It's already been a season of change in Norwich City's Under-23s setup, with the departure of previous head coach Matt Gill paving the way for a new individual to lead the next generation of Canaries.
Having led the Under-18s for the past two years, David Wright stepped up to fill Gill's shoes originally on an interim basis in October, before being given the job on a full-time basis last month.
The former City loanee has gained a huge amount of coaching experience since retiring from playing in 2014 and he spoke to canaries.co.uk about the season so far, journey to his current position and links between his squad and the first-team.
First of all David, congratulations on getting the job on a full-time basis. How does it feel?
It feels really good. I haven’t particularly changed that much from doing it in the interim to getting it full-time. I had a thing in my head about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to affect the players, even if it was just for a short time. But I think what it [being given the job full-time] has enabled me to do now is start planning a bit more long-term. In terms of myself and what I’ve done with the boys, things haven’t particularly changed, but now I know I can start planning long-term which is good.
You’ve worked with a number of the lads for a good couple of years now. Do you think that helped you in getting the job?
It does help. Obviously I know their strengths and weaknesses straight away, I don’t really have to get to know them. There are still a couple of players - some of the new boys - that I didn’t particularly know and how they played. It’s alright watching from the stands when they are playing but to work with them every single day, you build up a picture and greater detail on things they need to develop.
Talk to us about your journey into coaching and when you first realised you wanted to be coach…
It was probably when I was Crystal Palace [2010-2013] when I really kicked into gear. I was doing my badges and bits and pieces up until that point, but at Palace I used to go down on Tuesdays and Thursday nights working with the Under-16s. When I left Palace and went to Colchester [in January 2013], I think that’s when it really got to the next level. I left Palace at 32 so I knew that the end [of my playing days] were coming soon – I phoned Bryan Klug who ran the Academy at Ipswich Town. I asked him if I could start coming in to work part-time with the youngsters there. I was still playing at this point but had a bad thigh injury when I was with Colchester and I knew on the pitch when I was being taken off on the stretcher that that was me done. I was 34 at this point and my body was giving up.
Then I went into Ipswich full-time. I wasn’t getting paid I just went in and worked with loads of age groups, even with the U23s there. In terms of my own development, it was probably the biggest period of my career. As a player, you think you know how it works but you haven’t got a clue until you actually do it.
And how did you come to work with Norwich City and get the role you are in now?
At the end of that summer , I was in Cyprus and I got a call from the Colchester chairman saying he wanted me to head up a new project at Maldon and Tiptree in non-league. The idea was to get young players out on loan to this team. We virtually built the team – we had no players at the start but we set up trials and we got that going. I did that for a number of months and then found myself as assistant manager for the first-team at Colchester. A proper restructure happened at the top and I then started working with the Under-18s at Colchester.
I then saw the Norwich U18s job advertised and applied, went through the interview process and got the job. The interview process was strange because I had never done one before. I had to do a presentation also, which was brilliant for me – all my interviews previously had been down to my reputation on the pitch.
What does a normal day look like for you at the Colney Training Centre?
I normally get in at about 7.30am. I’ll do a few bits and pieces and then have breakfast. Then we’ll have a meeting at 8.50am and through that time we’ll be talking about players and who’s doing what. I might have some contact with the first-team – Chris Domogalla might be in touch to say that we’ve got three extra players in our session. I will always have a session done and ready to go the day before, but the numbers can change on the day so the certain things may change.
Then I go out and set up and make sure everything is ready by the time the players come out. I make sure all areas are set up so the session flows from one period to the other. Training will go on for around 90 minutes to two hours and then the lads will have lunch. They will then come out for their second session to work on their ILPs [Individual Learning Plan]. All the players will have a specific part of their game that I feel they need to work on.
From there, the lads will go into the gym and work on their programme in there. And that’s the day done – generally, we will finish about 4.30/5pm.
You touched upon your contact with Chris Domogalla. Just how much contact do you have with the first-team staff?
The Boss and his staff are so approachable, and Stuart [Webber] as well. You can go and talk to them anytime. When it comes to first-team players stepping down, they’ll contact us. We may not have contact for two/three/four days because the first-team schedule is so busy. Then all of a sudden, we’ll have consistent contact. But how approachable they are, it just makes things a lot easier for everyone.
We have a number of Academy graduates in the first-team at the moment. How much pride do you take from seeing players that you’ve worked with going on to achieve so much at the Club?
When I started with the U18s, Jamal [Lewis] and Todd [Cantwell] had moved on and were more in the U23s. But when I came into the building, Max [Aarons] was part of the U18s squad. Straight away, the biggest thing that stood out was his attitude and application. He is absolutely brilliant, I don’t remember one occasion of me questioning that. Every single day, he was at it. It does not surprise me watching him now with the first-team. Those two things are so, so important in football.
Finally, the project here is very much about making Norwich City “one club” and bringing the Academy and First-Team a lot closer together. How much are you enjoying being a part of it?
When I first came into the Club to where we are now, lots of things have changed. When I first came in, I felt there were individual islands. I had my own one with the U18s and the U23s had their own. We linked but we weren’t one. But the environment that has now been created, everyone is part of this. Everyone is moving forward as one and you can see the success and how the Club is changing in terms of infrastructure and the environment around the place. Everyone feels valued and everyone knows where we want to go.