IT’S BACK TO CLASS­ROOM – I’M DONE AS A MINER!

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

GARY Bowyer laughs when I ask if he’d mind clear­ing up a cou­ple of facts be­fore the se­ri­ous ques­tions start.

Firstly, is it true he once rep­ri­manded Brian Clough for fail­ing to give his dad, Ian, a game for Not­ting­ham For­est?

“I’m afraid so,” says the Black­pool boss. “I prob­a­bly got a clip off both of them. My dad for em­bar­rass­ing him and Brian for my cheek!”

And that he re­tired at 25? “Also true,” he adds. “Sur­geon’s ad­vice. And, while we’re at it, here’s an­other fact for you.

“Con­trary to what Wikipedia says, I have never man­aged Car­shal­ton Ath­letic. I have no idea where that came from, but it gets pub­lished in pro­grammes, on web­sites, all over the place. I’ve never even set foot in Car­shal­ton and they’ve got my date of birth wrong!”

Bowyer is talk­ing from a ho­tel room in Ply­mouth prior to Tues­day night’s 3-1 win at Home Park which lifted his side into fifth place.

Both sides won pro­mo­tion to League One last sea­son and, so far, it is Bowyer’s Tan­ger­ines who are mak­ing the bet­ter fist of things. “As soon as we got pro­moted, I rang round sev­eral man­agers in League One and mined them for in­for­ma­tion,” re­veals the 46year-old. “They were all happy to give an idea of what we’d need. You’d be sur­prised how col­lab­o­ra­tive this job is. Un­til Satur­day comes, we’re all in the same boat. “That said, I also spoke to a lot of peo­ple who got pro­moted out of that league be­cause they’re a bit more will­ing to give you de­tails than the peo­ple who are still in it!” And it isn’t just man­agers be­ing mined. This week, Bowyer will re­turn to Manch­ester Metropoli­tan Univer­sity to start the se­cond year of a Masters course in Sport­ing Direc­tor­ship. A fix­ture in Europe for decades, sport­ing di­rec­tors act as a link be­tween man­ager and board­room, over­see­ing re­cruit­ment, youth de­vel­op­ment and per­form­ing other ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks. The guid­ing prin­ci­ple is that the man­ager can then de­vote his time purely to coach­ing.

Un­til re­cently, such char­ac­ters were viewed in Eng­land as med­dle­some job­sworths who stripped away man­age­rial power.

Yet al­most all Premier League clubs now use the sport­ing di­rec­tor model, as do sev­eral Cham­pi­onship sides.

“The for­eign model is com­ing in a big way,” in­sists Bowyer, whose peers on the course in­clude Michael Ap­ple­ton and for­mer Ever­ton as­sis­tant Steve Round. “And, per­son­ally, I think it’s a great move. As a coach, I want to be on the grass. “Don’t get me wrong. You can’t be told, ‘Right, these are the play­ers, now go away and get on with it’. I don’t think that would work and it’s why you have to get the right per­son in. “But a re­la­tion­ship where the two of you col­lab­o­rate closely, where ev­ery­thing they do is geared up to help­ing you and vice versa, that would be ideal. Look at Southamp­ton. Look at Wat­ford. Both great ex­am­ples of the suc­cess it can bring.” Bowyer’s in­ter­est is both aca­demic and prag­matic, in­spired by a chaotic start to his man­age­rial ca­reer at Black­burn in 2013 and the un­em­ploy­ment that fol­lowed two years later.

A youth coach at Ewood Park for nine years, Bowyer was thrust into the hot seat af­ter a string of mis­guided ap­point­ments by Venky’s, the club’s clue­less In­dian own­ers.

In­flu­ence

De­spite avert­ing rel­e­ga­tion and sta­bil­is­ing the side, he, too, was given the boot.

“When you go on coach­ing cour­ses, you do have a lit­tle chuckle to your­self,” he says.

“You’re think­ing, ‘This isn’t quite how man­age­ment re­ally is’.

“One of the hard­est things about the job – and some­thing

no­body teaches you about – is man­ag­ing up­wards.

