February 23

Ian Seddon talks with John McMahon

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Ian Seddon talks with... John McMahon

Local Entrepreneur and Football Agent, Ian Seddon, has a strong background in law and a variety of other business sectors. One of these sectors involves his role as an FA Registered Intermediary and a Director of Tempus Sports Management Ltd, a company he founded in April 2015. Tempus is a Sports Agency for football players and managers and My Planet Liverpool is delighted that in each issue Ian has kindly agreed to interview a variety of players, coaches and managers (former and current) with a Merseyside connection, along with some of those who work, or have worked, in the local football media.

For the third in his series of his footballing chats, Ian met up with John McMahon whose coaching career has taken him to Everton FC, Tranmere Rovers FC, Shrewsbury Town FC, Liverpool FC, Blackburn Rovers FC and his current club Morecambe, where he is Assistant Manager to Derek Adams.

Ian has known John, who will be 57 years old in May, for many years, in fact he was just was 7 years old when the two first met. “John actually played football with my dad, Ben, and they developed a good friendship. In later years I developed my own strong friendship with John and today he is a loyal and close friend and is one of the very best people that you could wish to meet.”

JOHN, IT’S SAFE TO SAY THAT ON BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY THERE IS LONG FOOTBALLING HISTORY. YOU AND YOUR BROTHER STEVEN ARE OBVIOUSLY BOTH VERY WELL-KNOWN IN THE GAME BUT THERE IS ALSO A STRONG LOCAL FOOTBALL CONNECTION ON YOUR WIFE NICOLA’S SIDE OF THE FAMILY. NICOLA WORKS FOR EVERTON AND HER MOTHER, MURIEL, ALSO WORKED AT THE CLUB, WHILE HER HUSBAND - AND YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW - TOMMY CLINTON PLAYED FOR THE ‘TOFFEES’.

Yes. Tommy was born in Dublin and made 80 appearances as a full back for Everton between 1949 and 1953. He was a great character but sadly he passed away in August 2009, aged 83. His signing for Everton makes a great story too. Tommy was on a train at Dundalk station, he was playing for Dundalk at the time, when the then Everton secretary Theo Kelly was getting him to sign the required forms. Suddenly, the train started moving away and Tommy had to grab the forms, sign them and hand them back out of the moving train’s window to Theo, who was running anxiously alongside the train as it began to leave. He also played for Blackburn and Tranmere and in the Cheshire League with Runcorn. He played at international level too, getting three caps for the Republic of Ireland.

YOU WERE ON TRIAL AT MANCHESTER CITY WHEN EVERTON BEAT THEM TO YOUR SIGNATURE, HOW DID THAT MOVE COME ABOUT?

I had been spotted by Manchester City when playing in a School’s Cup Final and in my first week with them I scored two hat tricks. At the time, my brother Steven was at Everton and they raised the question with him as to “Why is your John not signing for us?” Everton was obviously in mine and my family’s blood and when I heard they were interested I jumped at the chance to sign schoolboy forms with them. I was 13 at the time and I later signed apprenticeship forms before signing as a Professional when I was 18 years old.

YOU SUFFERED A SERIOUS INJURY EARLY IN YOUR CAREER WITH EVERTON. IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT THIS HAMPERED YOUR PROGRESS IN BREAKING THROUGH WITH THEM?

I had fractured my spine, which later required an operation. At the time, the operation was a pioneering one, known as a Bucks Fusion. I was only 17 and my body was placed in plaster for several months. It was a very difficult time for me. I did recover to an extent and even went on to captain Everton Reserves, but my body was never the same again. Looking back, it did not stop me continuing with my career but it did have an effect, as my body was never at the same level. I would never make that an excuse however. When any player sustains a severe injury it takes that little bit away from their ability to perform at an optimum level each time.

YOUR COACHING CAREER HAS TAKEN YOU TO ALL THE CLUBS LISTED IN THE INTRO TO THIS ARTICLE AND NOW YOU ARE ASSISTANT MANAGER AT MORECAMBE FC. DURING THIS TIME YOU HAVE COACHED HUNDREDS OF PLAYERS, INCLUDING THE LIKES OF LEON OSMAN, TONY HIBBERT, FRANCES JEFFERS, JON FLANAGAN, THOMAS INCE AND DANIEL AYALA TO NAME JUST A FEW! WHAT IS THE SPECIAL INGREDIENT THAT YOU LOOK FOR THAT WOULD HELP A PLAYER REACH THE LEVEL REQUIRED TO PLAY LEAGUE FOOTBALL?

