BEN Garner has completed his first week as an Albion first team coach.
WBA.co.uk caught up with the most recent addition to Tony Pulis' back room staff.
Q. So, how was the first week...?
A. It's been good. I've settled in well - everyone has been welcoming and it's a good atmosphere here. I've got to know the departments, get a brief understanding about what the Club's about and had my first proper training sessions where I've had a chance to get to work with the players properly. It's been enjoyable so far and hopefully that will be reflected by what we do on the pitch
Q. Do you have any particular responsibilities?
A. Overall coaching, basically. This week on one of the days I took the forwards, focusing on attacking play, movement in the final third, but it's what the gaffer wants relating to the game that week so it'll be a flexible role. We've looked at set-pieces - how we defend them, but attack them. Individuals will always have their own ideas on the game but it's about understanding and appreciating what the head coach or manager wants to do, to put those in place and make it clear what the players want.
Q. How have you found the lads in training?
A. They're enthusiastic, there seems to be a good camaraderie and they’ve been very receptive. Also very talented and a nucleus of a good squad. It's a case of working with those players to try and improve our results.
Q. Tell us about your background.
A. I left Palace at the start of this season - during pre-season actually. I'm 35-years-old and been coaching for a while. I didn't really have a playing career... I was a junior at Crystal Palace and suffered a bad injury when I was 18. I dislocated and fractured my ankle. It still hasn't recovered properly - I haven't got full movement in it to this day. I retired effectively, then came out of retirement to play at Sutton United for a while. I helped coach them as well, helped with the youth team so I got into that early. I got my Uefa B at 22 and I decided straight away I wanted to coach - I had an ambition and a focus straight away so I've had a good 16 years of this.
I started coaching at Crystal Palace when I was 24 and did that part-time, alongside teaching PE at a private school in Kent. That went really well. I was dealing with different abilities, ages, it taught me a lot about people.
Overall, I stayed at Palace for 10 years. I spent seven years working with the juniors and the academy, starting with the U11s and working my way through. We had some success with players who came through the system. Then I had three years with the first team, which was great. We won the Championship play-off final in my first year under Ian Holloway, who was the person who stepped me up from the Academy. Then Ian went, Tony came in and we had an unbelievable season - Tony rightfully won manager of the year. Then we had a good second year, firstly under Neil Warnock - although it didn't really work out for him - and then Alan Pardew came in, built on the foundations there and we had another good season.
Q. How did the move come about?
A. I'd worked with Tony at Palace. I got on well with him - we have similar principles and values as people. I spoke to him quite early on after I left Palace and he was keen to bring me in. It was just a case of agreeing a suitable role and then getting a deal agreed. We have now and it was great to be back on the pitch...I've really missed that. Now my focus is on trying to help get the team to improve.
Q. What are your aims?
A. For the team it's about improving and finding consistency. We need to keep getting better. The potential to push on as a club and move up the league is there too. I'm excited about coming to a new club, a new area...it's aiding my development and learning from a manager I have immense respect for, trying to better myself and eventually, one day further down the line, I'd like to pursue a career in management myself. I've always had that ambition, but that needs to be at the right time and at the right opportunity. There is nobody better to learn from than Tony Pulis. I worked with Kempy and Gerry at Palace. I've not worked with Gouldy or Mark O’Connor before but I've got to know them over the last few weeks. This is an honest, hard-working unit that's reflected from the top with the manager.
You can see this is a club that has settled in the Premier League. There is a nice feel about the club, good staff, good people around the club...everywhere. The club has done well and established itself. We want to take that onto the next level.