I originally wrote this around this time last year for Clear Cut Chance but I never followed through the idea in the end as a crash ruined the save and I lost a lot of work and was quite far in. But as I’ve struggled to get into a save properly so far this year, I am now revisiting this idea hence why I’m reposting this. Plus the interview with Gary J. White is always worth reposting 🙂
When playing Football Manager I like to have an element of realism to the game or follow a certain path. In recent versions of the game I’ve followed Bobby Robson career path and managed all the teams he did and in the correct order. I’ve also done the same with a few other managers too. Last year on FM13 saw me play as Ajax which was easy but I tried to follow the training module and the T.I.P.S system they use as closely as the game would allow. This was one of the most enjoyable saves that I’ve had in a long time due to the focus purely on youth development and controlling all teams.
For this years version of the game I thought I’d try something a bit different for how I normally play. I’ve decided to create my own team and have them start the game with no staff, no finances and no players. I’ve also gave them a very low rep and a tiny stadium that is not expandable. The reasons for this was to add a tier of difficulty to my games and make them more of a challenge so I will stick with it long term. Hopefully this will work out and allow me to play for 40+ seasons.
Not only have I created a side and placed them in the Brazilian 4th tier but I also decided it would be great to emulate a great young coach that I look up to and see if I could apply some of his logic to the Football Manager game. The person I’ll be basing my career on is no other than Gary J. White the National Team Head Coach at Guam Football Association. For those of you who are not familiar with Gary here is a run down of his career so far;
A UEFA ‘A’ licensed professional soccer coach with FIFA international experience and is the current national team head coach and technical director for the Guam Football Association who compete in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In July 2012 White led “The Matao” Guam’s National Football Team to international success by comprehensively being crowned the East Asian Football Championships winners of Round 1 after just 4 months at the helm.
In October 2011, he was hand selected as one of only sixteen (16) coaches globally by The FA to attend their new prestigious Elite Coaching License. This license is unique in world football and is the highest practical coaching award offered by The FA.
White is the former technical director of Washington Youth Soccer & Sounders FC (MLS) elite player development program, prior to this role he was the head coach of the Virgin Islands and Bahamas national football teams.
White has 10 years of FIFA International coaching experience competing in one of the most difficult World Cup qualifying confederations (CONCACAF) he is still one of the youngest national team coaches in FIFA history.
White also serves on both US Soccer’s National Coaching Staff and US Soccer’s player development task force. He has also worked on FIFA’s Technical Study Groups & Coaching instructor staff.
He has one of the hardest jobs in football but is doing a remarkable job so far. In the last few weeks I was able to ask him a few questions about Guam and Football Manager to give a better insight into the man himself and his thinking.
- How did you feel when you was hand selected by The FA to take part in a new scheme with 15 other hand picked coaches for the two-year elite coaching development license programme? It must have been a great honour to be selected?
It was a very proud moment in my career as a Englishman to be hand selected by the oldest FA on the planet as someone they regarded as having the potential to be an elite coach. What made it especially memorable was the fact that it was Mr. Richard Bate who came up with the unique concept, directed the program and brought me in. So to be invited by Mr. Bate who I believe is a true mastermind of the game and the best coach/educator I have ever worked with or witnessed was a fantastic honour. It was also a great opportunity to be in a select group of the best young coaches in the country, who will be shaping the way the game is played over the next several decades.
- Did you do things a lot different in terms of your approach and execution with regards to training before this? I asked the same question recently to another member of the Elite 16, Louis Lancaster, and he says it revolutionised his tactical thinking. What kind of impact has the experience had on your career so far?
In terms of on the grass training we were exposed to the most modern technical, tactical and physical training environments and topics available and this was in terms of both position specific and team tactical training. We were also placed under pressure to show evidence of our knowledge and understanding of these elements in front of our peers and key FA staff when we were given elite advanced topics to present at St Georges Park. This pro level license definitely assisted in developing my emotional and contextual intelligence in terms of management, coaching and communication, I feel I am now ready for any coaching challenge at any level.
