The Derby County man­ager and ex-Real Madrid coach’s ca­reer in pro­file

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

TWENTY years ago, Paul Cle­ment was dishing out ad­vice to school­child­ren. This time last year, it was Zine­dine Zi­dane hang­ing on his ev­ery word.

He’s been Gareth Bale’s shoul­der to cry on and de facto trans­la­tor. David Beck­ham’s best mate in Paris. In­struc­tor to Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic and Frank Lam­pard. And, of course, the trusted lieu­tenant of triple Cham­pi­ons League win­ner Carlo Ancelotti.

The 43-year-old has cer­tainly come a long way since he played for Banstead Ath­letic and Corinthian-Ca­su­als whilst work­ing as a PE teacher at a Sut­ton school.


“It has been an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney,” he said last year, whilst work­ing as as­sis­tant man­ager at Real Madrid. “Fif­teen years ago I would never have thought I’d ever work at the Bern­abeu. Now what it makes me think is that 15 years from now any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

And for the Derby boss, it just could be. Born in 1972, Cle­ment was just ten years old when his fa­ther Dave, a QPR leg­end capped five times by Eng­land, com­mit­ted sui­cide whilst suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion.

As a teenager, he dreamed of fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps.Yet while younger brother Neil would go on to forge an il­lus­tri­ous play­ing ca­reer as a de­fender for West Brom, Cle­ment never pro­gressed be­yond Non-League.

So, at the age of 23, he shifted his sights to coach­ing – and set about hon­ing his craft with the same fear­some com­mit­ment that would later see him spend three hours a day learn­ing Span­ish in Madrid.

First came a de­gree in Sports Science at St Mary’s Univer­sity in Twickenham, a vol­un­tary role with Wim­ble­don’s foot­ball in the com­mu­nity scheme. Then, in 1993, he joined Chelsea’s acad­emy whilst work­ing at Glen­thorne High School to make ends meet.

It was an ex­pe­ri­ence Cle­ment still trea­sures. “Teach­ing gave me a foun­da­tion,” he said. “Or­gan­i­sa­tion, plan­ning, un­der­stand­ing dif­fer­ent learn­ing styles and needs, the im­por­tance of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I’ve taken all that into my coach­ing.”

Belinda Nor­man, part of the PE staff at Glen­thorne, said ear­lier this year: “It’s fan­tas­tic to see Paul do­ing so well and we’re really pleased for him. He did a lot of foot­ball here and coached a lot of teams.

“He came back here a couple of years ago when he was with Chelsea to talk to the chil­dren. He en­cour­aged them to aim for their tar­gets and set high stan­dards for them­selves. I think he’s a great ex­am­ple for them.”

Next, in 1999, came his UEFA A Li­cence, a course he took along­side Bren­dan Rodgers and An­dre Vi­las-Boas, fol­lowed by his first per­ma­nent post – acad­emy di­rec­tor and youth team coach at Ful­ham.

For a while it seemed that would be that. Then, in 2007, Cle­ment re­turned to Chelsea and his ca­reer shot sky­wards.

Hand-picked by Guus Hid­dink to join his back­room staff, Ancelotti then went a step fur­ther and asked – or rather or­dered – Cle­ment to be his as­sis­tant. Wary of be­ing seen as a jumped up youth coach, Cle­ment ini­tially de­murred but the Ital­ian wouldn’t take no for an an­swer.

Be­fore long the pair had melded to form a for­mi­da­ble dou­ble act, Ancelotti’s ex­pe­ri­ence and tac­ti­cal acu­men meld­ing with Cle­ment’s or­gan­i­sa­tional skills to de­liver the Blues a League and FA Cup dou­ble.

To­gether, the pair would go on to win a Ligue 1 ti­tle with Paris St Ger­main, the Span­ish Cup with Real Madrid and, in 2014, the much-cov­eted Dec­ima – Madrid’s tenth Euro­pean ti­tle. “Paul is the best man­ager I’ve ever had on the train­ing pitch,” said Ancelotti in 2013.“He pre­pares train­ing bril­liantly and man­ages the ex­er­cises prop­erly – the best as­sis­tant I’ve ever had. He has all the qual­ity, all the skills and all the ex­pe­ri­ence to be a man­ager. I know one day I’ll have to say good­bye.”

In 2014, a jour­nal­ist for Marca, the Span­ish sports pa­per, was al­lowed to ob­serve a Madrid train­ing ses­sion and saw first hand why Cle­ment was val­ued so highly.

“The Ital­ian and his 13 as­sis­tants rise early then eat break­fast to­gether,” he said. “By 9am they are al­ready plac­ing cones and piv­ots, even though train­ing does not start til 10.30. When the play­ers ar­rive onto the field they im­me­di­ately know where to go, what to do, when to start. Ev­ery­thing is or­dered.The cul­prit of this supreme or­gan­i­sa­tion is Paul Cle­ment, ‘The English­man’.”

Zi­dane, also a mem­ber of Ancelotti’s staff, spoke of Cle­ment’s “great knowl­edge” and ad­mit­ted to pick­ing the brains of his English boss. Yet as Ancelotti knew, the day was draw­ing near when Cle­ment would strike out on his own.


Stephen Hunt called for Cle­ment to be­come the man­ager of Ire­land. QPR made an ap­proach and got re­buffed. But when Ancelotti’s dis­missal at Madrid co­in­cided with that of Steve McClaren at Derby, Cle­ment fi­nally stepped off the board. Now, six months on, the Rams are top of the Cham­pi­onship.

“I’ve known Paul for a long time,” said ex-Black­burn boss Gary Bowyer. “He’s had a won­der­ful ed­u­ca­tion work­ing un­der Mr Ancelotti and he’s an in­tel­li­gent man so he was never go­ing to go to a place where he would not have an op­por­tu­nity to do well.

“They’ve got the struc­ture and the fi­nances. He’s got the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s a great com­bi­na­tion and I think he’s cho­sen very wisely.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

EYES ON THE TOP: Paul Cle­ment has Derby in a great po­si­tion at the top of the Cham­pi­onship in his first man­age­rial job

BERN-ING AM­BI­TION: Cle­ment tasted suc­cess in the Bern­abeu with Gareth

Bale and Carlo Ancelotti

WHIS­TLE WHILE YOU WORK: Cle­ment takes charge of a Real Madrid train­ing ses­sion

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