AS he enters his 10th year coaching in Iceland, Cork native John Andrews is still enjoying progressing in the game while loving being involved in the professional set-up.
The 43-year-old certainly has that Carlsberg job scenario, where work doesn’t seem like work. Being on the pitch coaching football almost every day of the week is perfect for him and here he takes us on his journey in Iceland to date.
“My currrent role is the head coach of the senior women's team at Víkingur Reykjavik in Iceland,” said Andrews. "I also coach the U19 ladies team and am the head of Strength and Conditioning for both of these teams in which I find thoroughly enjoyable.
“Iceland has helped me greatly. I have coached for three clubs in Iceland in both the men's and women's game, ranging from the Premier League with Afturelding, to winning the shield with Volsungur and now in Lengjudield with Víkingur. The country is a haven for sports with football being the crown jewel.
“The success of both international teams has really put Iceland on the map, and with players popping up in top European leagues, as well as flourishing domestic leagues, it is a smashing place to ply one's trade.
“I‘ve been lucky to have had two stints here 2008-2014 and 2017 until now. My progression as a coach is incremental, as I feel I am improving day by day.
"Along with the language barrier, I feel that the knowledge of football here is immense, and therefore coaches have to keep up to date with current trends because the Icelandic natives are very knowledgeable about the game.
“I‘ve mellowed a lot here as regards my coaching style, and my personality in general, and I thank Niall O'Regan and the FAI along with KSI (Iceland's Football Federation) for their help with my development in regards to coach education.
"Maybe age has a wee bit to do with it too though," laughs Andrews. "My current assistant coach is a man of vast experience and keeps me on my toes daily – so I‘ve developed and will continue to develop, maintaining a growth mindset along the way.
“Our weekly schedule will vary but if for example, we play on the weekend, we would train four nights football, one strength session, a team meeting the day before to go over set pieces, patterns, tactics, have the game, then a recovery session the day after, followed by a day off. Prior to restarting the next week, we will have a short analysis meeting from the previous game, and restart the cycle to get ready for the next week/game.
“Personally, I work almost every day. I arrive at the office at 10, and the day consists of tweaking the upcoming session, agents meetings, one-on-one player meetings, Séræfing (extra training for elite players), training, then a session review after the training.
"I usually squeeze in a workout for myself and I‘ll always give myself half an hour to read, and/or journal. It is a great way to take time to myself and maintain a good mental state.
The day usually finishes about 8.30pm in the evening, but if there's a game to be watched – you‘ll usually find me there.
He spent Christmas at home in Ireland again this year, because when he lived in the States and India, it was difficult to return.
"I hated not being in Ireland. I usually fly into Dublin and jump on the bus to Cork, and there‘s nothing like the smell of the Lee when you step off the Aircoach. It‘s just magical.
"I hope to be home again in May when my brother may be able to get some time to fly in from Australia. He doesn‘t get home much and we are all desperate to see him and his young family. I‘ve been away for most of the last 27 years and if possible I always try to get home at Christmas.”
What’s so different from life here in Ireland and would the UEFA pro-licence holder recommend Iceland for youngsters wanting to play or coach at a high level?
"All youth coaches are either UEFA licenced, working towards their licences, and/or being mentored by senior more experienced mentor coaches, and the kids have the best facilities imaginable for a country of this size.
"The youth international teams continue to excel, while also maintaining that Viking spirit.
“The FAI are putting a lot of effort into improving the coaching model at home, and it is getting great results with kids coming through to both senior national teams, and I always recommend that they take an interest in the Icelandic model from KSI."
The weather is also a positive factor.
"Kids are tough, and rarely complain about the winter climate. Covid has given us all a major sense of gratitude for what we have but the kids here have a steel about them that is so impressive. It is a sports-mad culture, and it is a privilege to coach here and continue to learn my trade.”
Is there a possibility that we will have Andrews experience and knowledge coaching back home?
"I definitely would love to come home at some stage to coach if the right job came up and my time here in Iceland is up. I would love nothing more than to be home closer to the family. I don‘t think people realise how much the Irish abroad miss Ireland, so as the Icelandics say: 'aldrei seigja aldrei' – 'never say never'.
"I take things day to day and no matter where I coach, I just love being on the field and helping players improve – and I‘m happy as long as I can keep doing that."