Local man making his mark in Thai football

Andy Clawson.Andy Clawson.
Andy Clawson.
A former Carrickfergus resident is making his mark as the owner of a Thai football club.

Andy Clawson is the founder and managing director of FC Bangkok in Thailand.

An experienced coach, Andy previously worked with Hearts FC in Edinburgh, Manchester United, Coerver Coaching Elite Performance Programme (Scotland and UK North), and the San Jose Earthquakes community programme in California.

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A typical week for the east Antrim native involves being both a full-time coach and manager. "This means I work some very anti-social hours but when you can work full time in football, you can't really complain," he said.

"My week is a mixture of office hours consisting of coach session planning and periodisation for academy staff, national and international tournament organisation plus other genericevent management such as charity days, coach education, camps and awards ceremonies.

"As a director of coaching I oversee 10 teams in the academy, from under-8 level to senior, and both boys’ and girls’ teams.

"Getting out on the pitch is by far the best part of my job. Having access to so many teams provides me with the opportunity to perfect many aspects of my coaching. My week is a mixture of foundation, development and performance squads so I have the chance to try many different coaching styles.

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"I've become the coach I am today due to the hours I'm on a pitch - 16 to 20 each week. This was something I found very difficult back home. Great coaches are restricted to one to two sessions a week, allowing minimal opportunity to experiment."

With cultural differences and the "agendas" of rival clubs to overcome, the job is not without its challenges, he added: "In Thailand it’s difficult as a foreigner to influence leagues, associations and other clubs to change old and outdated attitudes.

"Thailand is a developing country and the football market is exactly the same. In my five years here I have seen massive changes in the grassroots and pro youth systems. I'm proudto have helped as much as I could with this.

"Sadly Thai football has been renowned for corruption but there are like-minded coaches and managers who see the potential here and work hard to help make the Thailand footballscene better."

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Andy has attained a range of qualifications throughout his career, including a UEFA A Licence, Youth Licence, Club Licence, Youth Licence Level 4, Children’s Licence Level 4, and C Licence.

A Liverpool fan, his top picks in the world of football are Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Steven Gerrard, and Andrés Iniesta. "I was a big fan of Brendan Rodgers until he went to Celtic!"

Inspiration, meanwhile, came from former colleagues. "Coaches who inspired me are grassroots and academy coaches from my time at Hearts and Manchester United. Their knowledge, passion and reasons for coaching are not extrinsically motivated and every session was exciting and rewarding. I also met some quality coaches when gaining UEFA licences and Irish FA coaches have been great, too."

Andy is also a keen boxer, training three to five times a week and fighting occasionally for charity. "I encourage players in the foundation stage to sample a lot of sports but then they must choose and focus," he said.

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For those wishing to follow a similar career path, Andy advises getting as much time on the pitch as possible: "If staying at home you must work with the Irish FA, get licensed and learn from experienced coaches, then volunteer as much of your time at local clubs. Session planning is important but you need to be on the pitch continuously to get your ideas across to players.

"Alternatively you should see the world and experience other football cultures and methodologies because I can guarantee you one thing: no-one has the correct formula. Football changes and adapts and so must you. Also learn a language; if you want to work high level you must speak the lingo. Remember that you're up against other coaches from Europe with the same licence as you and the same experience but they can speak five languages."

In the future, the former Carrick resident hopes to develop his own coaching career and step into first team football. "I came to Thailand with a pair of boots, no money and a suitcase. Within four years I have founded a club that now has a fully functioning academy system leading to a senior team in the professional game. We are now ranked number one in Thailand for grassroots player development," Andy added.

"I want to highlight the sheer amount of hard work it has taken to get to this point but it's done and been proven successful. For talented lads back home with the correct work ethic andmorals, just know that it can be replicated but no-one is going to do it for you."