Kevin Blackwell: “You would make some really good friends at a place like this”

Professional football coach Kevin Blackwell visited FCV International Football Academy at the end of November to run a training session for students at the Borderville Sports Centre.

The 62-year-old has previously managed Leeds United, Luton Town, Sheffield United, and Bury, and has worked as a coach for various clubs across the country after starting his footballing career as a goalkeeper.

Blackwell was well-travelled as a player in England, signing for more than 10 different clubs, and his intuitive nature as a coach took him further afield as he searched the world for best practices.

These experiences have not only supported Blackwell’s success domestically, but recently led to opposition analysis work on the international stage.

“I’ve gone away to Juventus, AC Milan [in Italy], São Paulo in Brazil and just watched what other people do in other countries,” Blackwell said. “Is there anything that we are doing or are not doing? Or are we coming back quite confident that we are actually ahead of the game in some areas?

“I go over to France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil and have a lovely couple of weeks with good friends; you would make some really good friends at a place like this [at FCV Academy] and they are from all over the world.

“A lot of these lads have come here because they want to learn how to play football and get themselves better, and when you have got people who want to get better it doesn’t half make things a lot easier for a coach.

“I was very impressed with the attitude of the players [at FCV Academy]. They were very well disciplined; they did what we asked them to do. It was, for me, a set of lads that really wanted to go out and train and play so pleasure working with them.”

When not calling the shots as the main decision maker, Blackwell was a trusted assistant to Neil Warnock who became the first professional manager to win eight promotions.

Working as a player or coach, Blackwell had influence in many of Warnock’s end-of-season triumphs – including the first as a goalkeeper during Scarborough’s rise to the English Football League in 1987, and the most recent as assistant coach in the record-breaking eighth when the duo led Cardiff City to the Premier League over 30 years later.

Looking back, Blackwell insists that his time wearing the number one jersey gave him an advantage in his post-playing career.

“As a goalkeeper, if you know what you want your defenders to do, you must understand defenders, so you are really a defender – you put them where they need to go. But equally, you know what a strength and a weakness for a striker is.

“You try to make play as simple as possible and make strikers go into areas that you know you’re strong in – don’t let them get into areas that you’re weak at. That’s knowing your game and understanding how you can affect defenders to help you as a goalkeeper.

“It’s not just about making saves, it’s how you can get your point across to the members [of your team] that are ahead of you: your defenders, your midfield players.

“I was a very vocal goalkeeper; I’d organise them before they got to the halfway line so we knew what was happening. I was able to see things and quite a few people recognised that, and I went on and had a fairly decent career as a coach.

“I set my teams up how I would want them as a goalkeeper and knowing when we had our strongest positions and our best results.”

Using more than 45 years of experience in senior football, Blackwell gave the FCV Academy students a taste of what it’s like to be a player at the highest level.

“There was no good me coming in as a professional coach and acting as a junior coach, and I wanted to make them sure that they understand that the demands of a professional footballer.

“Every day, every session, every minute, you have to be 100 per cent focused on your job and if you aren’t, there are plenty of other people who want to take your job. That always focuses your mind.

“So many people get to the top and forget what it was that took them to the top, because that was the key to their success. Do what you do well and try to improve on the weakness areas.

“There is nothing wrong with getting a ball up against a wall and practising passing with your left foot and right foot, coming in at different angles – they are old-school methods but have never changed.

“Top tennis players, top rugby players, top cricketers, they all perform at the highest level because they focus on what their job is – the outcome takes care of itself.”

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Friday 10th December 2021

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