'I've come back to Ipswich a better coach' - Dyer on new U23 role, his year away and his future as a coach
- Credit: Archant
Kieron Dyer is back at Ipswich Town as U23s manager. MIKE BACON caught up with him to chat about his life as a coach, why it gives him such a buzz, how a trip to Anderlecht helped, and how he sees his role at Town in the future.
So Kieron, you are now back with Ipswich full-time. How is it going?
It's going well.
I was dabbling in a bit of media and coaching and enjoying both to be honest. But since I've been back full time at the club, it has shown me I really know I want to be a coach, and not someone who just does media.
I still do the occasional bit. For example, I've been offered a number of Friday night games and Tuesday night games, but because it is going to interfere with my coaching, I have to turn it down.
Coaching is my No. 1 priority, it's where I get the biggest buzz.
In what way do you get 'the biggest buzz'?
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Because I'm back on the football pitch, which is what I know best. Building connections with the young kids.
I like putting my ideas to the youngsters and there is nothing better than when they take your advice on board and start to excel or start to achieve more. No better satisfaction.
You see it with ex-players who become managers and say there is no bigger thrill, no bigger responsibility, than leading a team out, and that kind of beats anything they did, even as a player. I now get that.
Because as a player you are just focussed on you the individual, even though it is a team game. As a coach or manager you are responsible not just for yourself, but the whole squad. I like that responsibility.
You were involved with the U18s, obviously the U23s is a step up.
Of course. The best part of the 23s is that they are young men now. They are professionals we are dealing with, obviously we get the occasional scholar who comes into the team if the manager takes some 23s with the first-team squad.
Why do I like to deal with the pros? Well, I don't want people to take this the wrong way, but now I don't have to deal with parents!
When you are a scholar and he hasn't been picked for say a few games, sometimes a parent wants to request a meeting with you. I'm not having a go at parents. I'm a parent myself, so I know why they want to do it. But it's just something I don't miss having to deal with.
When you are working with the young pros and they are not playing, I encourage them to knock on my door if they are upset about that - and we can talk.
What's your general overview of managing the U23s?
They say the 23s is probably the hardest job.
But I think it is the best job to learn on. You can pick a squad on a Sunday for a Monday or Tuesday game, then the first-team get injuries, so the gaffer says he wants to take some or even all of your squad to play, say Crawley in the EFL Cup. All your planning goes out of the window.
As a coach I like having a structure - of being organised. But in all honesty, the U23s takes you out of that comfort zone. You never quite know what training numbers you are going to have, or even the match-day squad can change up to an hour before kick-off.
It can be frustrating but I know in the long run, I'm learning different things. As I said, I like a structure and going forward I will have my own and it will feel like a piece of cake. So, in some ways I don't like it, but in other ways I do, because you have to adjust on the fly - and there is nothing wrong with that.
The U23s have enjoyed a few good results of late. You enjoying that?
I am. I think the pleasing thing for me was the reaction I got when I came back into the club.
Obviously, all the players knew me and they have welcomed my new ideas and responded to it in training and, like I said, there is no better feeling for a coach when you relate to players. I have a great understanding with my players.
After moving on from the U18s and leaving Portman Road, were you surprised to come back?
It wasn't Ipswich's decision I left in the first place, it was mine.
I wanted to better myself. I wanted to find out different methods of coaching, different methods of training. I felt I'd done my stint with the scholars. But I wanted to run my own team, a men's team.
So, I took a year out, I got the opportunity to go to Belgium, experience different methods of training. I went into a number of first teams and picked the brains of different managers. If I had stayed at Ipswich I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do all that.
So, I feel I've come back to Ipswich a better coach.
So, what did you learn in Belgium?
I was with Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht and with Craig Bellamy who runs their U21s.
I shadowed Craig, who I've always been good friends with, to see what the club's philosophy is. I was granted access to everything at the club, team meetings, managers' office meetings, the coaches office - everything. It was really valuable. Anderlecht is a bit like Ipswich, but on a bigger scale.
They survive as a club because of their young players. The standard of their youngsters is on a different level. But it is similar to Ipswich in so much as they are always looking to bring players into the first-team set-up.
The year away from Ipswich was clearly a big thing for you.
Yes, as I said going to talk to other Premier League managers at other clubs, picking their brains, listening to their philosophies was all very valuable.
Some want to dominate the ball, some want to win at all costs. For me, it was just like, take all the information on board and nitpick certain things and try to come up with your identity on how you want to manage and coach a team.
Being a former England player helped open a few doors.
It also helped that Jonathan Barnett and David Manasseh of Stellar Sports are friends of mine.
