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Brentford’s most important summer signing could be new manager Justin Cochrane

“People always think drills are what make you a good coach, but that’s not the case. What makes you a good coach is what you say and how you affect players.

It might seem that Chris Ramsey, Technical Director of Queens Park Rangers, is giving Athleticism an opening speech on the art of coaching, but it actually explains the qualities of Justin Cochrane.

Cochrane, who was appointed last month to the newly created post of head coach at QPR’s west London neighbors Brentford, has worked with Ramsey in Tottenham Hotspur’s academy setup and described him like a mentor.

Ramsey in turn says what sets Cochrane, who has coached at Manchester United’s academy and several age levels in England, apart, is his ability to “connect with anyone at any level of a club”.

Yet how exactly did Cochrane, 40, who has spent most of his playing career outside the League, rise through the ranks to become one of the nation’s highest-rated young coaches?

Athleticism spoke to former teammates, colleagues and players he coached to find out more.

Cochrane grew up in North London and joined QPR’s academy aged 12.

At 17, while still an apprentice, he became interested in coaching and put together a grassroots team for kids under 10 in the neighborhood.

He broke into the QPR first team in the 2000-01 season, making his debut in his final game against Stockport County. However, it turned out disastrously.

Then 21, Cochrane came on in the second half, only to be sent off 17 minutes later. QPR collapsed to a 3-0 defeat. Cochrane never made another appearance for the club and left in 2002 to join Hayes, a sixth tier club in the western suburbs of London.

Dropping so many divisions meant Cochrane had to get a part-time job painting and decorating with his uncles, while attending Barnet College in north London in the evenings.

He was granted a trial with then-league Crewe Alexandra ahead of the 2003-04 season and was invited to join the squad for a pre-season training camp in Portugal as a last-minute replacement for ‘Efe. Soje.

When he arrived at the airport, Sodje’s name was still on the ticket.

Cochrane threw himself into training sessions in Portugal and immediately impressed.

“Everyone was like, ‘Wow, this guy has an amazing engine,'” said future West Ham United and England striker Dean Ashton, then with Crewe. Athleticism. “It was no surprise to any of us that he was signed because he immediately stood out in terms of his fitness level and aggressive work ethic.

“There were a lot of academy graduates in Crewe, and it was pretty easy. Every day he worked incredibly hard to improve. There were other kids in Crewe who had come through the system who didn’t have half the heart it had. There wasn’t an ounce of arrogance about him.

Crewe’s Justin Cochrane, left, takes on Nottingham Forest’s Danny Sonner (Photo: Barrington Coombs/EMPICS via Getty Images)

After three years with Crewe, Cochrane had short spells at clubs including Rotherham United, Yeovil Town, Millwall and Aldershot Town. He was also capped 14 times by the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, qualifying through his father.

Towards the end of his playing career, he began volunteering with Tottenham’s youth teams.

“He had a huge passion for the game,” Ramsey said. “He ended up working with the young players and showed his skills and ability to teach. That’s what he is – an absolutely fantastic teacher and coach.

Cochrane was surrounded by other talented coaches in the Spurs system. As well as Ramsey, these included John McDermott, who is now the FA’s technical director, Matt Wells, now Scott Parker’s Premier League assistant Bournemouth, and Alex Inglethorpe, who has been Liverpool’s academy manager over the past eight years. Cochrane’s desire and drive to constantly improve is apparently mentioned by everyone who came across him.

“He wasn’t one of those people who came in and thought, ‘I’ve played the game, so I know everything,'” Ramsey said. Athleticism. “He was respectful, but he understood very quickly. He returned to college (he graduated in 2017 from the Open University with a degree in business, leadership and management). He wanted to learn different things and he is also an innovator.

“He probably surpassed all of us in terms of adapting to different levels, which is the real skill of a coach.”

Cochrane helped oversee the development of Tottenham players who went on to become England internationals and Premier League stars. At various stages of his roles at Under-12, 14, 16 and 23 levels, he has worked with Oliver Skipp, Japhet Tanganga, Kyle Walker-Peters, Josh Onomah and Noni Madueke.

Cochrane worked with Scott Parker at Tottenham (Photo: Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“He came during a pre-season in Portugal with the development team which included Harry Kane, Ryan Fredericks, Alex Pritchard and Jake Livermore, just to watch and listen,” Ramsey said.

Midfielder Luke Amos, who spent 14 years at Tottenham before joining QPR in 2020, worked under Cochrane for several years and praises his dynamic “energy” and enthusiasm.

