Interview: David Artell

David Artell has emerged as one of the most capable young coaches in the Football League

DEFENDER David Artell was a hugely popular figure at Morecambe.

Artell, who played alongside Morecambe boss Jim Bentley, scored the final goal at their former home, Christie Park, before the Shrimps moved to the Globe Arena nine years ago.

Now Artell has emerged as one of the most capable young coaches in the Football League.

He took charge at Crewe Alexandra in January 2017 and last season guided the Railwaymen to the fringes of the League Two play-offs.

Artell, who was all set to pursue a career as a scientist before he was appointed Crewe boss, talks to Tony Dewhurst about the pressures of management and how the Professional Footballers’ Association helped him to plan for life after football.

David, aged 38, you are a young and relatively inexperienced coach. What advice would you have for a player who wants to be a manager?

I can clearly see why some managers might struggle with the constant demands of the job and the stresses and strains of daily life because it is an all-consuming profession.

Even if you’re going well, there’s big lessons to learn on the job.

If you don’t then football can be a very brutal business.

First, I’d say to any player who wants to become a boss is forget about football.

That might sound strange, a contradiction, but the main priority is to understand yourself and to be really secure in your own being.

Once you’ve done that, then you can learn about management.

I was at Crewe’s Academy – I had a passion for coaching - and I didn’t have any aspirations to become their manager.

It was a shock when they asked me to take over because I never saw myself as a manager in waiting or a reluctant boss.

But the older I got the more I wanted to help people.

My mum and dad were my rock, the paternal influence that forged a grounding of knowing what was right or wrong.

It gave me a self-esteem and a self-worth, and those values and guiding principles helped me cope.

You must have a coping mechanism, a clarity of mind, knowing that you are not a drifting trawler in a storm, you’re the buoy in the bay that just bobs up and down.

That’s why some players need guiding because they perhaps weren’t as fortunate as me, having those strong role models growing up.

And if you guide them properly then they will re-pay you ten-fold.

Does that responsibility weigh heavily on my shoulders?

Not really.

It is part and parcel of the job of managing a football club.

I left school at 16 and a few days later I was working at Rotherham United, so football has always been my life.

How do you cope with the pressures of being a manager?

I tell my players that pressure is for tyres - and it goes if you want it to.

Pressure is not in the penalty box or on a putting green.

If you want to build pressure in your head, then go and read what every Tom, Dick and Harry is writing about you on social media.

Some people might believe it - I call it the white noise.

Most players work on instinct and what they know.

Arguably, the biggest skill a footballer possesses is intuition.

And that is why you have to be entirely honest with yourself and the person you are talking to.

It is not nice, having to tell a footballer that they are not playing or will not receive a fresh contract.

If he is not in the team, don’t say ‘Like it or lump it’ because that is not showing compassion or empathy to them.

There’s a fine line between discipline and respect and players seeing kindness as a weakness.

But never lie or sugar-coat a situation with a player.

You have to speak to them properly, engage with them in the right manner.

And you never have to sway from that.

Of course, you deal with those pressures as best you can, even if outwardly you don’t show it to your family.

You have to be consistent and I’m able to put the pressure in a compartment.

You enjoyed a successful spell at Morecambe, from 2007 to 2010, helping them to achieve three top finishes in League Two, and a play-off berth in your final season. Now your former team mate Jim Bentley is English football’s longest serving boss and is one of your rivals in League Two...

When you look at the job Jim Bentley has done - he’s pulled up trees for them.

He’s a good fit for Morecambe but he has gone unrewarded there because, believe me, it is not an easy task.

I’d say Jim was always going to be a manager, you could see it in him, that strong role model figure.

There was none of this, ‘I’m doing it for my own gain.’

That’s not Jim and that’s why he has survived so long because he has a good moral compass.

He’s had success at Morecambe in terms of longevity.

I had a great time at Morecambe, scoring the last goal at Christie Park (v Dagenham and Redbridge, play-offs, 2010) is something I will always treasure.

Then, in my second game, I netted at Deepdale when Morecambe knocked Preston out of the League Cup (August, 2007).

I did learn a lot about myself at Morecambe.

As a footballer you don’t look too far ahead because you are living your boyhood dream.

If you stare too far into the future, you might scare yourself.

David, what was the motivation behind your keen interest and a possible career in forensic science?

David Artell, Crewe Alex manager

An American TV crime drama called Diagnosis: Murder, starring Dick Van Dyke as Doctor Mark Sloan.

And also Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury who was a mystery writer and amateur detective.

I’d watch the episodes after training and I thought: ‘That looks like fun, solving a crime or finding the answer to how a person has passed away or what factor caused their death.’

I was very determined, so I contacted Oshor Williams, the former Preston striker, at the Professional Footballers’ Association Education Department.

Oshor had the expertise to advise me about the university science courses available to me via the PFA.

The PFA are worth their weight in gold, helping you plan for the future and to give an insight to what is needed.

I studied very hard for several years, but the PFA were with me all the way, part funding the cost of the fees.

I now proudly hold a Bachelors’ Degree in Forensic Biology, a post graduate certificate in Biomedical Sciences and a Bachelors’ degree in Forensic and Analytical Science.

Of course, the onus is on you to work very hard and I didn’t want to let my family down.

You must respect that there is a sense of responsibility too, because if the PFA are going to give you an opportunity then you have to give your all.

Both as a player and a manager the PFA have given me invaluable help.

I’m incredibly proud to have those degree titles to my name – but I can’t praise my union highly enough for the opportunity they gave me.

The Professional Footballers’ Association did change my life.

David, you won several caps for Gibraltar, including facing then World champions Germany five years ago.

My dad was born in Gibraltar, but I’d never been there.

One day I received an e-mail, saying I was eligible to play for Gibraltar.

Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and their first fixture was against Gibraltar, a Euro qualifying tie.