They may have coached the All Whites and led a national age-group team to a World Cup respectively, but Neil Emblen and Danny Hay both insist they still have much to learn as coaches and are hence taking the chance to upskill as part of the current crop of candidates for the OFC/NZF A-Licence.
The first phase of the two-part course took place in Auckland this month and the second is scheduled for August, after which Emblen and Hay will be joined by 22 other promising coaches – from both New Zealand and further afield – in holding the highest qualification available in this country.
Despite having already achieved much – both as players and coaches – in their illustrious careers in football, Emblen and Hay say the time they have spent on the A-Licence so far has been invaluable.
“I think even Alex Ferguson would have said that he was still learning in the last years of his career,” says Emblen, who was interim coach of the All Whites between the reigns of Ricki Herbert and Anthony Hudson.
“The game is always changing and there are new trends all the time – it’s forever evolving and I want to keep up with that.”
Hay agrees that the learning process as a coach is ongoing, no matter what level of success has already been reached.
“It’s important to keep trying to learn and develop your skills so you can then pass that onto your players,” says Hay, who recently steered New Zealand to the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“I think the more effective coach I become, the better the teams I coach are going to be. I know it’s a cliché but you’re always learning – it doesn’t matter how old you are. Whether it’s courses like this or spending time with other top-quality coaches in their environment, I think it’s all going to help in my journey.”
In comparison to many other coaches, both men are still relatively young – Hay is 41 while Emblen is four years his elder – and the similarities don’t end there with each having enjoyed lengthy careers as prominent professional players.
Emblen’s CV includes stints at Millwall, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Walsall before a move down under to the New Zealand Knights while former All Whites captain Hay is best known for becoming just the second ever Kiwi to feature in the English Premier League during a three-year stint with Leeds United.
Hay fell into coaching when he became a teacher at Auckland’s Sacred Heart College and says the transition has not been an easy one.
“I look back now and think it was a fairly tough process. For the first four or five years, I was still thinking as a player as opposed to thinking as a coach – that’s an evolution I’ve had to take,” he admits.
“But I think the playing experience is hugely beneficial because you never forget the way a player thinks. Players are quite selfish in that you’re just worried about doing your job but, as a coach, you’ve got a huge group to look after. It’s a challenge but is something I really enjoy doing.”
After calling time on his professional career, Emblen was soon on the fast-track to coaching success – first as player-coach during a memorable period for Waitakere United and then as stand-in boss of the All Whites. He is now Director of Football at Auckland club Western Springs and is relishing the chance to focus on his personal development after a whirlwind introduction to coaching.
“I’ve been given some great roles since I’ve been in New Zealand and have got a lot of practical experience over the last 11 years. Now the upskilling and looking to get the process right with my delivery is going to help me and hopefully I’ll be all the better for it,” he says.
The presence of well-known faces such as Emblen and Hay is a big boost to the other OFC/NZF A-Licence candidates.
“You very rarely get to mingle with the calibre of coaches that are here and they’ve been absolutely top drawer,” says Paul Bateson, Director of Football at Three Kings United.
“I’ve been in environments where those sorts of people can come in with a bit of an ego but they’ve been great to interact with and have certainly not come with any ideas of them being better than anybody else – they’ve clearly been here to learn as well.”
Like the famous pair, Bateson is looking to invest in his own development but also has a wider aim in mind.
“It’s important to absorb some of the things I learn and take them back to our club. I can then disseminate the information and support others in their journey in coaching to help get them better, which will then improve the game as a whole for Three Kings.”
The full list of 2017 OFC/NZF A-Licence candidates is as follows:
Daniel Johnston, Martin Bullock, Jamie Milne, Ryan Ward, Hayley Stirling, Ryan Faithfull, Thabiso Tleane, Neil Emblen, Danny Hay, Paul Bateson, Hoani Edwards, Alec Wilson, Juan Propato, Michael Built, Jamie Dunning, Steve Coleman, Davor Tavich, Xavier Morin, Lee Padmore, Natalie Lawrence (Canada), Kamal Swamy (Fiji), Marika Rodu (Fiji), Moses Toata (Solomon Islands), Patrick Miniti (Solomon Islands)
Staff: Rob Sherman, Steven Dillon, Korouch Monsef