FC Kuala Lumpur

Thank You, Coach Gareth

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FC Kuala Lumpur Technical Director, Gareth Davies, will be leaving us to join Huddersfield Town. We catch up with him as he reminisces his time with us.

Coach Gareth has been a common name with us here at FC Kuala Lumpur, having taken up the post of Technical Director for the last 18 months. 

Over the last year and half, Coach Gareth has successfully instilled a winning philosophy to the club, and has taken the club to different parts of the world, including Europe. His colorful personality is something 

We spent half an hour with Coach Gareth and talked about his time with the club, and what he hopes he can do at Huddersfield Town after his experience here.

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How do you feel about leaving the academy?

Quite emotional, if I’m being honest. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride since I arrived. I’ve put in a lot of work to help make the place better. I’ve met some wonderful people, incredible people that I think very highly of and respect. I’ve made some great friends. I was just saying to my U16s, that they’re not just friends, they’re family now. I’m going home feeling proud, saying that not only do I have an English family, I’ve also got a Malaysian family now. 

All in all, I feel very emotional about it; I’m sad to say goodbye, but I’ve also got to think of what I’m moving on to. It’s a catch 22, on one hand I am really excited to take on that challenge, that new level (at Huddersfield), but it’s sad to say goodbye to a place that I hold very dear to my heart, Malaysia and the people I’ve met here.

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What do you feel about your achievements during your time as FCKL Technical Director?

I’ve always believed that it has been a team effort. I couldn’t do the bits without the backing of Andy (Managing Director of Little League) in the first place. Not only that, the support of the coaches that we have around us. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to implement the things that Andy and I wanted to do.

From when I started my career here, to be very honest, I didn’t think the club was in a very good position. There were so many problems, so many things not done correctly. Then we started to work on those, started to get better and I got fortunate enough to take on the role of Technical Director of the club. Then it grew faster and bigger than I’ve ever anticipated or expected. It just sort of went: “Boom!”.

Andy and I both thought that this would take at least 2-3 years, at least, to get to where we are today, and to have a long term goal in mind, another 3 years on top of that. To be able to get here in just under a year, I think it’s amazing; it has just skyrocketed,  it’s going in such a great direction, so many big changes and different things, and one of the biggest thing I can see now is the consistency in training sessions. When I first arrived, sessions were all over the place, you could see polar opposites in sessions. 

Look at how it is now, you can see that FCKL structure to that session, you can see coaches doing similar things, or using a similar structure in the sessions; you can see a warm-up, you can see 1v1s, 2v2s or football fitness. Then you can see a game-related practice or a phase of play, and then a conditioned game, you can actively see that now. That might seem like a little thing to people, or something people don’t notice, but that’s probably our biggest achievement, to have got that level of consistency in training, because at the end of the day, it’s the kids that matter. They’re getting top quality service now.   

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Give us your best and worst memories of your time here at the academy.

I think my worst memory was when I first started, turning up and just seeing poor quality. When I first came here, I thought, “What is going on here? This is not right.” There were a lot of arguments and frustrations. More of myself butting heads when I first started,  because things were not right. I felt like there was an injustice done and I hated it, especially towards kids. I don’t tolerate that. When I took on the U14s (now U16s), just seeing the state they were in, I just saw a bunch of 14 year-olds that had no hope, and that broke my heart. I went home fuming, that somebody could have done that,  to a bunch of 14 year olds. They had no confidence, no respect for themselves and they were starting to hate football.   

My best memory would be a tough one, there’s just too many to choose from. However, I’d say the best one I’ve had would be seeing the changes in those boys (U16s), seeing a big difference from what they were to who they are today. It’s something, as a squad, that we are all very proud of. We’ve worked very hard and now the guys believe in themselves, they’re confident, they’ve made many finals, many semi-finals, they’ve gone to places they’ve never thought of reaching when I first started with them.

Other best memories would be the time we spent abroad. That was a lot of fun. Iber Cup 2019 would be something that I hold very dear to me. It’s not only about the times and laughter I shared with the coaches, the parents and the players, I don’t remember a bad day in Portugal, it was all good memories.

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Any lingering regrets at all after making your decision? If there are, what are they?

I don’t think I’d say I have regrets, rather, I’d say that I have unfinished business. I would have loved to have taken this program further. When we started it, we had a goal, that this would be a 5-10 year plan, we had the directions in place and that excited me. Now, just over a year into it, I’m moving on. However, that speaks volumes about the work that is being done here, on how far the programme has gone, where we are just a little over a year into it, I’ve got myself that opportunity to work at a higher level. 

Business doesn’t feel finished. There were more things that I wish I could have done, there is that aspect. Then there is my U16 squad, they’ve always been very dear to me, they’re the one thing that I’ve had since Day 1 here. We’ve got Season A of the AirAsia KL Junior League done, and I’ll be leaving them during Season B, and let’s be honest, most of that squad, after Season B, would be moving on to universities, and we’d see an Under-18 squad that probably would only have a handful of familiar faces. It would have been nice to end the campaign with everyone graduating together, and I would have liked the challenge of when they moved on, I’d rotate to a younger squad and have myself a set of new challenges.

