Followers of the English second division will be familiar with Jose Gomes. He spent a short spell with Championship club Reading over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He is now back in his Portuguese homeland overseeing Primeira Liga side Maritimo. He is about as well travelled as a coach can be having spent time in Hungary, Greece and Saudi Arabia as well as England and Portugal. Although his career with Reading came to a somewhat premature end, Gomes has a fondness for the English game, just one of the many topics he discussed in this comprehensive and forthright interview.
“England was the country I really liked to work in” he confessed. “The support to that all the fans gave to us, the Portuguese technical staff and also the fantastic environment and atmosphere in the stadiums – it really is unique in the world”, Jose eulogised.
He is far from alone in his glowing assessment of the English game. For many if not most senior coaches around the world it is seen as the footballing mecca, the place which is the absolute zenith of the sport. So why is it that these coaches – and Portuguese coaches in particular – think this way? “I think it’s the original football”, offered Jose. “We [Portuguese coaches] cannot hide there. You feel it if you go to the stadiums, the tradition. You feel that football was born in England”.
Declaring “England is the dream”, the 2016 Saudi Cup-winning manager went on to describe how the admiration between England and Portugal is mutual. “They want the best coaches in the world and, in my opinion, we have the best coaches in the world”, he proclaimed, “it’s incredible the capacity that the Portuguese managers have to adapt to difficult and different conditions”.
He cites the Portuguese coach who recently led his team to triumph in the Mozambique first division, a challenge which requires making the most out of limited facilities.
On this topic, Gomes discussed the most challenging place he coached, Saudi Arabia. Talking about his first of his four jobs in the nation, he said “I replaced a coach from Algeria. The football style [when I arrived] was completely direct, so direct football, try to fight for second balls – they didn’t play a passing game”. It’s an approach that spectators will have become accustomed to if they follow football in the lower quarters of the English game, for example. “It was very difficult in the beginning to share our ideas”, but things changed “when they realised what they really enjoyed because the Saudi people and the Saudi players love the quality football, the passing game, the magic things in football”. He is far from intransigent in his philosophy though, dictating that “we cannot complain, we just need to adapt”.
Jose’s attitude to coaching, in general, is thoroughly world-wise, he expresses it with wonderful articulation. When quizzed on what age group he thinks is the best get experience, he mused that “since we start to walk we start fighting with others… We have competition in everything we do, if you put a new toy in the room with kids that are two years old, they have competition to see which kid will keep the toy – competition is a natural thing”.
Pressed on whether he prefers teaching senior pros or precious youths, Jose was measured and diplomatic – “they [youth coaches] feel really full with the energy of the kids and they don’t need to work with professional footballers to achieve their goals”. This is an example of the holistic thought process, one which extends to his day-to-day coaching techniques – “some coaches say ‘gym for me is completely out of the plan’… my idea is if we can make organise our training [and strength and ] conditioning coaching with the tactical idea as the foundation of everything, I think this is the best option”.
“If we cut this, we are destroying football”: Jose’s warning to those who threaten to take the joy out of the world’s most popular sport by being overly-disciplinarian. “We cannot forget that we are talking about a game – we don’t play this game; the players play the game”. “Some times we [coaches] reduce everything to coach rules and we block the players, we don’t give them the freedom that the game needs and the football needs to bring more people to the stadiums and the young players to enjoy and feel passion for the game”, Jose sagaciously concluded. Fun, in his eyes and hopefully in the eyes of aspiring coaches, is the reason we play the beautiful game.
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