Sheffield Wednesday: Bullen learns from Sir Alex

Leading from the front: Lee Bullen encourages Owls youngsters during a game
Leading from the front: Lee Bullen encourages Owls youngsters during a game
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Lee Bullen has given an insight into the way Sir Alex Ferguson operated and helped him on the road to becoming a coach and possibly a manager.

The Owls developent coach and former captain has also revealed how big names such as Andre Villas-Boas, Marcello Lippi and Howard Wilkinson gave valuable advice to him and others on a course to obtain top coaching qualifications.

Ferguson has been in the news with his book revealing why he jettisoned David Beckham but it was the explanation of his broader management methods that enthralled Bullen and fellow students in a 90-minute forum led by Sir Alex at Manchester United’s sumptuous training ground.

Bullen says in his autobiography, No Bull: “The first thing Sir Alex talked about became the over-riding piece of advice that was to stick in my head more than anything else: ‘The standards are very important...do not EVER drop your standards. That is something your players will always respect. What he meant, among other things, was that coaching sessions must be well prepared and have structure.”

Ferguson told what he looked for in up-and-coming talent: “First and foremost it must ability; after that it would be personality, character and upbringing.”

Fergie believed in trusting in players: he would grant a player day off without asking for a reason unless they wanted to tell him, and if a player wanted his help for something, he would “never tell a soul” about it. He also said: “Always strive to be inspirational....NEVER change your discpline or code of conduct; the players will see that right away and double standards will destroy your relationship.”

Among other Fergie points: “Never educate directors on the game; it’s dangerous! But always respect their position and never call the chairman by his first name, always Mr. Chairman.”

Bullen noted more than 20 guidelines from Ferguson about being a coach or manager and has made a shortlist of 10, covering discipline, personality, character, structure, staff, trust, respect, work ethic, ruthlessness, and opinions.

The Owls coach believes that David Moyes - “a footballing maniac, in the nicest possible way, of course” - deserved to succeed Fergie.

Bullen was hugely impressed by a talk on the course from Villas-Boas - “you could say I’m a fan.”

Wilkinson led a course at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland and made an impression on Bullen by saying: “When you sign a player, you get his body. As a top coach, you must get his heart and mind.”

Football’s high casualty rate has failed to dampen Bullen’s thoughts about perhaps becoming a manager somewhere in the longer-term future.

“Does it put me off? No, not at all, because I would be going into it with my eyes open”, he says in his book.

He also tells of his love for his current role in developing young players and says: “Dave Jones, Stuart Gray and the senior management team have been great with me. There’s trust between us and they allow plenty of inter-action with the first team.”

He also says: “Nobody can say what the future holds but I would love to be in football for the rest of my working life.

“I’m now 42, having had 23 years as a player. I would be lovely to think I could have a similar length of time coaching or managing. But is’a precarious business.”

*No Bull, by Lee Bullen with Alan Biggs, is published by Vertical Editions.