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7 Elite Academy Online Masterclass Season One (Ep4): Neil Bailey

7 Elite Academy players have been given an insight into Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching methods at Manchester United during Episode Four of the Online Masterclass with PFA Regional Coach Educator Neil Bailey.

Former Reds youth team coach Bailey was talking with 7 Elite Academy Technical Director Anthony Godfrey, as part of a series of sessions designed to show 7EA youngsters how professional football works.

7 Elite Academy rolled out a package of support measures, including online team meetings and remote one-to-one sessions, to support players during Covid-19 restrictions in the United States, United Kingdom and Africa.

And in this week’s Masterclass session, Bailey explained how his work with legendary youth coach Eric Harrison during the early 2000s was constantly under the watch of Ferguson.

He said: “You always knew Sir Alex could turn up at a game and watch, which showed how much he valued the work being done at the Centre of Excellence, or Academy.

“Because of the standards he set in terms of how did his job, it kept everyone pushing to work to as high a standard as possible.

“He always said that if you get to the standard, you’ll get an opportunity. So the fact that he went to our games and watched, that encouraged people to get to the standard.

“He was true to his word and he did. Long after the Class of 92, players were still getting an opportunity as long as they reached the standard.”

Bailey also enjoyed a remarkable spell alongside Roy Keane as First Team Coach at Sunderland from 2007, when the Black Cats won promotion to the Premier League after spending part of the campaign bottom of the Championship.

He added: “Roy had gone in about September time. Niall Quinn had been holding the fort and they had got off to a bad start, and were bottom of the Championship.

“It was Christmas by the time I started and that was a fascinating period, when they went from bottom to actually winning the league in May. It was a lesson in momentum.

“We got to a point where we just felt as if every time we went out we were going to win. The players were scoring some spectacular and late goals, which mirrored what happened at United.

“I am sure there are a lot of scientific studies about momentum, but that was a classic case of a team steamrollering its way to a championship.”

That period in the north-east left a big impression on the former Newport and Stockport midfielder, who has since gone on to work with players studying for their coaching badges at the PFA.

“I remember Roy saying to the players that he only had two rules – turn up on time and work hard,” Bailey added.

“He had high standards, because that was how he worked as a player and those he played with also had that attitude.

“Some training sessions at United were better than games, because they challenged each other day in, day out. Roy just transferred that to his management career.

“Not everyone can be at that standard, but they can strive to be and that was one of his biggest things. If you were trying to be the best you could, he would accept that and tolerate some mistakes.

“If players weren’t trying to be the best they could, that was when he would challenge them.”

7 Elite Academy Global Technical Director, Anthony Godfrey, said: “I have known Neil for many years and he was my tutor for my UEFA A Licence.

“His experience in the game, as a player, coach and now coach educator is absolutely invaluable to our young people here at 7 Elite Academy.

“You can’t get much better than Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane as colleagues and that shows in Neil’s fantastic insight into professional football.

“Our players, coaches, parents and the whole football community worldwide have been privileged to hear from some incredible names during our series of Online Masterclasses and Neil is certainly one of the best.”


James Shaw