Elite Candidate Spotlight: Paul Stephenson

  • Sport Careers client and former Kilmarnock FC U20 Head Coach Paul Stephenson provides an insight into his coaching career
  • Part of the Huddersfield Town AFC coaching during their record breaking unbeaten run
  • Experienced 1st team and development coach with a proven record in nurturing young talent

Most recently you were Head Coach of Kilmarnock's U20 squad. In a league like the Scottish Premiership where financial resources can be limited, do you think clubs should be focusing increasingly on the development of young talent?

Mostdefinitely. It was difficult at Kilmarnock as I had no control over thefinances of my U20 squad. There is talent amongst that group, but they have toquickly be good enough to be considered for the 1st team because of finances.

Most clubsdon't place enough emphasis on the importance of a quality youth set up. Forexample, clubs need a good scouting network first and foremost so that you havequality players to work with.

Are there any names we should be looking out for from the Kilmarnock youth system?

The obvious ones are the players that have represented the 1st team this season - Dean Hawkshaw, Adam Frizzell, Iain Wilson, Innes Cameron and Lewis Morrison. Two lads that really impressed me with their training and application in games were Scott McLean and Sam Lidington, who are both the type to develop later given time! Jack Paterson as well was making excellent progress with the help of Watt Nicol.

You worked with a number of clubs before coming up to Scotland, including Norwich City, Huddersfield Town, Blackpool and Accrington Stanley. Most notably, you were part of Lee Clarke's management team at Huddersfield when the club went on a record -breaking run of 43 games unbeaten in the Football League. Can you give some insight into the highs of that journey, and did it put any extra pressure on the team as the run went on?

I think at the back end of the run, there were certain pressures that everyone put on each other to continue it. Don't forget that when you're on a run like that you feel invincible and the confidence and atmosphere it breeds is electric.

There were times when our unbeaten record was under serious threat, but because we had a fantastic morale and belief in each other we found all sorts of ways to dig out results. With a run like that you also incentivise the opposition because everyone is after your scalp.

You've had a number of roles in both 1st team and youth football. What do you see as the biggest differences when working with the teams?

There is a massive difference in your job fulfilment. At 1st team level it is all about winning, full stop! A win on Saturday makes your weekend, otherwise it's a miserable one. The whole family feels the pressure too, as they understand the importance of 'winning at all cost' football.

In development roles, seeing players improve and work their way up the ladder is winning! It's understanding that different players need different time scales, and that they all develop at their own rates. If you're lucky and you have a very good group, they will inspire and chase each other to greater heights. It's also a better opportunity for you as a coach in some respects, as you get to work on the whole team.

Young players you've worked with include Danny Drinkwater, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs, Benik Afobe, Jordan Rhodes and Scott Arfield. Do you have any specific priorities or approaches you use when helping to nurture young talent?

Young players are like your own children - if you are prepared to spend the time and effort with them, they will appreciate you!

You have to put the time in with them and show them how much YOU care about them. They quickly realise you're there to help them. hen just make sure the sessions you do with them are progressive and stimulating.

A lot of those players were brought in on loan from Premier League clubs. How do you positively impact a player in that situation,when they know they'll be returning to their parent club?

I believe it's the environment that they come into which is vital. At Huddersfield under Lee Clark we had a terrific atmosphere around the place and we always did extra unit work, especially with the younger players. They are also constantly reminded that this is part of their education, and with modern technology their parent clubs are constantly receiving reports and videos of them performing.

What are the biggest lessons you've learned over the course of your career, and what are your future ambitions in the game?

Never to take anything for granted, this is crucial in football. Huddersfield is a prime example of that - we lost 3 league games in our last 55, were sitting in 3rd place, and then got a phone call to say we were out the door! Years of building from very little, gone in a few minutes. It definitely makes you stronger.

You also need to have the approach that you are learning something from everybody everyday. You have days where it's your players that actually teach YOU something,or show you something on the pitch that you never quite thought of. That's why it's such a fantastic game.

I'm now looking forward to another opportunity at 1st team level or in the player development side, but I was proud of my work at Kilmarnock that's for sure!

Comments & Moderation

We moderate all comments on the Sport Careers website on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you’re a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you’ve broken the rules.

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9:00-18:30 on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

Elite Candidate Spotlight: Paul Stephenson

Comment Rules

Our rules are designed to ensure that this remains a place for intelligent discussion and debate, where posters can expect to be treated with respect, no matter their point of view.

As a rough rule of thumb, think of the comments as the online equivalent of a spirited social evening in the pub (lively, but not drunk) — passions can be stirred, but anyone engaging in abusive, intimidatory or bullying behaviour will be dealt with severely by the staff (that’s us, the moderators... bad behaviour will usually mean you lose "live" posting status).

And please don’t demand we explain/justify every decision: the popularity of our website means we don’t have time to engage in dialogue.

To borrow another metaphor: the ref’s decision is always final.

  • Be relevant
    Obviously your comment must relate to the article concerned, and to the inherent issue(s). Wherever possible, avoid cutting and pasting the same opinion repeatedly... that leads to dull threads.
  • Intelligent debate means just that
    We won’t post comments that in our view aren’t adding to the debate. Criticism of public figures is acceptable as long as it can be deemed fair comment... but don’t resort to childish insults or unfair comparisons.
  • Keep it clean
    Religious bigotry, sexism, homophobia, racism and references to disability of any kind won’t be tolerated. Comments using vulgar and abusive language won’t be posted.
  • Be nice...
    Robust debate is encouraged, but personal attacks on individual posters and any personal squabbling between posters isn’t permitted. Don’t attempt to post personal information about other contributors. Material which we consider to be defamatory, inflammatory or offensive in any way is liable to be deleted. Threads may be closed at any time at the discretion of the moderators.
  • Sports fans — don’t flaunt your colours
    We know that sports of all types stir deep feelings, but please don’t use the site to bait your rivals. Posts which are purely provocative or include club slogans will not be published. However, we don’t insist that individual threads are restricted to fans of the club(s) featured in the related articles.
  • Don’t shout or nitpick
    Please don’t use CAPITAL LETTERS to try to make a point, as lots of readers find it the written equivalent of shouting. And don’t try to score cheap points off other posters by highlighting a spelling or grammar mistake (we all make them from time to time!)
  • Limit your links
    Because we can’t check the content or technical robustness of other websites, you shouldn’t post live links. Official sites, such as those run by Governments or councils, are acceptable. In the same vein, please don’t introduce material wholesale from any other site into our threads... if you want to comment about that material, go to the other site instead.
  • Direct any complaints
    Don’t attempt to use the forum to criticise our publications’ general editorial policies or individual journalists. We’ll always strive to protect our brands, and have a duty of care to our staff. If you have an issue you want to raise, or see something that you think needs correcting, please contact us
  • Moderation Process
    Don’t try to post public comments about the moderating process — if you’ve a genuine query not covered by these rules, please contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
  • No spam
    Don’t post anything which is designed to promote your business or website, special offers or whatever. They won’t go live. Instead we’ll block you and hand your e-mail details to our advertising sales team.

Join our sign into our sport careers network FREE with just one click...

Or click here to complete our online registration form.

Established in 2012, Sport Careers are specialists in sports marketing, recruitment and CV writing

We work globally with clients in any sector related to sport- from coaches and players to directors and executives.

Live Member Updates

  • Fetching Updates