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