Darlington delight at Welsh progress, Argus Sport behind the scenes at Dragon Park

First published in Wales rugby and football

Carl Darlington’s job responsibilities are wide-ranging to say the least, but he is loving every minute as he attempts to breathe new life into Welsh football, writes Michael Pearlman.

The part-time TNS manager and full time employee of the Football Association of Wales – as both a course tutor from the Pro, A and B license and working with Wales’ age grade sides on a national level, is winning plaudits across the game.

With luminaries such as Marcel Desailly, Roberto Martinez, Tim Sherwood, Garry Monk, Patrick Vieira and David Ginola coming through the Welsh system in terms of coaching qualifications, the stock of Dragon Park in Newport is currently sky high.

And Darlington admits the Martinez factor in particular has really benefitted the option of becoming a qualified coach in Wales.

"We've been running courses for a long time in line with most other countries, but in 2010 we changed the structure of our courses and it's been popular,” he told the Argus.

"We used to have a week, in a solid block, before the applicants go away for 12 months and then come back to do seven days and it wasn't great for individual learning.

"We want to help people to build coaching philosophies and now over a 12 month period they come in for five days and then a further six periods of time.

"We want to be more about reality based learning, people need different tools, now we a mentoring scheme as well, where applicants can go back to their clubs and put the things they've learned into practice.

"It's proved very popular and we've had some massive names from world football come here in the past years.

"Roberto Martinez has openly said that he tells everyone to come to Newport, because he enjoys it, he enjoys the way we try and develop the individual.

"Football is a sport where people talk and word of mouth has been important for us, we go around all national associations and see what they are doing and decide whether it is something we can implement in Wales.

"We are in a unique position with a population of three million, what for example, France or Germany do, it's a world apart from what you could or should try and do in a country the size of Wales.

"But you look to take the best practices of what they do, we are very open to new ideas and countries like Belgium and Holland, they are the sort who we've studied very closely.”

Even players who have spent decades in the game need refinement when it comes to coaching, Darlington explains.

"You can't be dismissive of other viewpoints. In football and in coaching today, you adapt or you die,” he said.

"The laws of the game are fluent and change constantly, we had a forum on refereeing last week, specifically on the second phase rule with offside and David Ginola remarked on how much it has changed since when he was playing. But they have to understand every rule in order to coach accordingly.

"Last week was a great example. We put Premier League and international footballers completely out of their comfort zone.

"I won't name names, but last year we had a candidate who couldn't deliver a couple of things on the course other candidates find easy, like a tactics board talk and now he's a top manager, in a top division.

"He now does those things on a regular basis. It's healthy to be out of your comfort zone in a working environment.”

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