Ben Garner is a UEFA Pro Licence coach from England who is currently Assistant Head Coach at ATK Football Club in the Indian Super League. Garner worked in the Academy at Crystal Palace where he was well-regarded for his ability to develop players and for the way in which his teams played. As First Team Coach at Crystal Palace he won promotion to the Premier League in 2013 and worked successfully in the Premier League for the next 5 seasons at Crystal Palace and then as Assistant Head Coach at West Bromwich Albion. Highly thought of by teams and players he was worked with, Garner is regarded as a very talented coach both in England and now in India….
What was the original motivation for you wanting to become a coach?
“Initially the desire to coach came from a frustration in how I was coached as a young player. The emphasis was solely on size and strength with very little attention given to intelligence, technique, and the tactical elements of the game. Injury then forced my hand in terms of not being able to play so I immediately shifted my focus to coaching. Once I started coaching I loved everything about it and knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Did anyone inspire you as a young coach?
“I trained with the first team at Crystal Palace one pre-season when Terry Venables was the Manager. Immediately his coaching stood out from anything I had experienced previously. There was detail and clarity to the sessions but always with a positive emphasis. He had this ability to make players feel good and special, even this young kid who he didn’t know. This had a huge impact on me and I have always tried to make players feel confident and good about themselves.”
In your career you have worked with vastly experienced managers in Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Steve Coppell, Neil Warnock, and Alan Pardew. How important has that been for you?
“Obviously it has been very important. I have learnt an enormous amount and each one of them has challenged my thinking about the game. They all have their unique strengths and personalities. Alongside those managers there have also been very experienced assistants and coaches including Lennie Lawrence, Mick Jones, and Gerry Francis. Great guys with so much experience and knowledge. My approach has always been to soak up as much as possible whilst at the same time developing my own beliefs and philosophy. Ultimately the most important thing is to be true to yourself and be who you are.”
Have you enjoyed working with Steve Coppell?
“Very much so. He was someone that I looked up to growing up and is rightly regarded as a legend by the Crystal Palace fans. It has been really enjoyable getting to know him personally and he is a great guy. Steve is a highly experienced and very astute Manager. He delegates very well and is adept at seeing the big picture. Steve has a very analytical mind and obviously is highly knowledgable. The opportunity to work with him and spend this time with him in India has been hugely beneficial.”
What would you say have been the highlights of your coaching career so far?
“To be honest I have always looked forwards and focused on the what is next but certainly my proudest moment so far was winning the Championship Play-Off Final with Crystal Palace. To have progressed from Under 11’s Coach all the way through to First Team Coach was a wonderful journey. There were players in that squad who had come up through the Academy as players at the same time that I had done so as a coach. Being from the local area it meant so much to my family and friends who were at Wembley for the final. That will stay with me for the rest of my career.
As a result I worked in the Premier League for the next 5 seasons with both Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion competing against some of the best players and coaches in the World. Now I am looking forward to new challenges and hopefully more success.”
You had some time out of the game before joining ATK. What did you do with that time and how has it helped you?
“I probably learnt as much in that time as I did in the previous 16 years of coaching. When you are working for a club you get very little opportunity for self-development. I made the most of the opportunity to visit other clubs, countries, and sports. Watching other coaches work and speaking with managers, sporting directors, and owners has been a big help. I also wanted to gain a greater understanding and knowledge of areas such as sports science and analysis. Through visiting organisations, meeting some of the best people in those fields, and learning to use the different technologies available I’m now much better equipped moving forwards. With the extra time available I have also learnt another language which I think is going to be so important in the future. Effective communication plays such a big role in successful coaching and management.”
How are you finding working abroad and are you enjoying the Indian Super League?
“It has always been an ambition of mine to work abroad and to experience different styles and cultures. I have really enjoyed working in the ISL so far. Logistically the league is very well organised and ATK is a very well run club. We have a good squad of players who are very professional in how they work and also really good support staff. The accommodation, travel, food, and general organisation has been first class. The tempo and style is different to what I have been used to in England but I have really enjoyed the challenges. The technical level of the league is high with very talented players from countries such as Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, Morocco and Croatia combined with the Indian players. Several of the emerging Indian players have really impressed me.”
Do you see yourself working in other countries in the future?
“Hopefully. This experience has made me a better coach and more rounded as an individual. I would very much like to work in other countries in the future especially the other top European leagues to experience different styles and different challenges in contrast to the Premier League. The opportunity to communicate in Spanish at ATK has been great and I would love the opportunity to work in a country where I have to communicate in a second language.”
You are spoken of very positively back in England and have been successful as a coach there. What will be your next step back in the UK?
“At the moment I am very open-minded. I am as comfortable taking an opportunity abroad as I am taking an opportunity back in England. My only current focus is giving everything I have to ATK until the end of the Indian Super League season. Once that is done then I will take a step back and see what options there are moving forwards.”