AFTER calling time on his 16-year playing career last summer, Cork’s Billy Clarke is coaching.
Clarke was named assistant manager of Hull City’s U18s in September and although the 34-year-old was worried he would struggle with retirement, the opportunity to become a full-time coach helped.
“I love coaching,” Clarke said. “It’s hard work. It’s long hours, but I really do enjoy doing it. I’m learning every day. I am just taking it one day at a time and trying to learn as much as possible. I’m still an apprentice, in terms of where I am at.”
“Being a coach can be long days. As a player, you just turn up to train, do what you have to.
“Get told to be in the gym at a certain time, what time to eat, etc. But now, even when I get home at 7:00, I’m thinking about the session that day and what session is needed for the next day.
“I’m thinking about the game ahead, after watching videos all week and doing analysis on it. But playing: You turn up and everything is done for you.
"A typical day would involve leaving the house at 6.40am and getting home around 7pm. I get into the training ground for 8am. The coaching staff will have a meeting with the medical staff at half eight, on who's available, what the session plan looks like, what specific areas we would like to target.
“The sports science guys will be there to tell us what distances and speeds the players need to cover that day, so we will have to tailor our session to accommodate that.
“When the meeting finishes, then we just put the finishing touches on what we are going to do in the session.
“We start training at 10.45am-12.15pm. We come back in, have a bit of lunch.
The boys will do their gym session — the coaches don’t really get involved in that — and then we will be back on the pitch around 2pm to do individual development work.
“Each player has a specific programme on what they need to improve on and what areas of their game to work on to get to the next level.
“The individual work will be tailored. For instance, all the attacking players will need to work on their finishing, because there is no 18-year-old that is the finished article.
“Defending players might need to work on positional shape, their heading, or intercepting, and they will go off with another coach. We will do that until about 3:30pm.
“We go back to document the session on the computer. They are documented on a thing called PMA. So that takes a bit of time and next thing you know it is 6pm and you’re heading home."
“The offer of the job did help me make a decision about retiring. The academy manager, Richard Naylor, and I played together at Ipswich. He had an idea that I was thinking of retiring and going into the coaching side of things.
“So, he got in touch and explained that there was a position available at Hull and would I be interested. I said I was interested and he invited me to the training ground for an informal interview about what the job will entail.
“We just had a chat for a couple of hours and got invited back for a practical interview, which involved putting on a training session for the lads and the staff would be watching it.
“I think there were five candidates for the role at that stage. I did the session and a couple of weeks later, he rang and told me the job was mine if I wanted it.
“So then, I had to make a decision on carrying on playing or officially hang the boots up. It wasn’t as tough a decision as you would think, because I already had it in my head that I wanted to finish up playing.
“I was waiting for an opportunity to finalise it. Had that opportunity not come along, I would have kept playing, because that would have been the natural thing to do, rather than retire and have nothing lined up. But because this opportunity came about, it was an easy decision for me.
“I did have offers from clubs to carry on playing, but, in truth, they weren’t offers that would have really suited me. I just had no motivation to keep playing.
When I finished last season, normally I would be very active in the off-season. I would stay fit and stay on top of things, but I lost complete motivation.
“I thought when lads started to get back into pre-season, I might get the bug back again, but that wasn’t the case and the motivation was completely gone. I just really wanted to get into the coaching side of things full-time.
“Honestly, I do not miss playing at all. I really don’t. I did think I would struggle.
“My whole life revolved around playing. From the age of 15, playing football was all I knew. So, I thought I would really struggle, and I’m sure people close to me will tell you the same thing, but I think it’s been fairly easy really and I’ve not missed it at all.”