Friday, 1 January 2016

Steve Gallen - The end of an era

Steve Gallen
So, with the reported sad departure of Steve Gallen it means that he is the last person out the door from the days of Raheem Sterling and beyond. Key people from those days like Terry O'sullivan, Paul Bruce & Fitzroy Lewinson plus more have all gone and were important people that took part in Raheem's and others recruitment and development. Good coaches, good scouts, good people, QPR people. 

Every season we will here of managers getting sacked. That’s part of football but when it happens we often here and see many people in the game and in the media showing great human sympathy for a man losing his job and so we should. However, many that do are rewarded in a way far removed from us mere mortals with contracts paid out in full resulting in many multi-millionaire former managers. 

With this in mind I was truly shocked to see Steve Gallen seemingly ushered out of the back door at QPR after it being reported that he was removed from all duties at the club. QPR is a club that publicly reports its family feeling, culture and togetherness but this to me seems to be an action in contrast to that. Steve Gallen has been employed at QPR in a multitude of coaching roles for around 18 years. Most of which were working in the youth centre of excellence where he later became the head of youth and Academy manager. He was then moved out of that role to coach the U21's and later promoted to work with the first team. Of course things happen in the first team and people get sacked with new people coming in and with the introduction of Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink Steve has been deemed surplus to requirements I guess. I don’t see issues with that and I’m sure if Steve was asked, he wouldn’t either. That happens. However since the news broke I have seen lurching opinion on the overall value of Steve to the club and also questions of his ability and results working in the youth structure. This is such a shock to me and its when the 'only at QPR' term came to me again. Why can’t this gentleman be given the just reward and appreciation he so deserves? Instead it’s debated by certain quarters as to his success. One comment I read was. 

“It is an inconvenient truth...however...Steve Gallen has been a fundamental part of a youth system that has grossly failed for 20 years

Being in football more than most industries means that you are open to criticism and I can take that. Steve certainly can I’m sure and he wouldn’t want to respond. However having worked for this guy and seeing first-hand the challenges I felt I want to tribute him and show the details of what he actually achieved. Knowing that if I was a chairman I would be currently hunting him down to come to work at my club. Criticism is ok but I think it’s fair if people know the details facts and truth as some either comment without the depth of knowledge or else have hidden agenda's which is unacceptable, damaging and disrespectful to someone that has given so much to his role and i'm guessing, doesn't walk away a millionaire for his family. 

Looking at the comment above I read the words 'fundamental part' as being an overall decision maker. Or a key person at least. Let’s put that in perspective. Steve was not in charge of the youth system for the last 20 years. He was to the best of my knowledge in charge of the youth system for 4-5 years up to 2012. Post 2012 was the era that Tony Fernandes came in as did Mike Rigg and Steve was almost immediately stepped aside. Since that date a further four people have been in charge of the academy and as many placed in the role of Head of Coaching. Steve has had no decision making responsibility during that period. I accept that Steve Gallen bleeding hoops doesn’t mean he is owed anything or that he is owed a job. He would never want that either. Hes a proud hard working man. So let’s examine the second part as indeed Steve was in charge of the Academy for the period leading to the influx of investment.

If we firstly look at the numbers. Steve was in charge of a ‘center of excellence’ under owners that seemingly didn’t focus too much on the youth. Investment was minimal and I estimate it to be around no more than £150k per year. At that time it had 3 full-time staff. It’s not up for debate the major influence Steve and coaches like Fitzroy Lewinson had on Raheem’s capture, development and majorly, keeping him at the club as long as they did as he gained approaches from the local ‘big guns’. Sterling’s recent move to Man City netted QPR £9m in a payment clause. I’m sure it’s clear that I’m a fan of Steve Gallen as a great coach and a great person. But were not debating his values, kindness and integrity here, were debating what he did for QPR. If his responsibility lasted 5 years that would equate to a circa cost of £750k. To ease the argument lets round it up and stick another £250k to the cost and that still leaves a profit to QPR of £8M for his term. I think that’s worth a thank you. Since then the investment was massive and now the academy has around 20 full-time staff and a cost of circa £2M in my estimation. Around a third of that could be recouped from the Premier League’s EPPP system but it still leaves the club paying out an estimated 8-10 times the investment under Steve. The same pro rata return would see the club profit circa £12M per year.

