What, in your opinion, makes an excellent football player?

The fabric of a good footballer is a massively subjective. As a part of my journey as a scout for Colchester United and Leyton Orient over the years I gained my Level 2 Talent Identification Award and can assure you even passing that makes things no clearer. Whilst some might look for technical elements, I tend to get drawn to players I can see a little of myself in as regards to their attitude to the game ie are they coachable ?, do they listen ?, are they resilient, always motivated, tenacious, team players etc -the list is endless but also the vagaries you would get to this question is a great example of the subjectivity of the game. My 2 key elements would be are they coachable ? so will improve and do they have the basics of game understanding ? so can be moulded into a system but that’s if pushed for an answer. The Talent ID course did teach some valuable lessons including one boy being picked by the majority of scouts simply because he had ginger hair and bright orange boots amongst every one having black boots in the match and many of a higher standard. In another clip no one noticed when a man dressed in a gorilla suit walked across the pitch whilst the game was in motion, a simple lesson how we can be so blinkered and transfixed we don’t always see the bigger picture.

How do you use the time between games to get the team ready?

Keeping the team ‘ticking’ between matches is always tricky and you also have to realise both coaches and players have commitments outside of football so there has to be a balance. The Friday night games have given us a particular challenge this year as has the fact that the hockey astroturf we use on a Tuesday is not conducive to the rigours a hard fitness session generates on a players body. Although every week varies, currently we train focussing on a bit of fitness and match relevant drills on a Tuesday followed by a shape run through or set piece practice on a Thursday particularly if playing the next day. WhatsApp groups or the kind have been a positive as Coaches can almost hold a classroom with the players sending through articles, presentations or simply stating what is required during the week or before the game. Some Old School coaches might frown but if it works why not ? and still counts on the points being made clearly and checking the players understanding as to what was being conveyed and how to implement it. Coaching is changing and being beamed down for a Virtual Reality team talk could be the way round my current mobility problems ?.

It’s been a quick turnaround between games this season, what’s the priority for the team?

When we took over this season the team were marooned at the bottom of the league so the number 1 priority was clearly survival. Automatically you tend to look at what you consider ‘winnable games’ given the way the season has started. As the season progressed we were very good at winning those ‘winnable games’ and beating the teams around us as what we referred to as early ‘6 pointers’. Although that has tailed off of late to reach the target we set ourselves of 50 points is an achievement we should not underestimate and of which the Management Team can be very proud. Having reached a target of safety we have been able to bed in a few players who might not have got a chance in a relegation ‘dogfight’ and blood a host of youngsters coming through the Woodford Town ‘Production Line’. As seen young players can equate to inconsistent results but there is plenty of exciting talent in the pipeline which should stand us in good stead long term and I think many would agree we are easier on the eye than many teams at this level. Making us easy on the eye and successful has to be our next focus and challenge ahead.