RTID met up with Rovers’ first team coach Paul Butler recently.
Paul has come through the academic field rather than the football path, giving him a different insight into football and how it works. Often he is the first on the field to set up the pre-match warm up, and he then takes select parts of the coaching.
Paul, how did you get into football?
Like most young boys I played football whenever I could and always wanted to be in the game. Unfortunately, I was never good enough at that time to take the professional football path, so after school I went to university. I was always a keen student of football and played all through my Uni days. During this time I knew I wanted to be a football coach, and I took up any opportunity to enhance my football education by going around and visiting many clubs both here and abroad. I knew I needed to make my CV stand out because with so many people graduating from University, plus people coming though football, it was going to be hard to break into the game. I worked on gaining as much experience on my CV just give myself the best chance.
Most people expect coaches at professional level to have played the game, but you have come through the academic path. Has this been a hindrance to your career progression?
I don’t think it has, but I know some people might perceive you in a different manner as expected, but I have to accept that and work round it. There are many coaches whom I have worked with that have had long playing careers, which has been my privilege. I am very respectful of anyone who has had a long career playing, coaching or as a manager. It’s a wonderful career to have had for them and because of that I respect their comments and views. I always knew I wanted to be a coach from early days, so I set my goal to see how I could progress from being a non-football player coming through the academic path to being a fully professional football coach. I knew I would have to work hard to bridge that gap, so I went about my task by meeting the right people and learning from top individuals in the field. I knew I had to shape my own future as a young coach by listening and working hard on the pitch.
Did you ever think you would reach the level you are now at?
I have always been ambitious and hard working to be the best I can be, so have wanted to come in at this type of level. I work for a manager who expects that from everyone, whether you are his first team coach, his captain or a pro coming out of the youth academy. He wants everybody in the club to be the best they can be every day. It’s my job to honour his faith in me as a young coach by working hard and doing the best I can. The result of that is it’s good for me and for the club.
It is a team effort here at every game and you all integrate well.
I’m very lucky that I share an office with Brian Horton who has managed over a thousand league games. Not many young coaches get the chance or privilege to be in this position and get the benefits of it. Brian lets me spend a lot of time coaching out there on the training ground. Having Brian around is very valuable for me certainly.
The manager Paul Dickov is good to work for and he is a very hard working man who demands a lot out of people, and I like to think I am the same. Paul Gerrard, the goal keeping coach, also demands a lot out of his keepers but also gets the best from them. We have our analyst Adam Smith who works all the hours available to him to supply us with the information we need. We have Ben Rome the fitness coach, who works the players to make sure they are as fit as they can be each day. We are one big team, but there is not only the football coaching staff; the team is made up of everyone at the club, including Sam in the kitchen, Tracey in the kit room, Phil Goldman who manages the training ground, groundsmen and staff at Keepmoat Stadium. They all work together to make sure the club runs well and we get the best out of every opportunity. I feel privileged to be part of this well-oiled team. One thing I have learnt from seniors in the game is that you need everyone pulling in the same direction and having the same ambition.
The scientific and analytical side of football is now very important in the game. How does it help you?
Adam Smith, our analyst, is very important to our team, and I spend a lot of time with him. He works hard to give us the information on the forthcoming fixture but also on our last performance. The manager and I will take a team meeting about the next game, and this is fuelled by the information that Adam has given us. He will have studied the opponents and we will have studied them also as a group of staff, so that we then put our plans for the game into motion. By having video clips supplied by Adam he makes it a very fluid process and is a very big contributor to how we all go about our business.
Do you coach the players based on this information and knowledge?
It is very important that we coach the lads based on who we next play, with the tactics we feel can combat any threats in order to give us the edge. You will often see the manager and me on the pitch pre-match preparing for games, with Paul looking at the attacking play and I will look at the defenders so that we can cope against some very good strikers in this division. On the pitch I work closely with Paul Gerrard because neither of us want to concede even one goal. We start off as a group pre- match with Ben Rome, who has proved how good he is, not just at games but every day; 90% of the work will have been done during the week. We do possession work-outs first, but then split into different groups for more specific pre-match coaching. The back four are a unit of players who perform as one, so the last stage of preparation for the game is the final gelling before they take to the pitch.
As part of your role do you get the chance to watch a lot of other football?
That part of our roles is very time-consuming, and as I do this interview, we are all scheduled to take in games tonight. I will be at a game tonight as this is a 24/7 business for everyone at the club. Brian Horton told me something when I first joined that every game you go to you will always see something of interest and importance, whether it is a set play, a system of play, how a team plays in certain situations and how players react. Brian said it is never a waste of time going to a game, as you will always come back with new knowledge.
Where does Paul Butler see himself going in the future? Would you manage?
I don’t really know the answer fully to this; it’s a good question. My ambition is to be the best coach I can be, and the game is changing a little bit now with the management side being a bit different. At some clubs the board(owners) set on a head coach and sometimes a manger with different roles. I have not looked at the managing side as I want to concentrate on being the best coach I can be, and at the highest level. At this moment I am at Doncaster Rovers and I am going to give 100% to be the best coach here and get us higher.