Age: 27 years old.
Home town: Amlwch.
Current Club: Bro Goronwy FC (Gwynedd League).
Former Clubs: Amlwch Town and Cemaes Bay.
Interesting fact: Alan once saved a cat from drowning in the harbour then nearly drowned himelf as he can’t swim.
IF I was a betting man, I’d hazard a guess at saying that there aren’t many people on the Isle of Anglesey who don’t know who Alan Gray is.
His larger than life personality and his willingness to help out in his local community of Amlwch has made him a recognisable face to many.
A popular and well-loved figure amongst the football community, the 27-year-old has been on the touchlines for a good five years now as an Assistant Manager at Amlwch and Cemaes.
Since the summer, he’s been with Gwynedd League side Bro Goronwy, working as manager Lee Potter’s right hand man and continuing his role of working voluntarily within local football.
Alan’s passion for football extends beyond weekend’s however, it has become a regular fixture in his life. He regularly participates in charity football matches within the community and is nearly always busy organising sporting events in his hometown of Amlwch, raising money for those who need it. His love for Liverpool Football Club has also taken him all around the UK and Europe.
He may be the butt of the joke from his mates a lot of the time on nights out and what have you but anyone that knows him well enough will tell you that his efforts to boost the profile of football on Anglesey are very much appreciated.
I recently spoke to Alan about his highlights from the past five years and as always it was a pleasure to hear what he had to say …
AFE: Hi Alan. First of all, what made you develop such a great passion for football?
AG: Well it was like I didn’t really have a choice if I’m honest!
I come from a big footballing family of both Liverpool and Everton supporters and with my dad being the only red he drummed it in to me from when I was born not to make the same mistake as the rest of my family and go down the blue route!
Locally though, it came from going to watch my hometown club Amlwch Town FC from the age of seven or so, at a time when they were winning pretty much any competition they were in through out the 90s and climbing as high as the Cymru Alliance in 2001. I used to go every where with them and was more often than not a ball boy at the games too.
So, I guess you could say that it’s those things that I did at an early age that got me into the game and have kept me interested ever since.
AFE: How long have you been coaching for now and what aspect of it do you enjoy the most?
AG: I’ve been actively involved with local football now for five years but I’ll be honest, coaching isn’t really my strong point. It is something I aim to master in the future by doing my badges and so on though.
Of course, there’s only one thing I enjoy and that’s winning!
I enjoy the nerves, strangely enough, like when your winning 2-1 and it’s last five minutes and the other team are attacking while your team are defending like beavers. I sort of weirdly enjoy that.
I do also love the crack with the lads in the changing rooms and in the group chats or in the pub after the game etc. I believe that having a laugh with the lads in the squad is always good for morale and players will feel more inclined to run through a brick wall for you if you do that rather than if you shouted abuse at them constantly.
AFE: What have you learnt whilst being a coach and who’s been the biggest help/influence to you?
AG: I have definitely learnt how to speak to individuals and how to treat players and how to identify the ones that need an arm round them and encourage them, as well as the ones that need a kick up the backside to get them going!
I have also learnt how to motivate individuals and how to get the winning mentality injected into them.
I would say the biggest help to myself would be the legend that is Colin Hawkins. I worked under Col when I first started out, and also again some time after at Cemaes Bay.
He’s a brilliant guy and really funny and his team talks are definitely ones to listen to. I remember in one of his team talks once, he was comparing the similarities that I had with Cecil the lion!! (Don’t ask). I have also learnt a few new swear words for my vocabulary from him also!!
Darren Thomas has also been a major influence on me. He’s a brilliant manager and a top individual and he’s played the game at a very high level too. Darren taught myself a lot and I can’t thank him enough. I doubt the small list of achievements I have to my name so far could have been achieved without his guidance and advice.
Lee Potter at Bro now has also been brilliant with me and even though I have only been working with him since June, I know for a fact that I am going to learn a lot off a great manager like him.
AFE: Who’s been the best local player you’ve watched personally and why?
AG: I’ll have to go with Steven Whittaker (Tyco) on this one and that’s only because I have seen more of him than some of the other great players around here.
I mean there are some exceptional players around the Anglesey area such as Corrig McGonigle, Melvin McGiness, Asa Thomas, John Littlemore and so on.
However, as I say I will go for Tyco here as I have seen more of him and even had the pleasure of sharing the changing room with him for three seasons at Cemaes, where he was captain of the team.
It’s what he does off the ball also that makes him a great person to have around the place in my opinion, always encouraging, always vocal and always giving team mates constructive criticism on how they can improve.
I’ve also seen him score some incredible goals from ridiculous angles. He’s an all round complete player and I was made up for him on a personal level and as a friend to him, when he won the Welsh Alliance Div 2 Player of the Year last season to add to his Anglesey League Player of the Year and Bob Brodie trophy as well as the other things he’s achieved.
Bodedern are very lucky to have him at their club this season and I can see him doing really well for them.
AFE: Best moment as an assistant manager?
AG: It has to be the time we (Cemaes) won the Dargie Cup 2-1 in injury time!
It was a great moment for us as a club. To do it in injury time and to win the nicest cup in local football that has a long and great history was special.
AFE: I know you’re one for good stories Al, so what’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen in a match?
AG: There’s definitely been a few!
One that sticks in mind is when we were playing Llangefni a few years back in a pre season friendly and they had the PYS going to watch them everywhere and I thought they were brilliant, next thing they started shouting “Your just a fat James Corden” to me and I thought that was brilliant!
Another one I remember is when Colin Hawkins (Cemaes) gave Lewis Connor a bollocking for doing a back pass or something like that and at half time Col was laying into Lewis and subbed him off. Lewis then threw his boots down and stormed off into the toilet and slammed the door, but as he did that the door handle came off and he was locked in there and we couldn’t get him out.
Another one was during the Dargie Cup. We all posed in the changing room for a photo, but Sion Wyn Griffiths was in the shower at the time and wanted to get in it, so he legs it out of the shower, stark naked, to get in the photo, but as he does he slipped and landed on me. Let’s just say I definitely saw what he had for tea that night!
They’re just a few of about a thousand funny stories I could personally tell. Everyone has their own moments. It’s what makes football enjoyable and makes lads turn up on a Saturday to enjoy it and have a laugh whilst playing the beautiful game!
AFE: You’re now with the Bro Goronwy set-up and seem to be enjoying it once again. What are the club’s realistic aims for the season ahead?
AG: Yes made the move there this summer. Was a very easy decision to join Bro!
Lee has had most of the squad since they were young so they know how he likes to play his football and I think that helps a lot.
They had a great season last year, winning the Junior Cup, but I’d say the realistic aim for us in the Gwynedd League during 2017/18 is to be in the title race and possibly be in for a shout with a cup or two as well.
AFE: Finally, what advice would you give to those who are looking to get into coaching a football team?
AG: What I would say, is if your enthusiastic and have a passion for football then get involved!
If not in a managerial role, then join your local club as a committee member. I’ve had some of the best times of my life through local football and I’m still only 27, so I’ve still got loads more to come.
My advice is: Help the game, help the local sides, get involved and most importantly enjoy it!
Cheers for the chat Alan, always a pleasure! All the best to both you and the rest of the Bro Goronwy squad this season.