|Job||Taiwan head coach|
|Desc||He’s coached three different countries to their highest ever FIFA ranking and is about to become the first British person to gain the Japanese coaching qualification. Eventually, Gary White is eyeing a return to England but until then, the adventure continues|
|Org||Taiwan National Team|
|Club as Player||Fremantle City|
|Bognor Regis Town|
|Club as Coach||Shanghai Shenxin|
|Guam National Team|
|Bahamas National Team|
|British Virgin Islands National Team|
2015 06 17 Retrieve
[Guam’s incredible victory over India] When you work for a developing country then it’s not just about the national team,” says White. “Guam spent years building a youth league and clubs, and there had been a lot of infrastructure development projects with Richard Lai (head of Guam FA) at the helm.
I had a three-point plan: make the men’s national team competitive so younger kids had something to look up to and aim for; create an elite development programme for the under-eights, 10s, 12s etc which feeds the youth national teams; and then coaching education, developing better coaches.
When I arrived I asked ‘have we seen every player who is eligible to play for us?’” he adds. “Most were in the local league. For years, they had given everything but we needed players in higher-level leagues so when they come back for national-team games, they are already prepared. We told locals to get off the island and then cast a wide net in the US.
We have a 10-year plan but we are way ahead of where we wanted to be
[Asked last month for his thoughts on the World Cup qualifying campaign] We want to be top of the group after the first two games and then we’ll see what happens
2016 03 23 Retrieve
[Gary White reveals his son’s name. It’s Flash Yutaka White] The reason I called him that is because I wanted to give him a head start. If I was a coach and I wanted to take a look at a player, I’d definitely be interested in seeing what he’s like!
[The 41-year-old is on the brink of becoming the first Briton - and only the fourth non-Asian ever - to receive the Japanese Pro Licence] We’re called gaijins. There was the great German player Pierre Littbarski, there was a Dutch guy called Dido Havenaar and there was a Serbian guy. But I’m the first Brit.
[While it’s the vast riches on offer in China that have taken the headlines in recent months, White is a man motivated by nobler goals] In my opinion, Japan is the top league in Asia, and Asia fascinates me at this time in my life. It’s had a massive impact on my personal development and I’ve been very impressed
[He serves on the technical committee for the East Asian Cup and saw Barcelona lift the Club World Cup in Japan last December] Messi is electric when he turns it on
[on his Japanese qualifications] I’d already got the highest qualification I could with the English FA but I wanted to get my Japanese qualifications too. Not really because of necessity in terms of getting a job but because I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of Japanese football and Japanese people in terms of how they think and act.
Being on a Japanese course with the JFA gave me the opportunity to do that so that I could really understand how they saw the game and their methodology. Knowing the culture and the language really gives you a head start in terms of knowing what you’re dealing with.
I did a presentation on Japanese football from an outside perspective. Part of my dissertation was on the ancient game of kemari and how they played it in the imperial court. It was a very technical game and I think it has spilled over to the modern game with the Japanese DNA because they’re still very technical.
[During his time in charge of Guam, he has embraced the indigenous Chamorro culture and taken on the nickname of the Matao in reference to the head of the clan in ancient times] Embracing the existing culture is imperative. Especially when you’ve got some English guy coming in saying: ‘We’re going to change things’. The best way to do that is to do things that they know. When you’ve got something at your fingertips which is culturally connected to sport and the warrior mentality then why wouldn’t you use it?
What I wanted to do was get the most out of that culture so we changed the mind-set to one that said that if we were going to go down then we’d go down fighting. It really made a big difference in terms of how players approached the game. It gave them a self-belief that they’d never had
[The final qualifier is this month but White is aware his future eventually lies elsewhere] I have a great relationship with Richard Lai, the president of the Guam Football Federation, and he’s fully supportive of me developing my career. It’s not easy to get on the JFA course and without Richard I couldn’t have done it. Japan feels like the next step
[Nobody will be able to accuse him of being ill-prepared] Many good coaches have gone abroad and not done well and it’s not because they’re not good coaches. It’s because somewhere along the way there has been a communication breakdown. If you can get as much detail, experience and understanding before going in it gives you a chance
[White is currently taking Japanese language classes but admits he is reliant on his translator, Mizuki Ito. Even so, he sees it as a partnership and one that both men work hard at to avoid some of the pitfalls] They’ve had success there with foreign coaches before so I don’t think it’s a huge barrier. The great thing about Mizuki is that he wants to learn too
We sit up for hours before my presentations and field sessions and go over them. We’ll talk about what I’m going to say, how I’m going to act and my body language. We’re trying to make sure that my message gets across because sometimes it can get lost in translation. The translator is a key thing for anyone who goes abroad and is working in another language
[So what can White bring to the Japanese game?] I have implemented that in my structure in Guam. They’ve got very technical players but I think one thing they might be missing is in terms of getting the best out of them and digging deeper. Perhaps more of a fighting spirit. If you can merge desire with technique then you’ve got a chance to be successful
2016 10 29 Retrieve
[How little-known English coach Gary White is making his mark in China’s ruthless football scene] I came in June and the club was basically in free-fall. Now there will be pressure to go up
[Following spells with the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas before Guam, he arrived in Shanghai, where he was forced to plunder the reserves after being told there was no money in the transfer kitty] I got rid of a lot of dead wood and made some tough decisions. The first thing I had to do was get the players to think more positively because they didn’t have much belief, there was no motivation. It’s been a lot of hard work: getting to know the players, taking them for coffee to find out what makes them tick
[At Shanghai he faces a battle to keep his best players out of the clutches of richer clubs] Most clubs in China are just teams where somebody’s gone to the supermarket and bought the best ingredients. There’s so much money in China, they can get any player they want. A lot of the bigger clubs are short-term thinkers. Shenxin is a long-term thinking club. A lot of the players in the first team have come through the academy system. They try to give kids a chance.
