John McDermott watching on as he attends England U19 training

An Introduction To John McDermott

Reflecting on his first few months and with Euro 2020 just getting started — McDermott gives an insight into what his job is all about.

Just six months into his role as technical director at The FA, John McDermott gives an insight into his priorities, the importance of grassroots coaching and the small matter of EURO 2020.


McDermott is no stranger to The FA. He’s seen it all, from working in the grassroots game in the mid-1990s to coaching the national teams in the early 2000s. He is now enjoying his third stint at the organisation: this time as technical director.

With a wealth of experience in player development, McDermott re-joined The FA from Tottenham Hotspur where he oversaw the rise of players like Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Danny Rose.

Reflecting on his first few months and with Euro 2020 just getting started — McDermott gives an insight into what his job is all about.

WHAT'S THE ROLE OF A TECHNICAL DIRECTOR?

In a word: broad. While McDermott’s remit focuses more directly on the men’s pathway and senior teams, he also works closely with Baroness Sue Campbell, director of women’s football, and Kay Cossington, head of women’s technical.

For McDermott, using his experience of working in player development is key. While he may be judged on the performance of the senior teams, his focus is on the future too.

“My big focus is to give Gareth the best opportunity to achieve one of our game-changers, winning a major tournament.

“To do that we need to recruit the right players throughout all the age groups. We need to look at players — at the younger players — that have got potential, and we need to surround them with outstanding coaches who understand them and understand potential. Then, when they get to U20s and U21s, it’s about getting them to understand more about the tactical and performance side.”

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The Player Pathway

THE IMPORTANCE OF GRASSROOTS

Despite his focus on the professional game, McDermott recognises the impact that grassroots has had on him  and the players currently making their names in the England senior teams. 

 

When I first worked here [for The FA] in the 1990s, I was involved a lot with the County FAs, with coach education and did a lot of work trying to get mini soccer off the ground. So, it’s in my blood.

It’s important that those at the elite end aren’t snobbish. At some point, I know that Harry Kane played at the Peter May Centre. If nobody was there to try and develop him as nine or ten-year-old, and the volunteers weren’t there to put the nets up, then Harry Kane doesn’t become Harry Kane.”

“The grassroots game is absolutely fundamental in making sure that players of all levels get to the level that they can get to.” 

 

EURO 2020 AND BEYOND 

McDermott has been thrust into the planning of a major tournament. And, with the ever-changing scenario of a pandemic, it’s been a real team effort to give Gareth Southgate and the England squad the best possible chance.

 

“I've been involved and working with Gareth since January, but also joined a really experienced multi-disciplinary team.

It’s been quite interesting for me to sit in with these guys that have been working together since Russia — that’s both the players and the staff.  What I've experienced is a well-established plan that has got us through a pandemic and dealt with quite a lot of significant issues this year. And it really is an impressive machine that is running.

What I've tried to do  and what I hope to do going forward into the tournament — is to try and work with the team to ensure that Gareth, the coaches and the players have got as much bandwidth as possible to concentrate on the football.”

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