A match-winning pass for Willie

THE returning Ipswich Town players will be coached by one of the world's elite this season after Willie Donachie became one of just 30 coaches in this country to gain the UEFA Pro-Licence certificate.

THE returning Ipswich Town players will be coached by one of the world's elite this season after Willie Donachie became one of just 30 coaches in this country to gain the UEFA Pro-Licence certificate, writes Derek Davis.

There is no higher coaching award in the world and the Blues assistant-manager passed the year-long course this week, culminating in a graduation ceremony at Warwick University with the presentation made by former Arsenal and England coach Don Howe.

The Pro-Licence is so highly-regarded UEFA are considering making it mandatory for future coaches and managers of Champions' League clubs.

Other course members included England coaches David Platt, Stuart Pearce, Derek Fazackerley and Nigel Spackman, as well as Division One bosses Nigel Worthington, Mark McGhee and Alan Pardew.

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But England women's coach Hope Powell drew special praise from former Scotland international Donachie.

He said: "There were a lot of good people on the course including Hope, who did very well. She was very brave to step into that environment but she gained a lot of respect and coped well."

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The wide-ranging course covered virtually every aspect of football coaching and even the highly experienced Donachie, who has had spells at Oldham, Everton, Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday before rejoining Joe Royle at Ipswich, has learned a lot.

Everyone took something which they particularly found useful and Donachie said: "For me it helped me to understand the importance of working with individuals more. It is something I have tried to do before anyway but I found this helpful.

"Football is very much a team game and the emphasis is on that but it is important to recognise the individuals, perhaps the ones who come in, do their work and go. The quieter ones tend to be the ones who get ignored to an extent because the problem players get all the attention. So that is something I will be looking at more."

Donachie will get his first opportunity to put some of his new ideas into practice when the senior squad returns for pre-season training on Wednesday, and he has no worries about getting the boss onside. He said: "Joe is very receptive to ideas anyway and part of this course deals in communication with staff so there's no problem there."

But if the players think he has found a way around the heavy leg-work which traditionally marks pre-season training they can think again.

He said: "Unfortunately there is no way around that. We learn new ways of trying to make it interesting and enjoyable for the players by making things more varied and as different as we can but in the end there is no substitute for hard work."

Nor does Donachie claim to have unearthed a secret formula to easy success.

He said: "It is players who win you promotion. Managers and coaches can only guide, prompt and organise. We are there to serve and help as much as we can but in the end it is good players who win you things."

The former defender is already a qualified and respected coach, just as he was a top player with Manchester City and Scotland.

But he added: "I wish I had done it 20 years ago but back then there was only the full coaching badge, which I did, but no real follow-up.

"This course was really useful in keeping up to date with a wide range of modern things.

"The course was very stimulating and can only improve us as coaches. As coaches and managers we constantly preach to players to get better, well this helps us to get better and in turn I'm sure it will help the players. It shows we practise what we preach."

Donachie had to combine 240 hours of extra work with his role at Portman Road but found organisation and determination was the key.

He said: "The course was very well-balanced and didn't overpower me. As long as you do the work as it comes and don't let things drift I found I could keep on top of it.

"It was well-planned, and with a number of conference calls we were able to enter into discussions, and it ranged from residential, practical and homework.

"The FA has made great strides in improving its education throughout the game and this is yet another aspect of that."

Seminars through the year by Sir Bobby Robson, Don Howe and Australian double-gold winning hockey coach Rick Charlesworth were built into the course, covering team building and motivation.

And as any hard-working student knows – a trip to the Far East is fair reward for all the hard work. Donachie and his wife visited Malaysia and Indonesia and time in Bali provided a welcome respite from the books and football.

He said: "I have had a well balanced break and these past few days have got me really buzzing. I can't wait to get going again."

Blues first-team coach Tony Mowbray has embarked on the UEFA Pro-Licence course and was also at Warwick University this week and hopes to follow in Donachie's footsteps by graduating next year.

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