- A lot of Football Manager fans like to do journeyman careers which see them experience many different leagues and clubs, as they try and build a club up before moving on to the next one. I’ve seen interviews in the past where you’ve mentioned other countries you’d like to manage in; is this due to you wanting to experience different cultures and learn as much as you can? Or is it something else driving you?
I believe to be a successful coach in the modern game at the highest levels you need to have an elite understanding and knowledge of how to communicate using various methodologies to reach and convince your players of your philosophy. These players will have various backgrounds and come from many different cultures. In any given changing room in any top league in the world you will have in front of you players with vastly different experiences and you will struggle to relate to them if you as the leader have no prior experiences of different environments to draw upon, you now need to be global. The more you travel the more you broaden your mind and see new and exciting ways of developing, younger coaches must get out of their comfort zone and see the world of football and challenge themselves.
- How does coaching at youth level, club level and international level all differ from each other? As an outsider it would seem that international football would be harder because you have less time with the players; how do you make the most of the time and fit in everything you want to do? It does seem like it could be challenging at times.
Well, first of all, the most challenging coaching environment I have ever experienced was when I first started in my career and worked with elementary school kids; it was a brilliant foundation to work from and maybe the most rewarding. The international game is very interesting as you spend the majority of your time scouting and analysing current National Team players all over the world and also recruiting new players who may have the potential to make your squad. Then you spend a lot of time managing the players club coaches and sporting directors to create close relationships, so when you call players up for International duty the clubs support you rather than create obstacles. In terms of the team training, we will usually run training camps prior to the International competitions to allow everyone to get reacquainted and for me and my coaching staff to implement the strategies and tactics for each specific game. The time factor is a concern but you just have to make the little time you have with the players as efficient and impactful as possible.
- On Football Manager I can focus on a player’s individual attributes or put him on one of the many role training which can be anything from a libero to a false nine. But how realistic is this? I guess what I’m asking is – firstly how do you decide what position someone will play and secondly how do you decide what he needs to work on in terms of player development?
When we select players we profile them by position and in units to fit within our national playing philosophy’s technical script. These profiles are both detailed and flexible as players at the International level must be able to interchange position and not be confined to a certain area of the field. The game in my opinion has to be dynamic and fluent if you are to break teams down. We will train the team utilising various training techniques and environments to meet our objectives including position specific, unit & group , phases, SSG and 11 v 11 depending what our priority is and who are opponents are.
- Let’s say you had a striker who was good but lacked finishing, would you then work on the skills he needs to become better at finishing? And if so, would this be extra training on top of what he normally does or would this be instead of?
Well we try to pick players who are currently having success in their positions for their clubs (this is the reason we would be looking at them to be called up to the National team). Even though our time is limited we will try to increase the players sharpness and work on exercises that will affect how they play and ensure they understand their role and responsibilities within the team concept.
- You were on a podcast I listened to a while back and you seemed so enthusiastic about Guam’s prospects. You wanted to make Guam the 5th best national team in EAFF. How exactly do you go about doing this?
Well the long term strategic plan we have put in place is named “The 5th element 2022” and the objective is to be the 5th strongest National program in our region of AFC, East Asia (EAFF) by 2022, which includes international power houses such as Japan, Korea & China. We have a comprehensive plan that includes the development of players, coaches, clubs, facilities and National teams.
- You’ve already had some success and steered Guam to the highest rankings ever in their history, 178th. That’s quite an achievement especially as they were 195th before you took over 15 months ago. What’s the key to the success you’ve had so far?
It’s a simple formula = drive, desire, determination combined with having confidence and self-belief. I have the knowledge and experience of working at the International level and I understand what it takes to get the most out of what you have. The support I have from the GFA President and executive board has been imperative and essential, I am surrounded by great people of similar thinking. They want success as much as I do. Our next target is to break into the top 150 on the FIFA world rankings by the end of the year.
