CLASSIC CHAMPIONSHIP MANAGER : INTERVIEWS

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Champ Man & Me: Ally Bain

In the build up to next week’s release of “The World According to CM9798” I will be posting some interviews undertaken by the book’s author, David Black.  In the first one I am posting, David interviews our resident coach Ally Bain.  These interviews first appeared on www.cm9798.co.uk – don’t forget, the book is launched next Tuesday so sign up to the newsletter to get up-to-date info!

This week we are joined by Ally Bain, creator of the Coach Bain Mused podcast and website. Ally is a qualified coach and currently works for Portland Phoenix, developing the players of tomorrow. We asked him what CM means to him and what part it has played in his passion for coaching.

Thanks for joining us Ally. For those who aren’t familiar with your podcast, can you sum it up for us?

In 2013 I started a football blog called “Coach Bain Mused.” Each summer I had found writing articles to be particularly tough, so this past summer I decided to get together with all the terrific individuals I had come across during my career. I interview people from all parts of the game & differing backgrounds, ranging from a Journalist based in Germany to the captain of a Canadian Professional Team. Each Podcast discusses football at length & hopefully provides the listeners with some additional insight & stimulating debate.

When did you decide to go into coaching? Was it always something that interested you or did it become more of a passion the more experience you got?

I stumbled into coaching to be really honest. In my last year of high school a group of coaches from the local FA came to run a coach education class & in all honesty I nearly left & went home. For some reason I was still adamant that a club was out there waiting to swoop in & sign me! I stayed however & finished the class, which was to prove far more beneficial than waiting for an agent to call me. The whole experience really opened my eyes to the world of football development & even helped me to become a stronger player myself. The more I got into coaching the more I started taking it seriously & would start to breakdown gameplay & individual technique to an almost forensic detail. I started out working in the community scheme programs which gave me a great grounding, but even today coaching elite youth & adult players I still carry that same desire to get better every day. I’d say coaching actually gets harder the more you do it versus easier, purely because I strive to be better & raise the standard of my work.

Where does CM fit in? Did that help with the coaching or was it just a coincidence?

Lots of people ask me this & I think in most cases CM wouldn’t help, but in my world it certainly helped me. First of all CM has been a huge part of my life, such has been the time I have dedicated to playing it, talking about it & reading forums about it. I think a large % of people that play CM do so in what I’d call “arcade” mode, looking for the age old super tactic & then just signing the best players they can & run a very linear experience. I was always fascinated what different tactics did through the match engine, such as why say a 3 man defence conceded lots of crosses if too disconnected from the midfield & why 3 striker systems gave my team more chances of keeping possession longer. For the first 2-3 weeks of any new game I’d just have a play about & see what the match stats told me & go from there. I remember building my own forward press patterns on CM01/02 as it gave you a new function of who the specific player could man mark when defending & you could assign where the team positioned themselves when out of possession. This helped me massively in my coaching at the time, as I could see which players were getting success & why those with poorer attributes couldnt.

We’re obviously big fans of CM97/98, do you have any memories of this version of the game?

This was the first copy of the game that I owned, having played the 1st installment of CM2 at my friends house the summer prior to 97/98 release. I can honestly say I played the game every day between the day I got it & October of 1999, as this was the day my family upgraded to a new computer which co-incided with me buying the 99/00 version of CM3. I was absolutely obsessed with CM97/98 & still regard it as a really important part of my football upbringing. I loved researching players & with my team Rangers signing lots of foreigners at the time, I already knew them from the game, so in my head I already knew them! I’d walk around school giving it, “Yeah he’s class at dribbling”….purely on the basis of his CM rating. I remember watching world Cup 98 & writing down all the unknown players & scouring the game for them in the hope of unearthing a gem. It was in the days when I didnt have the internet, so I had to get creative on finding new players to sign!

Do you have a favourite version of CM/FM?

I’m torn on this one as CM97/98 holds the most memories, but as a game I feel CM01/02 has such amazing functionality & such an iconic look. Going back to play them both now I’d say I enjoy 01/02 more, as you feel more in control of your destiny. The training function, hiring staff & advanced match engine make for an amazing game experience.

Everybody has at least one CM/FM story – what’s yours?