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What will you miss the most?

Definitely the nasi lemak!

The thing I’m going to miss the most, honestly, is the relationships I have built. I’m going to miss the banters I have with Uncle Henry at the office, along with my fellow colleagues before, during and after training sessions. I’m going to miss the times I’ve spent with Andy, who has become a dear friend of mine. I’m going to miss the days when Paul Masefield comes up from Singapore, I’ve had some of the best laughs when he’s around. I’m going to miss those friendships. I don’t think these things would end, but I’d miss being able to do it constantly. 

I’m also going to miss the friends that I’ve helped bring over (from the UK) here, like Simon and Kurt. The regret I’d have would be having brought them here, and then leave after just a short while. I feel like I’ve done a bit of a disservice to those guys, I feel a little bad for that and gave me many sleepless nights. 

I’m also going to miss the relationship I’ve had with my fellow coaches, Rasydan, Jon, Abdullah, Thiru, Visnu and the rest of the guys at the academy. I’m even going to miss the parents. The relationships that I’ve built here are irreplaceable.

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What are you looking forward to the most at Huddersfield?

Growth, as a coach.

Over there, I’m going to be working with people who are far more experienced, far more qualified than me. I’ll be working with guys who have implemented their knowledge at the highest level, especially those who are at Huddersfield, who have worked with them since they were in the Premier League. It’s exciting to know that I’ll have the opportunity to learn from them, to be working in that environment, to work with professional players, who have been at the top tier, and now in the Championship on a daily basis. I’m also looking forward to being closer to home, to being closer to my courses, in a footballing perspective. 

I’m also looking forward to seeing my family. My parents are not getting any younger, and my nieces are at that pivotal age that they’d need as much support they can get. Looking forward also to being with my dogs again, my high school friends who now have kids now who barely know me. It excites me that I’m able to go home and reconnect again.

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What did you learn here, that you would bring over to Huddersfield?

The one thing that I’ve learned here in Malaysia, and it’s the one thing that I love about this country is the ability to go abroad for tournaments, and form relationships here and also outside. I’m not sure if I would be able to get the same experience when I am at Huddersfield, but I remembered when I was in an academy back home, we would just travel around the region to play with other academies in the country. We never got the chance to face international teams, we just stayed our little Northern bubble. It might not be the same as it used to be, I’d like to think it has changed. I would love to see us try to create tournaments to give the academy an opportunity to play abroad. 

I could even try and bring FCKL over to the UK some time to experience training here, to host them, to take care of them, and maybe play some matches with the local lads. 

As I am unsure of how things work there, I’m trying to not assume anything, because if I do and the plan falls through I’d panic! I just want to see what they do first. Perhaps they’re doing it at the elite level but not the foundation level, and maybe then I can do something about it. 

Other things that I’d love to pop into Huddersfield would be our manuals. We haven’t put it out there yet, but we’ve created them. I’m not very sure if the club has anything that they have distributed to their parents or coaches, so maybe something like that might work there. 

One more element that I’d love to bring over there is patience. It’s extremely demanding there, if it needs to be done it has to be done now. The good thing about Malaysia is that the people here would pause, say “Hang on, what’s the rush? If we do it in a rush we might not do it right.”

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Your parting words to everyone here?

I’d like to think that this is not “Goodbye”, but “See you later”. 

We’ve worked ridiculously hard, the work ethic that has been put in here has been incredible. Keep working hard, keep fighting, keep moving forward. The progression that we have had has been amazing, I think this needs to continue on now. The only way we’re going to be able to do that is to stick to our core values. 

Be good humans first, being good footballers will follow after that naturally. 

Don’t change. You all have made me feel very special since arriving here, and I thank you all for that. I have felt nothing but love, kindness and support. People here have made me feel like somebody, and that has been incredible. Please don’t change that, continue to do the same for others. Look after others, be kind, and make them feel special. Make everybody feel like somebody, because it has meant the world to me. 

Finally I would like to say thank you for the opportunities that you have given me, for believing in me, for supporting me and giving me the platform to work the best I can. I wouldn’t be going on to work for Huddersfield if it wasn’t for the foundation that this club has given me. I am the person I am today thanks to all the people who have helped and supported me. Nothing but love and respect for all of you.

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You can watch some of the best bits of the interview here, plus a surprise from Coach Gaz’s U16 squad!

Fair warning, there may be onion-cutting ninjas present, so prepare tissues!

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From the bottom of our hearts, we at FC Kuala Lumpur would like to thank you, Coach Gareth, for your services during your time here with us. We will miss the good times that we’ve had together with you. 

All the best with your time in Huddersfield, and do not forget to keep in touch with us!

just like our request to Coach Gareth, don’t forget to stay updated on our FC Kuala Lumpur Instagram account!