Sheffield Wednesday: Why Andy Holdsworth is convinced Owls are the 'ideal' club to continue his coaching career

Football is Andy Holdsworth's drug.

Sunday, 30th September 2018, 08:55 am
Updated Sunday, 30th September 2018, 09:12 am
Newly-appointed Sheffield Wednesday Under-18s boss Andy Holdsworth

His boyish enthusiasm for the beautiful game shines out as he speaks. It is not just his job. It is his great passion. 

Holdsworth enjoyed his 14-year professional career, amassing over 400 appearances for Huddersfield Town, Oldham Athletic, Morecambe, Alfreton and Guiseley, but he decided in his early 20s that coaching would be the way forward once his playing days were over.

Holdsworth's U18s side are top of the league

He told The Star: "I was young and I remember the Huddersfield manager Peter Jackson pulling the young kids to one side and saying 'football is a short career so what are you going to do after football?'

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"It really sunk in for me when I got my first injury.

"Once you are in the nitty gritty of football, you don't want to come away from it and you want to stay in it as long as you can.

"Football has been my life since I was a young boy. I haven't really known anything else."

Holdsworth has joined Sheffield Wednesday from Barnsley

The 34-year-old's coaching journey began at Barnsley. Holdsworth, who has a degree in Sport and Exercise Science, is a UEFA A Licence Coach and has the FA Advanced Youth Award, spent six years there.

But he fancied a new challenge and applied to become Wednesday's new professional development phase manager. Holdsworth beat off strong competition to land the role. Nearly three weeks have passed since his appointment was officially confirmed.

Holdsworth said: "This is a step up in my career at a club which has got a lot of history behind it.

"It is somewhere I want to be in terms of my development. I think it is ideal for me.

Holdsworth spent the majority of his playing career at Huddersfield Town

"It is a club that is always going to be there or thereabouts in the Championship trying to get promoted back into the promised land."

His primary job is to oversee the Owls' Under-18s team. 

Asked what he expects from young players, Holdsworth said: "Their attitude has to be spot on. If the attitude of the young player is not right, then everything won't follow suit.

"So, for instance, if a boy doesn't want to learn, run and work hard because his attitude is not right, then everything will fall by the wayside.

"I have seen so many players across the system, and I have even played with some players, who have all the ability in the world and are really good footballers but they don't have the attitude to progress further. They don't want to work hard on and off the ball. They don't want to get better.

"Attitude is a big thing in terms of the types of players we are trying to produce."

Discipline is high on Holdsworth's agenda. Woe betide anyone who steps out of line on or off the pitch.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not a dictator but if there is a time when an individual or a team needs telling something or they have dropped short of the standards that have been set, they will be told," stressed Holdsworth.

"But you have to be more of a friend to the players nowadays in the way you speak to them. You have got to be on there wavelength. I think you gain more trust and respect by doing that.

"You are not 'one of them' but you want them to feel like they can come to speak to you if they have a problem away from the club

"You have to be their friend, first and foremost, but they still need disciplining at times if they drop their standards."

A number of managers have influenced Holdsworth's career.

"Peter Jackson was the one who gave me my league debut and I would probably say he is the best I had on the man-management side," he said. "He looked after the young kids if they were playing badly or playing well.

"Peter shielded you from the press and what went on off the field.

"On the flip side of it, I also had Stan Ternent, who was the complete opposite to Peter. He was more of a dictator in terms of what he wanted but he was not so good on the man-management side. 

"I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with Paul Heckingbottom at Barnsley. He was the Under-23s boss before becoming the first-team manager. 

"I have seen how different managers deal with players and how they speak to them. It opens you eyes as to how people work. I have tried to take the good and bad bits from each individual."

Holdsworth, a friendly, outgoing, engaging person, is determined to help Wednesday's youngsters realise their potential.

He said: "My main aim is to try and get as many boys in my programme at the minute into the first-team whether that's at Sheffield Wednesday or at a different club. We want them to have a successful career in the game.

"I think the good thing about the club is the academy manager Steven Haslam played at a good standard. Neil Thompson (Under-23s boss) played at a good level and so did Daral Pugh (the head of academy coaching).

"We have individuals in the building who have been there, done it and gone through youth systems.

"They have gone and played for different teams and had promotions and relegations. They have got experience which the young kids can learn from.

"Football is a ruthless sport but it is one of the best that you can be involved in. It is why I have stayed in the game. 

"You get a lot of joy in trying to give young adults the opportunity to experience what I went through as a player. Football is the best job in the world."

Things could not have gone much better for Wednesday's U18s so far this season. Holdsworth's side are unbeaten, winning five of their seven matches to sit top of the league.

"We have had a fantastic start to the season but, it is like I have said to the boys and staff in the building, it won't be like that for the next nine to 10 weeks," said Holdsworth, whose team return to action at home to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. "We are going to have ups and downs. There will be blips. 

"It is part of their development and it is how they react when we have disappointments.

"For me, it is not about results, winning leagues and cup competitions. It is about getting boys into the first-team and that's the be all and end all. If it happens where we stay top all season, then brilliant.

"But for me it's a case of case of getting the boys into the 23s and getting them in there on a regular basis. 

"I want the second year scholars playing with the U23s after Christmas. I don't really want them playing with me after Christmas as I want to push the U16s and first year scholars through.

"It is about progressing the players through and getting them into the U23s and the first-team."

Holdsworth has big shoes to fill, with his predecessor Ben Wilkinson having done a sterling job with the U18s.

But the early signs are that Holdsworth will prove another shrewd appointment in the club's attempts to create a production line of future Owls stars.