In my first few years of playing CM I developed what could be considered a maniacal level of OCD when playing the game. Here it is in all its glory:

I only ever managed Rangers in the old CM versions, so I had to wear that seasons Home jersey for home games & subsequent away jersey for away games. If one was in the wash I wouldn’t play the game until it was ready & even on occasion would wear the kit while soaking wet as it was a big game.

No one was allowed to talk to me during game play, I think I even barked out once “No-one bothers Walter Smith during games, so leave me alone!” Genuinely mental

I had to fold my arms during games as this is what Walter Smith did at the time & strangely so did Dick Advocaat. To pause the game I had to bump the mouse with my elbow as this would mean unfolding my arms……seriously mental.

If the team ever got to a cup final I’d stand up so I could jump around like a lunatic if they scored. In theory this was a cool idea, but it also gave me additional leverage in which to destroy objects near the computer should things not quite go our way!

How did the move to America transpire? You’ve worked at a few British clubs so this must have been a bit of a change?

Much like my transition into coaching I fell into the move to America, with no real master plan as to how it would all work out. I interviewed with a training company from New Jersey in 2007, with the view to giving it a try for a summer & during that experience I really felt I could make a career for myself. The youth development structure is so far removed from anything I knew in Britain that it certainly took some getting used to, however after finding my feet I made the move to work for my current club Global Premier Soccer. The club’s Head Quarters are based near Boston with much of their youth programming starting in that area, however I joined to help them start a satellite club in the neighboring state of Maine. Fast forward 6 years & the club has now become one of the largest youth organizations in America, stretching across 12 states.

Is ‘Soccer’ still gaining popularity in the States? The MLS has more coverage than ever here in Britain…

America is such a vast land mass that trying to govern football in this country is a extremely tough ask. That said its popularity is at an all time high, with it being the most popular youth sport in the country. It’s viewership grows annually with our major sports network covering all English Premier League games live & it’s reach now moving to other European leagues. The MLS is a much discussed competition & is the butt of many jokes amongst football commentators. Personally I think for a league that has been in existence only 20 years it would be a mammoth task for it to attempt to compete with any European competition, however it’s main task is to provide a quality developmental tool for the US National team, which it continues to strive to achieve.

Tell us about Portland Phoenix, the team you are currently working with

The club I run has a franchise contract with the USL, which is the 2nd tier of professional football in America. There is no promotion or relegation in US Soccer, therefore we are a small club of modest means that operates at a regional level. We are all extremely proud of the work that has been achieved at the club & it continues to astound me the level of player we are able to set forward in the game. Our mandate is to produce as many top level players as we can, with over 25 players graduating from our ranks to go onto the International & European stage.

From your podcast and articles you’re clearly very passionate about the coaching aspect of the game, can you sum up your philosophy towards the game as a coach?

This is a terrific question & one that I’d probably take up half a website answering. The short answer is that many view philosophy as a rigid, concrete or solidified concept.  I tend to challenge this view point and see philosophy as a more transient commodity, one that must adapt to its surroundings and live inherently in the present.  For example, part of my role within GPS Portland Phoenix is to manage our youth academy.  Our philosophy within that department is based heavily upon skill development, which will allow players to move fluently across the field.  Ultimately this department is in it for the long haul, so we have more time to exercise this philosophy.  Our men’s team which operates as a different beast all together as our philosophy predicates maximizing our preparation for the next match.  Our playing style is much more protective and counter attacking based, mainly because we have 90 minutes each week to validate our team development.

What’s your view on the state of British coaching at the moment?

There are some magnificent coaches in Britain, many of whom we will never hear about. Unfortunately the opportunities afforded to me in the US are in complete contrast to those in the UK, such is the complete apathy from Clubs to invest in full time coaches. In my eyes a coach could have a UEFA pro license, but if they are only running 2 sessions a week & coaching a game on the weekend they wont actually develop. There is so much money in UK football that is squandered in areas that dont relate to the clubs main function or indeed those who are working toward the first team, that I feel many of the UK’s top trainers will have no option but to find a job that allows them a living salary.

Am I talking to the future Scotland manager!?

I’m not sure my wife & daughter could handle living back in Scotland, they both struggle to understand my accent never mind a country full of people like me! I am a very passionate supporter of Scottish football however & would jump at the chance to ever move back & coach there.

Once again thanks to Ally for taking time out to speak to us about all things football in his career so far. You can learn more about Ally here or follow him on twitter for more regular updates