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The Value Of Coaching

Tuesday 26th September 2017
Tommy Smith. Michael Hefele. Rajiv Van La Parra. Only Huddersfield or Dynamo Dresden fans likely recall the trio. Good coaching has changed that.

If you don't know their history or current situation, one toiled at a small German club. The other two were lower-end Championship players. All three now ply their trade in the Premier League for David Wagner.

We often hear the art of coaching is dead in England. In most cases, it's hard to disagree. We see Harry Redknapp, Steve Bruce, and Alan Pardew throwing money at problems which could be solved with the right amount of coaching.

Surely, it's facile to spend millions of pounds on a new centre-forward when you could focus your efforts on improving your current striker. Players such as Paul Pogba and Javier Hernandez returning to the Premier League tend to support that argument. As does Jose Mourinho having another go with Romelu Lukaku.

But I'm piling on the Portuguese. He's shown faith in Marcus Rashford and, to a lesser degree, Scott McTominay. The players too many Premier League clubs are buying for millions weren't always the finished article, as Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford are now for Everton, and Alvaro Morata is for Chelsea. Such youngsters become attractive as a result of natural talent but also a tremendous amount of coaching.
David Wagner, the German-American Huddersfield Town manager demonstrated superbly last season what can be achieved through coaching. When he first set foot in West Yorkshire, right-back Tommy Smith was a subject for derision. In fact, when former midfield maestro Jacob Butterfield handed in a transfer request, he used Tommy Smith to cite the club's lack of ambition.

A year after Wagner's arrival, Smith had taken the captain's armband at the Kirklees Stadium and cemented himself as a key player in a team gunning for Premier League promotion. His hesitation in attacking positions was transformed. He provided more assists in the Championship last season than Matt Ritchie, Barry Bannan, and Jacob Murphy.

While Smith is thriving for Huddersfield, Butterfield is coming off the bench for one Championship side, Sheffield Wednesday, on loan from another, Derby.

Like Smith, Van La Parra and Hefele were transformed under Wagner's stewardship.

Hefele has become a calm, calculating centre-back with tremendous positional awareness. In his first few appearances after coming over from Dresden, in 2016, the German had looked like a rabbit caught in headlights.
Meanwhile, the Dutch winger was bursting with talent and trickery from the moment he arrived but knew little of how to harness his skill, often losing the ball and providing no end product. Half-brother to Georginio Wijnaldum, it appeared his career might follow a similarly disappointing path to cousin Royston Drenthe. Time with Wagner, however, has taught him to use his bag of tricks to the team's benefit, proving a constant thorn in opposing defenders' sides. As well, his defensive work has improved tenfold, offering a reliable safety buffer to left-back Chris Lowe.

Money and time are both investments. It's clear money is favoured by most football managers. It the quick-fix, the get-out-of-jail-free card, the easy way out because someone else has put in the hours coaching up the player. Yet, time can be so much more valuable. The trust built by teaching and showing a player faith can pay off in ways money cannot. Wagner, in turn, has benefited by not having the option to splurge. He has been forced to develop his coaching skills to improve the product at hand.

Players have come in to improve the team now that it's in the Premier League. Even so, the biggest success has come from players who have worked under Wagner for some time. Aaron Mooy is the best example. After investing so much time to improve the Australian's game, the club invested the money to keep him, rather than let Pep Guardiola, or some other manager, benefit from Wagner's coaching.

Look at the Terriers' progress. Nineteenth in the Championship for 2016. Promotion to the Premier League in 2017. At the time of writing, they sit seventh, with nine points and four clean sheets from six matches.
Meanwhile, big-spending Aston Villa and Birmingham City sit 10th and 23rd in the Championship, respectively. The Blues have given up on Harry Redknapp as a lost cause already. John Terry isn't exactly working out for Steve Bruce. Money isn't always the answer.
John McNamara

John is a 26, and an avid follower of his beloved Huddersfield Town. He's currently enjoying his clubs moment in the limelight after visiting his fair share of lower league grounds with the Terriers over the years. As well as Huddersfield, John has a keen passion for international football, despite England's best efforts to dampen his spirits.

Away from football, writing is his main passion and you can check out his own site here: http://www.terrierblog.co.uk

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