The day I found myself coaching Kevin Phillips! Football scout Thompsonon on the importance of football qualifications

Mark Thompson.
Mark Thompson.

Attempting to coach one of the Premier League’s most potent strikers about making a run in on goal may seem bizarre to most of us, but that’s exactly what Mark Thompson found himself doing.

The 35-year-old Bostonian is currently working towards his UEFA A Licence, the highest practical coaching award available.

Mark Thompson.

Mark Thompson.

But it was while earning his B Licence he found himself putting on a session for the rest of the students, including a certain Kevin Phillips.

The quest for coaching accreditation ensures that all of the class - no matter what their history in the game - are treated equally.

And that led to Thompson, now a first-team scout at Peterborough United and full-time coach at the Posh academy, passing on his ideas to the former England international and one-time Premier League Golden Boot winner, who netted 92 top flight goals with the likes of Sunderland, Southampton, Aston Villa and West Brom.

“Putting on a session telling Kevin Phillips to run in behind felt a bit strange,” admitted Thompson, who has also found himself studying alongside ex-pros such as Luke Chadwick, Johnnie Jackson and Lee Grant.

“But we’re all in the same boat, and it’s the same for everyone.”

Thompson has become something of a classroom junkie in recent years, with the A Licence being the 10th coaching accreditation he has worked for.

His first was the Level 2 coaching badge he completed with the rest of the Grimsby Town youth academy in the late 1990s.

But it was after playing locally with Boston Town and Wyberton that Thompson decided to give coaching his all. As he puts it -‘to try to get to levels I wanted to be as a player but never got to.’

“You get to meet different people from different parts of the game,” he said, explaining his eagerness to keep on enrolling in new courses.

“Every time you leave you have learnt something new.

“It doesn’t matter who you learn from, everyone has different experiences and something to teach you.

“I always want to get better and be as good as I can.”

While Thompson believes this country is yet to share the win-at-all-costs mentality some of our European neighbours instil into their youngsters, he believes that knowledge has helped him mould his own coaching style.

“I don’t think you should go around criticising,” he added.

“You should be constructive. Don’t shout at kids and tell them what they’re doing wrong.

“Ask them questions and make them think about how they can improve.

“That’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. I try to be positive, that gets a better response.”

But what would he say to anyone considering enrolling in courses, particularly the B Licence, which opens the door to coaching in the pro game.

“I’d always tell people to do the B course without hesitation. Get on it,” he said.

“You learn lots of important things to help coach at any level, and it also opens doors to full-time football.

“It helps you give something back, helps you improve your team and It can help you improve yourself as well.

“Some people may say it puts them out of their comfort zone, but it was the same for me.

“I’ve been on the course with some people who have played the game at much higher levels and I’ve been in the room and realised I’m more comfortable being there than some of them.”