- Saturday January 28th, 2017 @ 22:31
INTERVIEW: First Academy Session Was 'Top Notch' - Keith Andrews
Keith Andrews played 35 times for the Republic of Ireland senior team.
The Dubliner spent 15 years playing professional football in the UK with a number of clubs including Wolves, Hull, Blackburn, Bolton and West Brom.
He retired from playing in 2015 and has since completed his UEFA A Licence and is currently on the UEFA Pro Licence.
We confirmed in December that Keith was joining our academy coaching staff.
He took his first session with our league winning U17s on Thursday night, and sat down with StPatsFC.com afterwards.
We started by asking him how his first session went.
"I have some knowledge about the clubs style of play and preferred system but as it was my first session and I don't know all the players, it was based on getting to know them and their ability. We started with some 5v2 possession boxes in a tight area and developed that into a 5v5 possession with four neutral players on the outside in a bigger area. After this we went into attack vs defence - so the back four had to defend against an attacking front five. We then finished with some 7v7 games with different stipulations. The boys trained really well."
As well as his UEFA Pro Licence and his role with St Pats, the 36 year old is also working with some of the Ireland underage international teams.
U17 players Brian Maher, Luke Nolan, Cian Lee, Ryan Burke, Richie O'Farrell, Harry Clarke, Seanie Mahon and Kevin O'Reilly have all worked with Keith at Ireland U15, U16 and U17 level in the last year.
He says it was nice to see some familiar faces in Crumlin's Pearse Park on Thursday night.
"Yes I knew some of the players so that always helps. I asked them all to be enthusiastic and to train to a high standard, they certainly did that. Sometimes as a coach you have to motivate a group of players to get to certain levels in training if you feel it's not at the required level but the energy levels, desire and ability on show on Thursday night was top notch."
The former midfielder, who played almost 400 senior games in England and started all of Ireland Euro 2012 games, explained how the move to St Pats came about.
"This isn't just about me doing my Pro Licence. There will be a few occasions that I may need to put on particular training sessions as part of my course and I've already asked for the player's patience and help with that. The session on Thursday and the vast majority of the sessions with will be very much for the benefit of the team and individuals. Hopefully I can add to the current management/ coaching teams in some way."
Having coached in the academies at Blackburn, Brighton and MK Dons in the UK, he knows working with younger players is totally different to senior ones. That difference is something he's had to learn over the last year.
"After I left my first team coaching role with MK Dons last summer, I committed to a coaching role with the FAI helping out at underage levels. My main role is with the U17's but I have also been in with the U16 and U18 teams as well."
"Senior football is so different to underage and this year has been a huge learning curve for my development as a young coach. For me, the role of underage age coaches and managers is to develop players and get them into good habits for the next level - whatever that next level may be. If alongside that the team can achieve team success then that would be perfection."
So how will his experience of playing at the top level and working under lots of different managers help him as a coach and the young players he's working with?
"The experience will definitely help me. I still have good relationships with a lot of the managers I worked under so they are there as sounding boards - which I'm very lucky to have."
"The reality is though that you know very little about being a coach or manager until you take the step onto that side of the fence. My eighteen months at MK Dons was a magnificent experience as I was given full access to every part of the club - recruitment, board meetings, training, agents etc. We also experienced a promotion and relegation so there was never a dull moment!"
"My plan now is to continue to transfer all of those experiences of playing and coaching in the UK into my job with St Pats and the underage international teams."
Pat's Director of Football Ger O'Brien watched the session on Thursday, and told StPatsFC.Com the why Keith has joined the club.
"He's had a fantastic career playing and was recently coaching in the championship in the UK. He will bring that experience on the pitch with him into St Pat's. The players are all delighted that he will be working with him as well as our underage coaching staff. Our U17s and U19s have done very well over the last couple of seasons and with the U15s coming on board this summer too, adding Keith to the coaching team will be of great benefit to everyone involved."
"It was a very bright session and the boys all trained really well. As a player, I know the benefits of having a different voice taking the session from time to time. It was great for him to get to see the players up close and he was very positive about the standard of the group when I spoke to him afterwards."
Ger was keen to stress that Keith will be working as part of our current coaching team.
"Although Keith is a great addition, we have some excellent coaching staff already working with our underage teams, U17 Manager Jamie Moore and coaches Darragh O'Reilly and Sean Gahan and U19 Manager Garrett Dodrill, Martin Doyle and Stephen Doody and the rest of the coaching teams have done a great job so far, we'll be aiming for more of the same in 2017."