- If you wanted a player to do a specific thing i.e close down more, play wider etc how would you translate this to the player? Is it something you’d work on during the build up to the match in training? Or is it as simple as just saying ‘close down more’ to the player and then allowing him to make his mind up?
You must work with and believe in your players on and off the field and invest your time in them, so they want to do what you ask them to do and will run through a wall for you. This takes time, skill and management. If you can get to this point, the rest is easy.
- You appear to be a very busy person – head coach, technical director and a member of the EAFF technical study group (TSG) for FIFA international competitions. Would all these roles at once be impossible to do if it was a club level side you was managing?
I am very gracious to have found my labour of love in football and coaching, so I really do not see it as being busy as I enjoy every minute of it. At the club level you need to be focused on your team, players, staff and your schedule 24 hours a day, so it would be more difficult to have too many roles but nothing is impossible…
- What exactly does being a member of the TSG mean and what kind of things do you do?
The TSG is the Technical Study Group who are a selected group of technical experts and have the responsibility for writing an technical report on various FIFA sanctioned tournaments and competitions. You analyse every team in the tournament from a technical and tactical standpoint and then document the modern trends at the highest levels of the game.
- Over the last few months I’ve spoke to hundreds of coaches at all level, from Ajax, Reading, Watford, Cambridge University, Sheffield FC and so on and you all seem really helpful and when talking to you all, I feel a sense of enjoyment in what you are doing and can see the enthusiasm. How important is it that you enjoy what you do on a daily basis? Without naming names there must be some people in the sport who don’t enjoy what they do and see it just as a job. Have you ever felt like this at any stage or would you walk away if your heart wasn’t in it any longer?
First of all, successful people in any given industry give back to what has given them so much. There is no such thing as something from nothing, as the great author Napoleon Hill says. To do what you love every day to me is real success and I am sure that all the other coaches you have spoken to would agree with me when I say we are fortunate to have found what we love to do. When you love a thing whether it’s a person, place or possession you cannot hide your excitement and enthusiasm about it and you want to share your experiences with others.
The great thing about working in professional and elite football is that sooner or later those who do not have the needed desire and motivation will be chewed up and spat out, so your heart must be in it.
- How daunting was it when you were at British Virgin Islands and at the age of 24 became one of the youngest ever head coaches to take charge of a team in a World Cup Qualification match?
I wanted to be challenged and placed out of my comfort zone – that’s why I took the job. I knew the adversity would make me stronger in the long run. I never looked at the role in any other way but with excitement and I knew if I could get the players to enjoy my sessions and my character they would no longer look at me as a young or old coach but just as a good one that they wanted to work with.
Gary J. White is one of the best young coaches in world football in my opinion and is doing a great job that deserves high praise. It’s not an easy task to manage Guam and try and make them into one of the top sides in the EAFF by 2022. This is one of the reasons why I want to emulate his success but at club level rather than on the international stage.
Troy Vipauro will be my in game manager whose career will be based on Gary J. White and he’ll be managing Lâminas Futebol Clube in the Brazilian 4th Division The Campeonato Brasileiro Série D.
This is the first part of a mini series and was a brief introduction to what I’ll be attempting and the career path I’ve chosen. The next part can be found in the March Edition and will bring you up to speed on my current position in the game and talk about how easy/hard I’m finding the challenge and discuss my strategy that I’m using.
NOTE – Since writing this Guam have moved further up the FIFA rankings and as of 28/11/13 currently sit 169 in the world. When Gary first got the job they were 196th in the world. Gary is now hoping that they can break the top 150, that is his next goal for Guam. And considering they’ve moved up 27 places in the 2 years he’s been in charge this is a real possibility.
Good luck Gary, I hope you can do it 🙂
EDIT – As of today 04/12/14 Guam are currently placed 165th in the FIFA rankings.