By Oscar Cayo-Evans
Neil Taylor has become the first of a group of Wales’ Euro 2016 stars to showcase his coaching talent by passing our FAW UEFA A Licence course.
The talented full-back, who played in the Premier League for Aston Villa and Swansea City, has completed a bespoke version of the showpiece course, in a group of his international teammates, including Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Joe Ledley, Chris Gunter, Andy King, James Chester and Sam Vokes.
Amid the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Taylor completed the challenging FAW course, made unique by its mentoring programme, and now aims to take on the UEFA Pro Licence.
The 43-times capped international said: “I loved it and wanted to get it finished from the day I started.
“Being there with the likes of Ashley Williams and Joe Allen was great. We’ve been together a very long time, from our early Swansea days and with Wales, and we all understand football.”
“But, when we first got together and were asked to draw-up a session, even though we’ve probably done about 20,000 training sessions between us, we were looking at each other a bit shocked.”
Taylor, who started his coaching journey as a teenager at Wrexham, overcame his initial jitters and the lack of face-to-face contacts, enforced by the pandemic, to confidently complete the course, thriving thanks to our bespoke one-to-one mentoring programme and his excellent work with the U16 team at his club Aston Villa.
He said: “The mentoring programme gave the whole experience an extra special touch because I always had a person I could speak to and have one-to-one feedback on what I was doing. It felt great that I wasn't alone, in the dark, failing and making mistakes.START YOUR COACHING JOURNEY | CLICK HERE TO HEAD TO FAWCOURSES.COM
“I had (FAW Head of Coach Education) Carl Darlington as my mentor and it was great because he’s so experienced and well-rehearsed. He was always on hand to say, ‘Great, but what if this happens or that happens?'
“The mentors gave us everything we needed to evaluate ourselves and improve.”
Ambitious Taylor, who was born in St Asaph and learned the game at Mynydd Isa FC, is aiming to graduate from the next FAW UEFA Pro Licence cohort, the highest level currently on offer in coach education and, as a veteran of 146 Premier League games, strongly believes developing the ability to plan is the biggest skill that will impact his transition from football player to coach, helping him deal with the responsibility of looking after a group of people rather than just himself.
He said: “I’ve always seen football from a coach’s point of view.”
“Sometimes that was to my detriment as a player because I spent time thinking about ways my winger could improve, or my managers’ decisions, rather than shutting up and getting on with it.”
“The be all and end all isn’t if your team plays silky football, it’s how you can get people to be better at what they do and be authentic in the process.
“I’ve always been frustrated as a player when a coach doesn’t try to make you better. The ones who are the best are all the same. They’ll all make you better.
“It’s no coincidence that the best managers like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel walk into a club and suddenly, everybody’s playing 10% better.
“It’s not about their formula of football, it’s them making an environment where everybody can play at a level and thrive. I think that’s the key.”START YOUR COACHING JOURNEY | CLICK HERE TO HEAD TO FAWCOURSES.COM
As an FAW educated coach, Taylor is in good company, with fellow graduates Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira currently doing great work in the Premier League and others flying the flag around the world.
Viera this season become only the 10th black manager in Premier League history, which has sparked new debate about the lack of BAME coaches at the elite end of the football pyramid.
As a coach of Asian heritage, Taylor relishes the opportunity to inspire a new generation of BAME football players and coaches, across Wales.
He said: “It takes the first person to do a cliff jump for everyone else to follow suit, so I think that’s the key.
“It’s going to start off small but it has to start with participation.
“I can see that we are underrepresented but can we get people out of their comfort zone, so others will follow?”
The popular pundit, who is one of few British Asian heritage players to play in the Premier League, speaks passionately about BAME participation, at all levels of football.
He said: “Can we get more BAME people involved at the grassroots level? Not just playing or coaching, could more become referees or linesman?
The devoted dad, who coaches his son’s U8 team in his spare time, added: “We need to think about other ways that we can we inspire people to get involved. It’s like a safety in numbers sort of thing.”
With such passion for and knowledge of the game, Taylor is well placed to make a big impact on football, globally, in the coming years.START YOUR COACHING JOURNEY | CLICK HERE TO HEAD TO FAWCOURSES.COM