Platt bullish over English influence behind the scenes
Former Gunner helping Mancini to build dynasty at City, writes Duncan White
Published 29/08/2010 | 05:00
ENGLISH football is supposed to be in the grip of a coaching crisis. After the World Cup failure there was much spoken and written about the deficiencies of English coaching and the lack of credible coaches bringing future talent through.
It is true that, compared to Germany and Spain, there are too few English men and women coaching future footballers. At the very elite level, though, the English coach -- if not manager -- is doing rather well.
Mike Phelan takes much of the day-to-day training-ground responsibility at Manchester United, Ray Wilkins assists Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Sammy Lee worked with Rafael Benitez at Liverpool and is now helping Roy Hodgson while Pat Rice, who is Northern Irish, works closely with Arsene Wenger.
Then there is Manchester City. Roberto Mancini inherited the excellent Brian Kidd when he arrived but realised he needed more support on the training field. With City's wealth he could have gone for pretty much any coach in world football. It is telling that Mancini went English, tempting David Platt back to the training field after a six-year hiatus.
"People definitely underestimate English coaches," says Platt, fresh from a morning session with the most expensively assembled team in England. "You don't realise the work that is going on behind the scenes at clubs. People see that there are no English managers at the top and immediately assume there are no English coaches.That's not true: there are plenty of coaches at our best clubs doing some excellent work. There is a mystique or charisma about foreign managers but I don't see that we are any further behind on technical or tactical issues."
The arrival of Platt at Eastlands was the first deal Mancini got done as he started to execute his ambitious plans for the new season. "I have known Robbie for a long time," Platt said. "I had dinner with him a few times since he joined City in December but then in May he called and asked me to join.
"I first came across Robbie when I'd just moved to Bari in 1991. There was a sniff of me going to Sampdoria, probably at his behest. Even when he was playing -- at 25 or 26 -- he was doing all the jobs at Sampdoria, coaching, speaking to the president, looking at the transfers.
"Then Luca Vialli calls trying to get me to move to Juventus so I ended up going there. It was a difficult year at Juventus and they wanted to sell me back to England. I wanted to go to Sampdoria, though, and it was probably Robbie that convinced their president to go and get me. We roomed together at Sampdoria and stayed in touch for the next 16 years.
"The one thing that came over, even when he was a player was how much of a winner he was."
The partnership has been renewed, but Platt conceded it took some adjusting to taking on the role of an assistant. "I'm used to being the one that makes decisions," he says. "But we have a very good rapport. He does not always insist he is right."
Platt always saw himself becoming a coach. He played under Dario Gradi at Crewe, Graham Taylor at Aston Villa, Bobby Robson with England, Giovanni Trapattoni at Juventus, Sven-Goran Eriksson at Sampdoria and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and he says he "took something from all of them" but that it was Terry Venables' time as England coach that had the biggest influence on him.
"It was 1994 when Venables came in with England, so I was 28. At that age you think you know it all. He came out with things on the training pitch which made you think 'how stupid am I not to have thought of that?'. It was easy, simple things that he pieced together. He was exceptional as a coach. I had two years with him and he'd mesmerise you on a football pitch."
Platt admits he did not always find management as straightforward. After a short spell as coach of Sampdoria he managed Nottingham Forest where he says he "made some big mistakes" and, after taking charge of the England under 21s between 2001 and 2004, he took a year out and began to ask himself whether the "snakes and ladders board" was for him.
He turned down a job with a lower league club two years ago and realised that if he was to come back at the level he wanted, it would have to be as a coach. "When Robbie came along with this offer it ticked all the boxes," he said. "I even live just 20 minutes from the training ground."
Platt speaks with great enthusiasm of the "project" at City and he has been impressed with the quality of City's acquisitions. Mario Balotelli has "an explosion of natural talent", David Silva has "unbelievable ability" while Yaya Toure "gives you a sense of security when he's on the ball". He thinks the arrivals have pushed the players already at the club to an even higher level, singling out Vincent Kompany as "magnificent" in the opening games of the season.
Platt's enthusiasm for the challenge is clear. "I get a high when I've had a good day on the training pitch. With the older players it's about directing and guiding. The young players you can teach. All of a sudden I've got the taste for it again."