Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is the Head of Football Development at Solihull Moors FC, Myles Cooper.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Myles Cooper, I’m 25 years old and I am currently the Head of Football Development at Solihull Moors FC in the National League.
Despite playing lower league football, both here in the UK and in Australia, my background is around Youth Development and I have always been focused since taking my first coaching badge to continue to give young aspiring footballers opportunity. My playing career started in Australia, where I was playing for Melbourne University in the Victoria State League. Alongside training and playing regular football I wanted to learn more about youth development and I wanted to become a football coach. I applied for a job at the biggest football (soccer) academy in Australia, not really expecting to get it but I did – on my first day I was introduced to Jesper Olsen, the Danish footballer who had played for Ajax and Manchester United, it was a big eye-opener.
In early 2015, after moving back to the United Kingdom, I started my coaching journey in England at Burton Albion Football Club – within their Community Trust delivering PE and extra-curricular activities in the day and working with grassroots clubs and development centres/academy in the night. It was here I knew this was the career path I wanted to go down, I developed a real passion for the learning the game and working with the coaching environment. Burton Albion’s Community Trust was fantastic – they helped me gain so much, skills so prevalent today; I probably didn’t realise at the time how good they were, but looking back I now know I had the opportunity to work for the best community trust in the country for 3 great years. Thank you ‘BACT’.
I knew that I wanted to coach more and so I applied for a part-time role alongside my job at Burton at one of the biggest academies in the world – the academy has worked with some of the world’s leading federations, clubs, coaches and players in the game. It was a great chance for me to learn a different methodology – one that has inspired many top world class coaches today. Despite me having the chance to stay at Burton Albion, I was offered the chance to become a Regional Co-ordinator for the academy and so my time at Burton, a place where I had learnt so much, had come to an end.
What do you do in your current role?
My main responsibility is to oversee and implement the Football and Education Programme which in recent years has doubled up as our Academy; though I have a lot of administrative business to take care off, I also have time to lead on all coaching sessions for our U18 side, there is nothing better than being ‘on the grass’! I ensure that close links are kept with the First Team management staff and our Technical Director, Craig Cope to ensure we are all working together to ensure the football club continues to thrive and grow – the football industry is ever changing and communication is important to success.
What does a normal week look like for you?
We are currently in a situation we have never been before and hopefully we will never experience again; hopefully we can resume some sort of normality soon. The bulk of my work for the Football and Education programme is done off-season and pre-season in preparation for the season ahead, therefore during a normal week I just keep on top of the programme, including the staff and players involved. I may have some concerns or questions that I have to deal with from players, parents and the odd occasional intermediary but nothing over the top and this is very rare.
With that in mind, I try and use my time learning new skills and having a better knowledge of certain situations – I’m still young and so I thrive of learning from others and learning from those that have been in the game a lot longer than me, one of those is the the manager, Jimmy Shan; he has been a massive help since arriving as he has been where I am and has followed the same path to get to where he is today. It would be a great pleasure to one day be in an opposing dugout to some of the best managers in the world, something the gaffer has done and so I ask questions about these experiences and how I can get there. One of the best relationships I have is with Craig Cope, the Technical Director, he has been phenomenal since his arrival, helping me become a better coach and more importantly a better person. I have learnt a great deal from him as well, whether it be on the football pitch or at the computer. Thanks to both – I hope I can continue to learn from you!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
My school didn’t offer football as a sport in the curriculum, it was only Cricket, Rugby, Hockey and Athletics. Not particularly good at any, I did dabble as a wicketkeeper and a scrum half from time to time when needed but it was football that I wanted to play. Football had played a massive part in my childhood, as a Derby County fan I would go to every game with my Grandma, I loved it. I remember at the age of 7, getting my first feeling of what it was like to walk out of the tunnel for a football match. I walked out, as a mascot, hand in hand with Michael Johnson. It was a great moment. No more than 10 minutes later, Derby were 1-0 up through an Ian Taylor goal, it was Paul Peschisolido’s goal that was the highlight though – “it hit the cup and went in!” What a moment!
After leaving school I knew I wasn’t good enough to play professional football and so I went to Australia to pursue a career. I knew from that moment I wanted to work in the football industry – I wanted to coach. I wanted young players to be given the best opportunity they could possibly have. I knew Australia was slightly behind in terms of technical ability so where better to start to learn myself. The years following me coming home, I had completed the coaching badges I needed, taken a degree in Football Coaching and Management and had three jobs, all in football.
In 2018, I was offered a Lead Professional Development Phase role at Solihull Moors Football Club by the new Chairman Darryl Eales, who had previously been chairman at Oxford United. I have known Darryl a long time; his success as a highly intelligent businessman is what inspires me to continue to work hard and have a drive to succeed everyday. The job offered was working with the U18’s and U21’s, under the guidance of Darren Carter as Academy Manager. I jumped at the chance and continued to learn from so many people. The first team at the time had ex-England Goalkeeper Tim Flowers as manager and James Quinn, an ex-Northern Ireland international as the lead coach. It was near impossible not to learn something.
Darren stepped down as Academy Manager about a year and half ago to focus on his playing career and so I was offered the position of Head of Football Development, which meant I took over the youth set up – a position I’m so grateful for at such a young age. I hope I can continue to grow the programme and work hard to ensure I play my part in getting this football club into the football league.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m looking forward to just getting back to some normality, the thought of getting back outside and working with the players excites me, I can’t wait to try the new things I have learnt over this period of difficulty and hope to see some positivity in the next couple of months. Football as a whole continues to grow; new formations, new patterns, new ideas and I’m glad I can be part of it, it is such an exciting time across the world – The Euro’s next season and the World cup the year after. You can’t beat it! Look how good the Summer of 2018 was and England didn’t even win it, imagine if we do!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
My biggest bit of advice is always have three ‘non-negotiables’ in your life, they may change at certain points of your journey. I have my three, they are ‘Respect’, ‘Hard Work’ and ‘Willingness to learn’. These are then split into my different sub-categories. Football is a hard industry to get into and so you have to be better than others who you are competing against, how you do this is through application, attitude and ability. If you have those three things you have a great chance.
How to follow Myles Cooper on social media..
I am on Twitter, please feel free to follow me at @Myles__Cooper. That’s two underscores!
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with Solihull Moors FC’s Head of Football Development, Myles Cooper!