WHILE Danny Wilson and Ronnie Moore wile away the hours devising ways of trying to win a football match, Wayne Allison will spend his day digesting information capable of influencing the entire English game.
Allison, the former Sheffield United and Tranmere Rovers striker, was unveiled as the FA’s Research Manager for Coaching earlier this year after being tasked with the responsibility of ensuring would-be Frank Lampards and Wayne Rooneys receive the schooling required to fulfil their potential and dreams.
“I’m very lucky,” Allison told The Star last night. “I’ve got a job which combines all of my passions including teaching, research and, of course, football itself.
“The whole premise is that if you can produce better coaches then you should also produce better players.”
From South Yorkshire to St George’s Park, Allison has been on a remarkable journey since making the last of his 91 appearances for United in 2004.
Spells on the backroom staff with Bury, Bradford City and tomorrow’s visitors to Bramall Lane were combined with forays into academia which resulted in the 44-year-old being awarded a doctorate in sports science 25 months ago.
His thesis - “The Effects of High Intensity Exercise on Decision-making in Soccer” - provided Allison with the analytical skills to disseminate complex facts and figures.
And twelve seasons’ worth of experience at the coal face have equipped him
with the necessary gravitas to convince a notoriously sceptical audience.
Not to mention an appreciation of detail and patience.
“What we are trying to do isn’t about winning the next World Cup or possibly even the one after that,” Allison said. “It could be 10 years until we start to reap the benefits of what we are trying to do.
“Coaching is something that is constantly evolving. If you stand still then you get left behind, it’s as simple as that.
“Even if someone has got all of their badges, it’s still important to keep up to date and keep on learning.
“What we are doing is aimed towards trying to provide the very best coaching system and strategies across the board.”
“For example,” Allison continued. “Although this role means I do plenty of research myself, we also farm out a lot to independent parties such as university departments.
“One of the things we do is benchmark our systems against other top five English sports such as cricket and golf.
“Then, exactly the same with other top European footballing nations such as Italy and Spain.
“It helps us to discover what we do well, why we do it well and, just as importantly, how we can improve.
“The fact we use independent third parties is key because, if they report that something is going well, it means people can’t dismiss it and
think ‘well, they would say that’.
“They can give us a thoroughly unbiased view.
“But there’s no point in just doing research and then archiving it away to gather dust on a shelf. It’s got to be applied. Another thing I do is look at the findings and present them in plain English, in a manner that the people who need to benefit can easily understand.”
Although Allison might not hold the governing body’s highest-profile post, it is surely one of its most influential.
“We aren’t just concerned with the professional game even though, naturally, work with that always gets the most publicity,” he said.
“The work and research we do is designed to cover absolutely everything - grassroots, ethnic minorities, disabled football, youth football and womens’ football.
“It’s important that we try and get everything right, and if you can do that then that inevitably has an effect on the professional game anyway because everything filters into that.”
As his two old teams prepare to wrestle for position at the top of League One, Allison, who scored 32 goals for Rovers before joining United in 2002, said: “I’ve got so much affection for both clubs and I wish them the very best.
“Rovers are top and United are third. But they’ve both right up there since August so they are where they are on merit.
“It promises to be a really special encounter.
“Dave McCarthy (the United director) was kind enough to telephone me and ask if I’d like to come and watch as a guest of the club, which was a really nice gesture, but, unfortunately, I can’t be there.
“I think the people who will be though could be in for a treat as, on paper, it looks like a cracker.”