[With Chinese clubs outspending their English Premier League rivals in this year’s winter transfer window, top targets such as Jackson Martinez, Alex Teixeira, Ramires and Hulk are increasingly accepting lucrative offers from China] They’re definitely putting the money behind the talk
[White credits his Chinese wife Rui and baby son Flash for helping to ease the transition from island life to the hustle and bustle of Shanghai] It’s a very ruthless environment in China, but my wife has been great with the language and culture. She’s also started to get into football. When we beat Cannavaro’s team [Tianjin] and everyone was celebrating, she was the first one to say: ‘You need to get focused, it’s just one game!’ She helps me keep my feet on the ground. No messing about!
[White offered some tips to young English coaches struggling to get a foothold in the game] If I had any advice it would be to go and further your horizons a little bit, don’t sit around waiting for offers. Go into uncomfortable areas – it’s where you really find out about yourself
[He also believes English coaches have not been helped by the scandal that cost Sam Allardyce his job after one game as England manager, when he was caught in an embarrassing newspaper sting] It really was disappointing with Sam. I think it’s a disgrace. It doesn’t help the market for English coaches in terms of clubs looking at you
[But he said his ultimate goal was managing England – which would complete quite a journey after his stints in Bognor, Guam and Shanghai] I’d definitely love to coach the national team and put some pride back into the national team. It would be a wonderful honour. That would be my end goal.
2017 10 28 Retrieve
[Gary White speaks about their recent rise in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking] For me, it is getting players to understand about you as a coach, and show that you care about them as people, before you talk about tactics
2018 04 24 Retrieve
[Gary White who dedicated himself to the art of coaching after being released by hometown club Southampton as a youngster] Not a lot of people look to Asia for success stories or appreciate the achievements of British managers who go abroad. In what other business does a manager spend millions, fail, get sacked and then walk straight into another top job? It’s frustrating that happens in football, and that younger, creative, passionate people with fresh ideas get overlooked, but I am not bitter. It just makes me more driven
[Loving life in East Asia with his Chinese wife Yu Rui and two-year-old son Flash] I’d only be interested in going to a club that has a developmental mindset – and Ipswich seems like a club that you could grow. It’s a club with a big history and there will always be pressure on a coach because of that. This may sound bold, but in 20 years I want people to talk about me in the same terms that they do with the likes of Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Alf Ramsey now. My goal is to follow in the footsteps of your great leaders and become England manager one day. If I was at Ipswich I’d be looking to reach the Premier League within two years
I’m not being arrogant or cocky, I just believe in myself after the journey I’ve been on. I’ve learnt to get results with what I’ve got. I’ve learnt to adapt to different cultures. It’s been good to grow out of the spotlight, but what’s the point in staying under the radar forever?
It was then, in my early 20s, that I decided ‘if I can’t be the best at this, I’ll try and be the best coach instead’. I wanted to get a 10-year head start on all those who only started thinking about coaching once they hung up their boots
Dick Bate [the FA’s experienced Elite Coaching Director] has been a big mentor to me. He says that coaching is communication. And I’ve certainly had to learn to communicate going to the places I’ve been – you are dealing with different languages, cultures, religions, food, weather …
I’ve always put myself outside of my comfort zone. It’s sink or swim and I’ve always found a way to swim. I think it’s important to do that with players too. They can never be allowed to get too comfortable. You always have to challenge people
You always have to remember what we are all doing it for. Without the fans you just have an empty shell. I’ve seen that first hand in China where they have fantastic stadiums, fantastic facilities, but without the passion of the fans the life of the game is missing.
We’ve persuaded players to buy into what we want to achieve and to play a more positive brand of football. Previous managers looked at some of the defeats they had been suffering – we’re talking 10, 15 goals – and focused on damage limitation. I said ‘if we’re going to lose, we may as well go down with a fight’. I encourage my players to express and enjoy themselves. It’s amazing what that can unlock in people. I like my teams to take some risks, show courage and play football in a way that is interesting to watch. I get so bored when people set up teams to just sit in, not concede and try to nick something
I see too many players who aren’t truly motivated because of the way they are stifled. They might not even realise that until someone shows them a different way. It’s about creating an environment that inspires people – players and fans. For me the attitude is always ‘let’s go and try and win it’. If you don’t have success with that approach then it is my job to fix that problem and keep the motivation. My simple philosophy is to engage with hearts and heads and then the legs will follow. A lot of coaches only worry about the legs
In international management you have to work with what you’ve got and I’d take that into club management. First you have to see if you are using what you’ve got to the full potential before going to the shops. Ask yourself if you giving the players you have got the best opportunity to perform? Spending money is the easy and lazy option
When I went to Shanghai the transfer window had closed and I had to look within. I looked to the youths and reserves and found some diamonds there. It’s important not to make your mind up on players based on the opinion of others, but to use your own eyes and ears to form your own opinion. In just six months I transformed their fortunes and we stayed up against the odds
I’ve had 20 years of coaching now. I’ve been all over the world and got pro licenses in England, Japan and the USA. I’ve put myself in some really difficult situations from a young age in order to grow and learn on the job. And I’m now at a stage where I feel comfortable in what I’m doing and feel ready to come out from under the radar