What inspires one of the academy managers at one the worlds most renowed football clubs to do their job. In this letter, Nick Cox beautifully outlines the impact one coach had on him and his peers, as he was growing up. Enjoy this letter.
I am confident that you remember me. But I’m not sure you know the impact you had on me.
I wasn’t the most academic or musical so it might come as a surprise that I’m writing a letter of thanks to the music teacher.
The entirety of the 1989 intake of students to Monks Walk School recalls learning the words to ‘Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog’ and ‘Joy to the World’ during our first term. It isn’t your musical skills that had an impact on me. It was the school football team that changed my childhood. With you as the manager.
Only now can I appreciate that your role was voluntary; paid for through satisfaction rather than salary. It must have required dedication and discipline to commit to training and games at lunch times, after school and at weekends.
You instilled that same discipline in me and fellow team mates. ‘If you don’t train, you won’t play’, ‘None of those ridiculous celebrations please’, ‘Don’t backchat to the ref’.
The team was about us and not you. You made it that way. No sign of your ego or desire to prove how good you were as a coach. ‘Cox, you’re the captain you make sure everyone knows where to meet and at what time otherwise there will be no game. Make sure your boots are clean’.
I remember the excitement of a Monday morning after a weekend win. Racing to the dining hall notice board to read your match reports.
I still have a copy of the 1989/90 season summary with a record of scores, scorers, and man of the match awards. You always went the extra mile.
You patrolled the touchlines with charisma. Always encouraging and helpful. Baseball cap, thick beard, lumberjack shirt. And, whilst recovering from knee surgery, a piano stool positioned carefully on the half way line.
An afternoon kick-off, to avoid the dark evenings, outside the main school building during the last 2 lessons of the day was surely what it must feel like to play at Wembley? Superstars. All eyes watching.
And you had season tickets for Spurs. One for you with the remaining 2 being handed out as a reward to pupils that showed endeavour and enthusiasm. I was always amazed when my efforts were recognised in the same week that Spurs played my team. What a coincidence ….oh wait, no coincidence. A master craftsmen at work. An expert educator.
Gazza Vs. Platt. Heroes of Italia 90 at White Hart Lane. Could it get any better?
So what if I’d had had the misfortune for the team to be lead by the French teacher that didn’t like kids? or the PE teacher that preferred rugby. Maybe I would have lost interest? Maybe now I’d have a normal job.
Now I have the privilege to work with young people. Because of you?
I only hope I can be as inspirational as you.
*In adult life you gave me permission to call you Martin but it’s a habit I can’t break.
Nick is Head of Academy at Manchester United. He has worked in football for more than 20 years including roles in education, grassroots football, community coaching, voluntary coaching and Academy football.