“When I went in at Black­burn, a lot of what I did was off the pitch. It was a case of try­ing to in­flu­ence and ed­u­cate the own­ers on how to build a foot­ball team.

“You see it ev­ery­where, don’t you? Peo­ple come and buy foot­ball clubs. They’ve got all the money, but their un­der­stand­ing of foot­ball is full of holes. Then, out­side in­flu­ences get in­volved, all with their own agen­das.

“I’d been in this nar­row world, coach­ing young play­ers. Sud­denly, I was see­ing the whole busi­ness.

“It was a steep learn­ing curve, but at the same time that side of it re­ally in­ter­ested me.

So, when I saw the course, it seemed an ob­vi­ous step: to gain more knowl­edge but also to keep my op­tions open for the fu­ture.”

Bowyer’s bap­tism at Black­burn also proved to be ideal prepa­ra­tion for Black­pool.

Like the Venky’s, owner Karl Oys­ton is re­viled by Tan­ger­ines sup­port­ers who have ac­cused him of fail­ing to in­vest fol­low­ing pro­mo­tion to the Premier League in 2010.

Rel­e­gated three times in five years, gates have dwin­dled and many sup­port­ers are boy­cotting games un­til the Oys­tons sell up. Just 6,000 of them watched May’s play-off vic­tory at Wem­b­ley.

“I do draw on my ex­pe­ri­ences from Black­burn,” says Bowyer. “When I took over there, ev­ery­thing was very frac­tious. Very anti-Venky’s. It’s well doc­u­mented what went on – and is still go­ing on.

“I brought in young, hun­gry play­ers, the likes of Tom Cair­ney, Shane Duffy, Corry Evans, Ja­son Steele. And we said, ‘Conop­por­tu­nity, cen­trate on the foot­ball be­cause you can’t af­fect any­thing else’.

“That’s ex­actly what hap­pened here. We al­ways talk about not hid­ing. About not us­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the club and the sup­port­ers as an ex­cuse. And, to be fair to the play­ers, that’s ex­actly what they’ve done.”

Men­tally

Didn’t he baulk at tak­ing on an­other bas­ket case?

“A lot of peo­ple have asked me that,” ex­plains Bowyer. “But I’d been out of work for six months af­ter Black­burn.

“When you’ve worked for 14 years, I don’t think peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate how tough that is on you men­tally. Es­pe­cially when you look at the sup­ply and de­mand.

“There are a hell of a lot of coaches and bet­ter man­agers than me out of work. If there’s an you have to grab it.”

What about a re­turn to coach­ing? It’s se­cure, it pays OK and as his long stint in the Black­burn back room proved – you don’t get sacked. And didn’t Bowyer ini­tially re­ject the chance to man­age Rovers?

“That’s all true,” he ad­mits. “But, once you’ve had a taste, it grabs you. In youth de­vel­op­ment, the achieve­ment is get­ting play­ers through the sys­tem. It’s ful­fill­ing, but it’s a slow burn.

“On a Satur­day, you’re judged solely on that 90 min­utes. When you win, it’s a buzz. When you lose, it hurts. It changes you. That’s the only way I can de­scribe it.”

Of course, he knows how it will end.

“You look at what Brian Clough did at For­est, the way he built a club,” said Bowyer, who spent three years at the City Ground un­der Clough. “Not many get that time now.

“I see sim­i­lar­i­ties with Sean Dy­che. I see sim­i­lar­i­ties with Ed­die Howe. But I’m not sure they were given pa­tience. They earned that time off their own backs by win­ning foot­ball matches.

“All man­agers are aware of the dangers. All you can do is make play­ers bet­ter. If they im­prove, you get re­sults. And, if you get re­sults, you stay in a job. That’s a fact.”

Un­like that Wikipedia en­try.

DE­SIRE: Gary Bowyer won’t stop learn­ing and he’s back at univer­sity to prove it

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

RE­SPECT: Sean Dy­che RATED: Ed­die Howe WEM­B­LEY TANGO: Black­pool cel­e­brate their League Two play-off fi­nal vic­tory last sea­son

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