“With Justin, it was all about new ideas,” says Amos. “He would watch Barcelona or Real Madrid in the Champions League on a Tuesday and then in training on Wednesday he would say, ‘I saw that last night, let’s try’. Having a manager who wants to try different things is refreshing.

Amos adds: “He reminded us that football is about having fun, but you have to train properly. I never saw him lose his mind, but if the training wasn’t good or if someone was sloppy, he would definitely tell them. He sets high standards. That’s what the best coaches do.

Now at Brentford, it’s easy to see Cochrane developing a solid relationship with their new record holder Keane Lewis-Potter and 20-year-old Scotland full-back Aaron Hickey, or guiding Bryan Mbeumo, who underperformed in front of goal last season , and Josh Dasilva, who wants to relaunch his career after battling injury for 18 months.

“He’s so nice to work with and you can always approach him,” says Amos. “Everybody connected with him very easily. He’s been my coach at different age groups. He won’t be the same with me when I was 14 when I’m 20 — he’s adapting.

“When I was going through certain things, Justin was helping me — like my mentality and not being too frustrated — because that’s something I really struggled with when I was younger.”

After nine years with Tottenham, Cochrane decided it was time for a new challenge. He saw an advert online for the England Under-15 head coach job and successfully applied.

When he was appointed to the role in April 2018, he wrote an article for the FA website explaining that he wanted to “play an attacking style of football and give players the freedom to make their own decisions” and emphasizing the importance of “developing an individual who can play as part of a team”.

During his time with the FA, Cochrane worked with England first-team manager Gareth Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland, as well as other age-group coaches including World Cup-winning Steve Cooper. under-17 world in 2017 and last season led Nottingham Forest in the Premier League, Aidy Boothroyd and Kevin Betsy. Holland, who worked in Crewe, had coached Cochrane during that training session in Portugal.

He earned his UEFA professional license in 2019, was promoted to Under-16 head coach and helped England win the UEFA Under-16 Development Tournament. The following year, he was appointed under-17 head coach and responsible for the youth development stage. Betsy describes her former colleague as “exceptional”.

“He’s really good with people,” said Betsy, the new manager of League Two club Crawley Town. Athleticism. “He understands how to connect, how to communicate and how to get the best out of young players.”

During the 2020-21 season, Cochrane combined his England duties with a short-term role at AFC Wimbledon.

When Mark Robinson was officially appointed as the south London club’s head coach in February 2021, they were just a point clear of the relegation zone and were in serious danger of sliding down to League Two. Cochrane helped Robinson stabilize the side and keep it safe.

All of these experiences led Cochrane to a position as head of player development and coaching at Manchester United.

It was his mandate to oversee and help the club’s famed academy get back to producing world-class talent capable of breaking into their first team. Zidane Iqbal, Charlie Savage and Alejandro Garnacho all made their senior debuts during his 12 months there. In May United won the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 2011, beating Nottingham Forest 3-1 at Old Trafford.

Manchester United lift the 2021-22 FA Youth Cup after winning against Nottingham Forest (Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Danish star Christian Eriksen has rejected Brentford’s offer of a new contract in favor of joining United this summer, but Cochrane has decided the best move for his own career is to go the other way.

Since his arrival, he has spent time working with first-team midfielders and forwards as they prepare for their 2022-23 season opener at Leicester City one week on Sunday. Cochrane works alongside Kevin O’Connor and Brian Riemer under the direction of Thomas Frank and traveled with the team on their recent tour of Germany. It is important to recognize that he is the only black member of Brentford’s coaching staff.

What will only be Brentford’s second season in the top flight since 1947 should bring unique problems. They have already spent more than £30m ($36m) on new players to freshen up a side that finished 13th, 11 points clear of the bottom three, in May, but investing in Cochrane can be be equally important.

“To have those elite-level experiences with England and to work at such a massive club as Man United, the wealth of knowledge he’s already accumulated must be a huge coup for Brentford,” Ashton said.

“I don’t think you get someone who thinks they’ve made it or can settle down at all. He is very ambitious. Brentford are recruiting someone who will work incredibly hard and help him improve.

Betty agrees.

“He will be a very good addition to the Brentford coaching staff,” said the former Arsenal Under-23 manager. “He will bring real poise and a creative spirit when trying to give advice on players or trying to support players in any way.

“There are no surprises for us: when you get a job to work for the national association, you have to be at a high level. I’m happy for him.

It seems fitting to give the final say to Cochrane’s mentor, Ramsey.

“He’s going to bring a lot to the party.”

(Top photo: Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

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