For­mer FA man­ag­ing di­rec­tor is lov­ing life at Not­ting­ham For­est

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

IT was hardly the big­gest football splash of the sum­mer – the al­most anony­mous de­par­ture from the spotlight of some­one whose love of the game was born dur­ing his time as a ball boy for his lo­cal team and nur­tured by a steady as­cen­sion as an ad­min­is­tra­tor un­til, ar­guably, he oc­cu­pied one of the most pow­er­ful roles in its gov­ern­ing body.

And in the end, uniquely, be­com­ing a vic­tim of that de­vo­tion to Eng­land’s na­tional sport, he al­lowed him­self to turn al­most full cir­cle and re­turn to his roots.

Adrian Bevington will tell you how for­tu­nate he has been. Dreams of a ca­reer in pro­fes­sional football never ma­te­ri­alised but, now he would ar­gue, short of stick­ing the ball in the net to win his beloved Mid­dles­brough a Wem­b­ley FA Cup fi­nal, he could never have had a hap­pier as­so­ci­a­tion with the sport he lives, eats and breathes.


His is a re­mark­able story of a climb through the ranks, from his school­boy thrill of be­com­ing a ball boy for the Boro; join­ing the club’s media staff at a time when such ap­point­ments were a rar­ity in the game; and de­part­ing Teesside to take up a sim­i­lar role with the Football As­so­ci­a­tion, be­fore fi­nally end­ing up as the FA’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor.

“I have to pinch my­self when I think of how far I went,” he says.

“Of course I nei­ther dreamed nor had any in­cli­na­tion of how it would all end up. It re­ally has been a fairy story – a school­boy’s dream.”

So what per­suaded him to walk away from such a hands-on po­si­tion in football – one which took him as far as be­ing part of a com­mit­tee which ac­tu­ally se­lected the Eng­land man­ager?

It is a ques­tion which has re­mained unan­swered... un­til now, when Bevington re­vealed a re­mark­able in­sight into the thoughts of a man who rose to football roy­alty, but never lost his envy for the game’s sol­diers.

“I left the FA at the end of last year,” he said. “I had been watch­ing Mid­dles­brough a lot last sea­son any­way. It was be­com­ing a real plea­sure fol­low­ing them again, es­pe­cially with my son get­ting in­ter­ested as well.

“Once I left the FA, peo­ple at the club – such as the chair­man Steve Gib­son and oth­ers – in­cluded me in their board­room en­tourage trav­el­ling to away matches. It was ex­cit­ing be­ing part of it all again.”

That in­volve­ment un­der­scored Bevington’s de­sire to re­turn to a hands on role and he didn’t take a lot of per­suad­ing to join the ad­min­is­tra­tive staff at Not­ting­ham For­est a week be­fore the sea­son started.

“I’ve been to ev­ery game bar one this sea­son and just hav­ing a rea­son to be at matches again is a great feel­ing,” he said.

“Feel­ing the emo­tion of the team win­ning, los­ing, scor­ing and all the rest of it gives me a tremen­dous adren­a­line rush which I had missed.

“I have no re­grets leav­ing the FA. There was no bit­ter­ness, but I would say that no­body would be more pleased than me if Roy Hodg­son can lead the team to the kind of suc­cess ev­ery Eng­land sup­porter wishes for.” And when he in­sists he firmly be­lieves Eng­land’s in­ter­na­tional for­tunes could change, Bevington cites the Cham­pi­onship as a vi­tal nurs­ery for many up and com­ing play­ers.

“I think it could hap­pen,” he said.“We are pro­duc­ing more skil­ful and tal­ented play­ers. There are many who have caught my eye play­ing in the Cham­pi­onship, play­ers like Dele Alli I think will be­come a great player for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

“He has sim­i­lar box-to-box qual­i­ties as Steven Ger­rard. He can go past peo­ple and score a goal. He is a re­ally tal­ented foot­baller.You have to give a lot of credit for his suc­cess to the Football League and man­agers like Karl Robin­son, the man­ager of MK Dons. There are a lot of im­pres­sive char­ac­ters around.

“The coach­ing is bet­ter now. It’s cer­tainly bet­ter than it was 30 years ago when peo­ple of my age were try­ing to come through.

“Peo­ple have sug­gested that the new FA de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­ity at St Ge­orge’s Park is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, but my view is it is a build­ing with football pitches and it’s what comes with it that counts. It is just one part of the jig-saw. “We’ve got to make sure the coaches are pro­duced at the high­est level and the play­ers are not only tech­ni­cally cor­rect but are also men­tally very strong.”

Now Bevington has cho­sen to take a step back from hob­nob­bing it with the world’s in­flu­en­tial football de­ci­sion mak­ers for one sim­ple rea­son – he has put club be­fore coun­try.

He has for­saken the FA to take part in the ev­ery­day run­ning of a football club. And he couldn’t be hap­pier. “I chose to leave be­cause I felt it was the nat­u­ral de­ci­sion to make,” he com­mented.

“I have been in­cred­i­bly lucky to have been in­volved with the Eng­land team over the course of five World Cups and three Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.

“It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but I was ready for some­thing dif­fer­ent – the one thing I missed all the time.

“Ev­ery year I was with Eng­land – and as much as I was priv­i­leged to travel around the world with the var­i­ous teams, women’s, Un­der21s, se­niors – I missed the ebb and flow of club football… mas­sively. It killed me ev­ery week.

“I re­mem­bered how when a club team lost a game on a Satur­day they were able to get to­gether straight away to try and put it right on a Tues­day.

“With Eng­land the games came in short bursts.

“Look, I am in­cred­i­bly proud to have reached a po­si­tion like man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the FA.

“How­ever, my great­est re­gret was dur­ing my time there we haven’t been suc­cess­ful on the pitch. I re­gard that as a big mi­nus against 17 years of hard work and ma­jor ef­fort.

“When we lost to Italy in the open­ing game of the World Cup in Brazil last sum­mer, I was dev­as­tated. I’d spent three years plan­ning our trip there. I had been to Brazil so many times, trav­el­ling around ex­ten­sively try­ing to set ev­ery­thing up with key mem­bers of the FA like Roy Hodg­son – who I loved work­ing with.


“You knew when you lost that first game you were go­ing to be up against the wall.You knew you had to win the next game or you were prob­a­bly go­ing to be out.

“For half-an-hour af­ter that match I went out­side and stood on my own, not want­ing to even speak to any­body.

“Later dis­cussing the game, some­body said … ‘This is football. You’ve just got to bounce back.’

“But it isn’t the same. I know the chal­lenges of club football are very hard, but you don’t have to wait another four years to get the chance to put things right.

“Be­ing truth­ful, I had known that World Cup would be my last with Eng­land, but this de­cided it. I knew I couldn’t do another one. I had to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Bevington’s es­cape route was via Not­ting­ham For­est, and straight away he knew he had found suc­cour at the City Ground with a club strug­gling to re­cap­ture for­mer glo­ries.

“I’ve been for­tu­nate to have many friends and con­tacts within the game,” he added.

“I love go­ing into a board­room and hav­ing a chat with peo­ple you may not have seen for months. I love that ca­ma­raderie that ex­ists in English football.

“I love go­ing to games and feel­ing some­thing about them.

“My time with the FA and work­ing with the Eng­land team has pro­vided me with many happy mem­o­ries, but this is what I want to do now.” Reg­u­lar Football League Pa­per colum­nist Chris Dunlavy is away.

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