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Cameron Toshack On Leeds United, Management And Learning From His Father

Cameron Toshack On Leeds United, Management And Learning From His Father

An interview with Cameron Toshack, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

Your most recent role was as assistant manager to Jesse Marsh at Leeds United in the Premier League. How do you reflect on that experience?

“I have really positive memories of my time at Leeds the highlight being keeping the club in the Premier League against all the odds, I worked with some great people and will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to coach in the Premier League at such an historic club.

“It is the best league in world football every player and coach aspires to work there one day.

“Working alongside Jesse and the group was hugely beneficial I learned a lot about the Red Bull methodology alongside the importance of communication goal setting and the individual player in such a pressurised environment

“I believe much of the success was due to a shift in culture within allowing people a voice and creating a real togetherness this was vital in saving the club from the drop in the first season and positioning the club above the relegation zone which is where we left it in February of 2023.

“I learned a lot about tactics and an intensive training methodology during my time at Leeds where every move is scrutinised, working with top-level players and with quality coaches and staff.

“The atmosphere at Elland Road I will never forget, having coached in the Premier League with both Swansea City and Leeds United it’s an experience I’d love to taste again in the future.”

One of your first roles in coaching was working alongside your father, Welsh football icon John Toshack, with the Wydad Casablanca and the Macedonian national team. What was it like working alongside your father in a coaching environment?

“My father is a winner and has over the years instilled in me the importance of values, I am extremely fortunate to be able to call upon him for advice whenever I need it.

“Working alongside him was fantastic because he has such a wealth of experience within football having won multiple trophies as a player before going on to manage Real Madrid twice among other top clubs and nations. He certainly improved me as a football coach whilst always being clear around the importance of man management.

“I worked for him initially as an analyst when he was Wales manager before supporting him in Morocco and then as his assistant manager when he took over as manager of Macedonia.

“He was always very open to my input and we worked together to achieve the best outcome for the players.

“We had a great time in charge of Macedonia with some real highlights such as improving the country in the FIFA world rankings from 103rd to 81st and having some strong results against top nations like our a 0–0 draw away from home against a strong Portugal side captained by a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.”

I have to ask you about your father’s legacy in football as a player and as a manager. He won every domestic and European honour with Liverpool as a player before winning honours across five countries as a manager. How proud are you as a family of what he has achieved and how much has that helped inspire you in your own journey?

“We are very proud of everything that he has achieved and the manner in which he has achieved success.

“To win the European Cup as a player with Liverpool then winning La Liga with Real Madrid, the Copa Del Rey with Real Sociedad and the Spanish Super Cup with Deportivo La Corina as a manager, are all incredible achievements, indeed alongside Sir Bobby Robson he is the most successful British manager to have worked abroad.

“Added to those achievements, taking Swansea City from the bottom tier of English football to the top tier of English football in successive seasons finishing sixth in their first season is remarkable when you look back at it now.

“In that regard, his journey in football is incredibly inspiring for me as his son as well as many others within the game.

“Xavi Alonso at Bayer Leverkusen and the current Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil played under him at Real Sociedad when Leeds played a friendly recently against Real Imanol told me that working with my father in San Sebastián had a lasting impact on him and now supports his thinking as a manager in his own right.”

“The best piece of advice that my dad gave me in relation to coaching was that ‘your job is to leave the club and people in a better place than what you found them and to constantly challenge to get the best from the players and staff in the building.

“Those are two values that I hold very close in my journey as a coach.”

You worked in the youth system at Swansea City and won the Premier League Cup during your time in charge while also assisting Michael Laudrup at first-team level. How rewarding was it to see players that you helped develop make the grade at first team level?

“When I first arrived at Swansea, the Chairman at the time, Huw Jenkins explained that he wanted me to oversee the youth structure at the club with the aim of producing players for the first team aligned to a certain playing philosophy.

“I was grateful for the opportunity and I relished the challenge. I worked alongside great staff and we won two national championships with our under 18 side before going on to win x3 U23 Premier League medals and reaching the semi-final of a European competition beaten by the eventual winners Oporto.

“Some of those players went on to play in the first team and were sold on for high transfer fees in future years showcasing an impressive return on the investment that the club placed on the youth set-up.

“Watching players that we had developed such as Oli McBurnie, Dan James, Joe Rodon and Conor Roberts go on to play for the first team at Swansea City and then go on to become Premier League international footballers was a proud moment for all the staff who worked with them.

“At that time we strived for the best at Swansea City on and off the pitch, I enjoyed the role that I played at the club with the development teams whilst also assisting Michael Laudrup at first team level for a short period of time.”

You managed Pafos FC in Cyprus in your first head coach role in senior football. You kept the club in the division as tasked and left the club with the highest win percentage in their history during your time there. What did you take away from your experience in Cypriot football?

“When I arrived, the club was in the relegation zone with a win rate of around 20% so things were not looking good at that time.

“I felt the players and the club really needed a boost of enthusiasm and new ideas, I took the opportunity on despite a few reservations from people within the game who recommended that I stay in the UK

“I wanted to test myself in a new environment as a head coach and took the chance to move my family to live in a different country, something we all really enjoyed. The local people in Cyprus welcomed us with open arms and I still have many good friends there.

“From a football perspective, the Cypriot league offered an excellent test having had a higher UEFA coefficient than the Scottish Premiership and the Swedish Allsvenskan at that time. The standard was a lot higher and more technical than people in the UK would probably expect.

“I recruited Richard Buchanan who was head of performance at Swansea City – and Gary Richard who was a coach alongside me at Swansea City – having them as support alongside me was key to forming a successful multi-disciplinary staff they were both valuable assets to me and the club.

“Thankfully, we managed to turn things around pushing the club to mid-table in the league by playing a more attacking front foot style of football, winning half our competitive fixtures and significantly increasing the goals scored with the same group of players that we had inherited.

“That was a boost to everyone across the club, we had a real Focus on developing players 3 of which gained international honours during our time there. I look back on my time out in Cyprus with pride as we embedded an effective football methodology whilst achieving some big results such as beating APOEL Nicosia away from home with ten men in my last game in charge.”

Finally, Cameron, what are your aims for the future? Do you want to be a head coach again or are you open to another role as an assistant manager?

“I am open, I love being involved in football and I want to return to the game as soon as possible.

“I was recently by a Championship club about the possibility of becoming their Head Coach so I would like to explore any opportunities to become a Head Coach because I believe that I have a lot to offer in that role and that my experiences in challenging environments in both Cyprus and the Premier League have made me stronger as a coach and as a person.

“I can also call on my experiences at Swansea City and the success that was achieved there when developing young players to fulfil their potential.

“However, I am aware that there are only so many roles as a head coach available and that I may need to go in as an assistant to support a project.

I would be comfortable with that in the right environment having shown a capability at the highest level alongside my father in Morocco and at international level as well with Swansea City and Leeds United in the Premier League.”