Stellar are one of the biggest sports' agencies, have a huge network in this country, Spain, Italy. I don't have an agent now, but I class David as a friend and you can ask the questions to see if it can open doors. It makes life a bit easier.
What coaching badges do you have and are there more to come?
I currently have my A and B UEFA coaching badges.
At A and B you can manage all the way up to the Championship as first-team boss. In the Premier League you have to have a pro licence, which will be the next step for me.
The A and B is mainly training ground stuff, assessing you as a coach. But the pro licence is more about about how you deal with the media, the board room, owners, chief executives, etc. Which I think is fascinating. It's basically a manager's journey on learning how to deal with these things and I must admit I can't wait to start on my pro licence.
Back at Portman Road, should Town fans be positive about the current crop of young players coming through?
Of course. When you look at the percentage of scholars who make the grade in football in general, it's only maybe one or two per cent. But at Ipswich, it's always a lot higher. We must have good water in Suffolk? But seriously, we always seem to produce.
Look at Andre Dozzell. He's just signed a new deal and one of the reasons is because he's played with Flynn Downes and Luke Woolfenden since he was 11. They are on a journey together, that's really positive.
We have a few gems in the Academy that will soon be unearthed I'm sure in the next three or four years.
You clearly now really enjoy coaching.
Very much so. One of the things my coaching assistants say is that because of what I achieved as a player and I'm still quite young (41), the best way sometimes for me to coach is not to say, but show - to actually get on the pitch and play, so players can see my body position when I play forward passes, or whatever I'm trying to get over to them.
My problem is that when I do join in, the competitive side comes out in me and I become a player. Then, I'm not Kieron Dyer the coach, but Kieron Dyer the player.
I'm a bit of a bad loser. But seriously, I've only joined in a few times and got a bit competitive, so I think I'll have to hang up my boots until I can turn the competitive side of me off!
In a way I hope the players see that kind of fire is still in my belly though - not wanting to lose. I know the 18s and 23s - although it took me a while to understand - is about development more than winning, but I also actually think winning creates development.
So, yes, development, but I do think it is about having that will to win and hate to lose attitude.
In your book 'Old too soon, smart too late', you talk about your life growing up as a young player. And it wasn't all pretty! Do you use your life experiences as a young player to help you in your coaching?
I do joke to the young lads that they should read my book, because this is what you don't do as a young professional.
Do the opposite of what I did as a youngster and you have a chance in the game. But I do get annoyed about some things as regard young players and the way they are still treated.
Take the recent Phil Foden/Mason Greenwood stuff with England. There were some ex-players, who had their own problems in the past, on the radio, saying Foden and Greenwood shouldn't wear the shirt again, they are a disgrace, etc., etc.. I think they are hypocrites. I don't like that.
It's not as if some of them never made mistakes in the past. For me, it's part of you maturing as a young man. You have to learn from it.
You also have to got to remember that many kids join clubs at a very young age. They are just that - still children.
Part of being a child is having a Big Mac at the weekend. Not worrying about diet all the time just because they are at an academy. If you take the fun out of football and I'm talking about players say who are 11 or 12 and in the academy, it's not a good thing.
If it's all too strict, worrying what they eat, training four times a week, school work, playing for their school and other sports teams, by the time they are 18 they fall out of love with the game if you are not careful.
It's a fine balance, I know that. But it is hugely important to get it right.
Do you have much dialogue with the first team management at Town?
Yes, of course.
I talk to them, especially at weekends when we talk about players and injuries, etc. The gaffer wants to play a certain style of football and certain ways. It's up to me to replicate that in the U23s for him.
Even though I have my own ideas, the first team rightly want the U23s to make a smooth transition into the first team, so in many aspects we have to mirror the first team so players go in and know what to do at corners, know their roles, etc.
The gaffer doesn't want a player to come into the first-team squad and then he has to spend the week training him on patterns and habit. So, it is our responsibility that players from the U23s can go in and make an immediate impact.
And finally. What about your own career path?
I'm still very early in my coaching and management development and I still have a lot to learn.
I like to think I'm very humble in that aspect. I don't think I've conquered this game and I know I haven't cracked it. That's impossible, you have always got to be evolving.
There is no better place right now for me to learn my trade than with the U23s. It's like I'm doing a job with no pressure to fail or try to experiment.
In a first team environment, you try to experiment and lose a couple of games on the trot, you could be looking at your next game as your last. I can see me doing what I'm doing now for a few years as yet and learning my craft. I'll know when I'm ready to go onto the next step of my career.
But this is the first time I've had a team on my own and I'm loving that responsibility.