Considering all the challenges that were faced in these years and low budget it’s a miracle that any players of any level were produced and it’s that remarkable equation that always left me scratching my head as to why Steve was never given the reigns when the investment arrived. admissions were made about the many mistakes that were made and the ‘type’ of people that came in. But with the message and focus returning to youth as a clear strategy I feel it’s a huge mistake again to allow Steve to be pushed out in this way. If you went on a recruitment drive you would have to break the bank to gain the incredible capabilities of a Steve Gallen that produced players against the odds. Tony Fernandes has one under his nose and surely must reverse this decision if taken out of his hands.

"Steve [Gallen] was great. He always had such confidence in me and that gave me more confidence in myself"
Raheem Stirling

Its been much reported as the chairman having the wool pulled over his eyes and as part of that maybe he was told the same stories about what I read and what’s implied. The club hasn’t produced players over Steve’s term. Well, Let’s investigate that further. After some quick research of the football league and beyond it became very apparent that I would be able to put together a very decent team and squad from current players that all came through under Steve’s guidance and responsibility. Here it is….

These players are a mix of current QPR players, players sold and players released. The point is, they all make a reasonable living. Some higher, some lower but it’s a great testimony to Steve’s work. Imagine if he had been given the opportunity to drive the improved investment bus? This was on a shoestring compared to now.
As well as these players, most of which are still young and developing with therefore a great chance of making a higher grade, Steve led the U18's to 3 x league titles in his term and 1 x national cup. He was runner up in the U21 final in more recent years. In a New York tournament QPR beat Inter Milan and Liverpool to win an international trophy. Against all odds they had reached a quarter final of the FA youth cup beating level one class leading Southampton on the way to losing at Newcastle at St James Park. Clubs that had been investing millions in their academies for years. 

For an Academy to work properly there a simple equation in my book.

Recruitment (People)
You cannot turn a bull dog into a greyhound derby winner. You cannot turn a shire horse into a winner at Aintree. There is a starting point of talent and it’s the most crucial part. The trouble with a club like QPR is its competitive. When real talent presents itself you have to compete with clubs around you. You walk the player around the facility. In the days of Steve this was clearly tough to sell. Then it’s the people. You prove to the parents that you actually care and have good morals and transparency. Then you show them the proof of the pathway making it clear they have a chance. In the past of course this was again tough to sell.

Coaching (People)
Of course development is vital. You don’t take your new Mercedes to a back street garage. You want it cared for by the best. No doubt the coach has more contact with the player than anyone and could truly break a player as well as be pivotal in developing them. That’s also mentally as well as technically. Coaches like Fitzroy were great examples of that. He cared, you could feel his personality and he had the knowledge to back it up. In 20 years of being in professional clubs, Steve is the best coach I have seen and Ive worked with many high profile names.

Facility (Investment)
Its home. It’s the place you spend most time. As well as the bricks and mortar it’s the holistic science that now has been introduced to the game. The support of medical teams to keep players fit and protect them as well as pitches and equipment that gives the player the tools as well as the feel good factor

Pathway (Strategy)
All of it doesn’t matter if the club doesn’t have a strategy to bring the players through. In the past its obvious that this was not happening. Of course the players have to be good enough, but they also need a chance.

With those four pillars ticked you will then produce players for the first team. Mr Fernandes, you are frighteningly close to getting it right this time. But you need the right people. If you don't reconsider than I'm sure Steve will be back in work soon and everyone moves on. 
Knowing Steve he wont thank me for writing this, but its got to be said. I'm sure I speak for many when I say I thank you for all you did for the people you came into contact with and I'm sure fans that understand the depth of work, dedication, professionalism and value you brought to QPR they will also join me in showing their appreciation!



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