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Alistair Heath On His Journey In Management From Leicester City To Cambodia

Alistair Heath On His Journey In Management From Leicester City To Cambodia

An interview with Alistair Heath, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You coached in English football for over a decade at non-League level before working your way up to becoming an academy coach at Leicester City. How do you reflect on your experiences within the English game? 

“I learned a lot during my years working in England, but it is a tough environment particularly for someone without an elite playing background, if you want to reach the top level of the game which is what I want to do.

“I started coaching in grassroots football and I needed to gain as much experience as I possibly could along with the way before I made it to Non-League with clubs such as Buxton FC among others.

“After a period of time, I was able to cover all bases within the game to move into the professional game which led me to joining Leicester City in 2015, where I worked for six years.

“I learned a lot by working at Leicester because we had great coaches throughout the club and the facilities were first class and everything that you would want in order to provide young players a progressive pathway to the first team.

“Over time, I learned a lot about myself while working at Leicester including the need to scratch my burning desire which was to become a first-team manager which is why I decided to leave the football club in 2021.”

You left Leicester City to become a first-team manager in the Cambodian Premier League with Angkor Tiger where you worked from 2021 to 2023. How did that move come about and how did you settle into life in Cambodian football?

“The move came about because I was offered the chance to become a first-team manager which led to me deciding to leave Leicester and take on my dream role.

“I knew that it would be difficult to become a first-team manager in the U.K. without gaining experience somewhere and I wanted to embrace the challenge that Angkor Tiger were offering me.

“I am fully aware that swapping England for Cambodia would not be the first choice move for many coaches, but the challenge did not faze me.

“I saw it as an invaluable opportunity to learn what it takes to be a manager at first team level and experience a new culture.

“In terms of settling in, it was obvious as soon as I arrived that we did not have great facilities to work in but again, that did not faze me.

“As long as we had a pitch to train on to prepare for our league games as professionally as possible then that was all I required.

“Throughout my time at Angkor Tiger, we made the most of the little resources that we had, and we developed as a team during my time in charge of the club.

“The league itself was very competitive and my task was to ensure that we could compete despite the need to cut our budget and resources which were not substantial to begin with.

“We finished seventh in my full season at the club and during that time, I was also able to gain hands on experience of working in a first-team environment with a small backroom staff of two, so I believe that my two seasons at the club have stood me in good stead for my next challenge in football.”

You have referenced Ange Postecoglou as someone who inspires you on your journey as a coach. Do you hope to emulate him in the years ahead? And how would you describe your own football philosophy?

“Ange Postecoglou is someone who I looked up to without doubt. He has achieved great success in football by working his way up from the youth ranks of Australian football to working in Asia and Scotland before making his move to the Premier League.

“I do not set out to try and emulate anyone, but he is an inspiring character for me on my journey. I want to forge my own unique chapter within football and I am not averse to doing things the hard way as I have shown already by working in Cambodia when I could easily have stayed in England where I had a good job.

“My philosophy of management is to play exciting, attacking football. I believe that football has a duty to be entertaining and that is what I always set my teams out to do.

“I want my teams to express themselves and play without fear, to want to the ball and to be comfortable with the ball.

“Winning is absolutely critical to the progression of any manager and I am fully aware of that, but I believe that we have a duty to play the game in the right way and that is what I stand for as a coach and as a manager.”

Finally, Alister, where do you hope to continue your coaching journey? Are you hoping to return to the UK, or do you want to continue your foreign adventure?

“I aspire to work in the UK again, at some stage. If that opportunity arises now then I believe that I am ready to grasp it with both hands and prove myself to the club that gives me the opportunity.

“However, if I need to continue to manage abroad at this stage of my career then I am open to doing so.

“I believe that my background of working at a club the size of Leicester City and my experience of managing abroad in a challenging environment puts me in a good place to be an asset to my next football club as I continue on my coaching journey.”