AN IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH CLINT HILL PART ONE: FROM OLD SCHOOL TO NEW LESSONS
- Played under Warnock, Pulis and Redknapp and was schooled as a player the traditional way
- Exposed to new coaching techniques working with the likes of Chris Ramsey and Mark Warburton
- Got every ounce he could out of his playing career before retiring at the age of 39
- Now a UEFA Pro Licence candidate and taking big steps forward in his coaching journey
- Appointed assistant manager of ambitious English National League club Stockport County last week
OLD SCHOOL to new lessons, that's the story of Clint Hill's coaching journey.
From a trusted on-field lieutenant for Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace to being educated in a different fashion under the innovative Chris Ramsey at Queen's Park Rangers.
Examining the coaching DNA of a teak-tough defender who eked out every shred he could from a playing career that ended at the age of 39 is a fascinating process.
Sport Careers Agency Clint, last week appointed as the new assistant manager of Stockport County in England's National League, worked with Warnock, Tony Pulis and Harry Redknapp.
If we constructed a building to house the Old School of Football Management those three would be occupying the prime seats in the staffroom.
Then, even in the twilight of his days with his boots on, Clint had an Indian summer season under the imaginative guidance of Mark Warburton and David Weir at Scottish giants Rangers.
So what worked best for him?
We will look in-depth at the Warburton influence in Part Two of this exclusive Sport Careers Agency interview.
As a current UEFA Pro Licence candidate Clint is soaking up the knowledge of every new method he can, yet he has huge respect for the more traditional bosses who helped mould him as a player.
Warnock is a compelling character. Cast as a managerial dinosaur by his critics, the 72-year-old veteran was this month sacked as Middlesbrough boss in what seems set to be his final spell in the dugout.
Hill reveals a different side to the popular perception of Warnock and he reflected: ”I met Neil at the right time in my career, I was at Stoke City for four years but I only played about 80 games.
”I had a succession of injuries and I just couldn't get going. I was fed up but then I got a call out of the blue from Neil and he asked me to come to London and play for him at Crystal Palace.
”Going south puts the fear of death into a Northerner like me but it was the best decision I made.
”He played me every game, out of position at left-back right enough but every game. Let's just say I'm not your modern day full-back but I could do a job there.
”Neil believed in me and he trusted me, he treated me like a man and told me if I played well I'd be the first name on the teamsheet.
”I remember when my daughter was born up north and I couldn't see her as much as I wanted to.
”He told me to go up and train with my old club Tranmere for the week and I would play for Palace on the Saturday.
”That sort of human connection is so important, you can put the best session on if you want but gestures like the one he made then get you an extra 10 to 15 per cent from a player.
”As a coach you have to show you care first and foremost or you are lost.”
From Warnock, warm-hearted humanity. From Pulis cold-eyed pragmatism.
There's a frustration within Clint that those injuries cheated him of the chance to properly impress in the Potteries.
He revealed: ”Tony Pulis would drill us day in and day out meticulously on the shape of the team, it was very structured.
”He was not as outgoing as Warnock, he had his own way of working and I could appreciate its benefits.
”The work could seem repetitive but sometimes players look for excuses and at Stoke no-one could turn around on a Saturday and say we hadn't prepared properly.”
At Queen's Park Rangers working with Redknapp Clint admits he felt for his manager who came into a trying scenario at Loftus Road.
He recalled: ”Harry inherited such a tough situation there after coming from Tottenham Hotspur.
”It was a dressing-room that was fractured by egos, status and money. It was a real bad situation and it wasn't Spurs where he had high-level players there.
”He was a great character, he didn't do much tactically on the training field but I still took a lot of little nuggets from him on his ways of dealing with players and motivating them.”
Redknapp would leave QPR after 36 wins in 105 games in charge in February 2015 and the club turned to one of their own.
Chris Ramsey had been developed as a coach in the Academy and after a short stint in interim charge he was handed the reins permanently.
Eight wins in 30 matches saw that experiment end nine months later but Clint stressed: ”When Chris came in he had done so much at the club in terms of the Academy and now he faced a tough one as the Head Coach.
”He did things TOTALLY differently, he had a thing called the 100 Touch Rule before we even trained. It was skill work and older pros were reluctant to embrace it.
”It was good to see that but I knew players didn't like change.
”I liked to see both schools of thought, from the thoughts of repetitive training to school you for a Saturday to what Chris did which was more technique-driven at times.”
Now 43, Clint's longevity as a player means he has a keen hunger for learning in the first chapters of his coaching story.
Since he retired from playing he has worked at Fleetwood Town, Bristol Rovers, Hartlepool United and now Stockport County as he continues to build his reputation.
The UEFA Pro Licence is the next big step and Clint is delighted that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions has meant he can meet some of his course cohorts in person.
He confessed: ”It has been hard doing a lot of the course on Zoom so I have loved getting together on it now.
”On Wednesday night we are doing our analysis section at Manchester City-Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League which will be a great match to see.
”It's two years of your life and I am learning so much for my next step.
”What will that be? At some point I will have to put my head on the chopping block and look to be a manager in my own right.
”It's all good being an assistant but I need to experience it as a boss otherwise I will always be wondering what I would have been like at it.
”If I do that eventually then I know now I have to be authentic because players see the fakes straight away.”
*IN Part Two of the Clint Hill interview we look in-depth at his season with Scottish giants Rangers - and the thrill of scoring an Old Firm goal. Look out for that later this week.
CLINT HILL ON THE SERVICE HE RECEIVED FROM SPORT CAREERS AGENCY
”The staff are always on the end of the phone to do quick updates on your CV.
”I have challenged them for sure in the last year with that but they are great people and so helpful. They just get it done with the minimum of fuss.
”I love my Sport Careers Agency CV because it has the level of professionalism you want.”