For me, every player should have a high level of commitment, desire, passion, enthusiasm and hard work. These traits should be a given in all players but this is not always the case. Some actually get by without having all of them. In the very top players you see something in them - it may be a tackle, a pass, or maybe they are a talker or an organiser - and for me, when I spot something like this, hairs stand up on the back of my neck and I think WOW!!!

AS A PLAYER YOU WORKED UNDER SUCH GREAT MANAGERIAL NAMES AS HOWARD KENDALL AND COLIN HARVEY AND THEN IN MANAGEMENT ALONGSIDE BRIAN LITTLE AT TRANMERE AND RAFA BENITEZ WHEN YOU WERE THE RESERVE MANAGER AT LIVERPOOL IN 2009. WHO STANDS OUT FOR YOU AS THE BEST MANAGER YOU HAVE WORKED WITH AND WHY? 

It’s difficult to single one out above the other to be honest. They all had incredible skills and ways about them. Rafa treated players all the same way and it did not matter if they were first team members or youngsters. His preparation and planning, along with his tactical knowhow, was of the highest standard possible. Brian Little had his particular way of managerial leadership that left players in no doubt as to what was expected of them, both on and off the pitch. I learnt through working with Brian that you do not have to raise your voice to be heard and to lead. Colin for me was always 100% in training and matches. He would never give up and had a never say die attitude, while the demands he put on every player was incredible. He expected players to be the same as him as a player and a person. He was, on so many levels, a wonderful servant to Everton Football Club. Howard Kendall is sadly no longer with us but he was more of a player’s manager and a clever man-manager who had a knack of getting the best out of people. He was more about the team than the individuals and liked the group to work as a group, rather than as individuals. All four enjoyed great success at a high level. For me, it has been a privilege to have worked with four such talented and incredibly clever and proper football men.

YOU HAVE BEEN A PROFESSIONAL COACH FOR ALMOST 36 YEARS NOW, HAVING INITIALLY OBTAINED THE FA PRELIMINARY BADGE IN 1985. YOU HAVE SINCE GONE ON TO EARN THE HIGHEST COACHING QUALIFICATION - THE UEFA PRO LICENCE. PEOPLE OFTEN DEBATE AND TALK ABOUT THE COACHING BADGE SYSTEM BUT HOW IMPORTANT DID YOU FIND THE PROCESS OF OBTAINING YOUR QUALIFICATIONS AND WHAT IMPACT HAS IT HAD ON YOUR COACHING?          

It’s vital that you obtain qualifications from the basic one to the highest one as it provides a good grounding into the structure and organisation of sessions and the number of sessions players need to allow the players/team to achieve the outcome required. Too many players, or even just one player not at the required level, will bring the coaching session and the standard down. This is key to coaching. When planning sessions you must look at the starting point and what the goal is and what it looks like. The higher you go in football it’s about how teams set up, their strengths and weaknesses, the opposition’s strengths and weakness. The higher the qualification you undertake the more detail you go into.

YOU SPENT NINE YEARS IN YOUR FIRST STINT AT TRANMERE AND RETURNED FOR ANOTHER FOUR YEARS WITH THEM. DURING THESE TWO STINTS YOU OCCUPIED A NUMBER OF POSITIONS BUT WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR TIME AT THE CLUB ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE MERSEY?

That would be the developing of young players and watching them progress from youth team to first team and going on to become international players, having had a massive impact in their development.

YOU SPEAK WARMLY OF WARWICK RIMMER, A PERSON WHO SPOTTED AND NURTURED MANY PLAYERS FOR TRANMERE, WITH THE CLUB GENERATING MANY MILLIONS OF POUNDS IN TRANSFER FEES. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR TIME WITH WARWICK?

Warwick was never too quick to judge players. He would look past a weak point in a player and spend time in trying to develop strong points in them. He would also show patience and be consistent with all the players on and off the pitch but he was always demanding and pushing forward with what he felt was in the best interest of the players.

YOU ARE ASSISTANT TO MANAGER DEREK ADAMS AT LEAGUE TWO CLUB MORECAMBE. HOW DID THIS APPOINTMENT COME ABOUT?

I was already in a position where I was working with the first team at Morecambe in my role as Head of Coaching, a role funded by the Premier League. I was asked by Jim Bentley to help out and take some sessions and assist with the day-to-day training of the first team. When Derek came in as the new manager he had no assistant with him and he assessed the players and staff himself. He asked me would I become his number two and, after much thought and consideration, I accepted. It wasn’t an easy decision to arrive at as I enjoyed developing the young players and the club’s other coaches; however I equally enjoy the excitement and involvement that you feel on a match day.

FINALLY JOHN - ANY REGRETS?

 I have some from my early years perhaps! I would not be too quick to judge players and people today and I would also not be as opinionated as I was when younger, especially when not required to be!

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