Brentford B Technical Lead and Assistant Coach Allan Steele is in his seventh year at the Club having worked in a number of different departments since arriving.
The UEFA Pro License Coach worked as Kevin O’Connor’s Assistant from the 2016/17 season before taking on the role as Technical Lead to act as a driving force of the B Team strategy to support the likes of Co-Directors Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankerson, First Team Head Coach Thomas Frank and Brentford B Head Coach Neil MacFarlane. Allan’s role involves a wide range of responsibilities from playing a key part in the development of the games programme as well as recruitment, loans, player welfare, safeguarding, education and much more.
“I’ve always liked the thought of being able to see everything and to have an understanding of every single part of this Club,” explained Allan. “I’ve worked on the BTEC programme, the Academy, the B Team and I’ve been involved with First Team players. A big part of my job is to understand the boys, their families, who represents them, their backgrounds, and I try to make this place feel as much like a home to them as possible.”
Allan worked closely with Robert Rowan, the Club’s Technical Director who sadly passed away in November 2018. Rob was a key member of staff who helped to set up the Brentford B project and was fundamental to the inner workings of the setup. Allan admits that his role is also very much concerned with keeping Rob’s memory alive and maintaining his presence across the Club- particularly highlighting the importance of the Robert Rowan First Team Debut Board at Jersey Road.
He continued: “When I first started working with the B Team, my main mentor and motivator was Rob Rowan. The B Team programme is something that he worked on to develop. He had a plan for the B Team and although I will never achieve what he would have, I can and will work as hard as I can to get close.
“His expectations were far greater than anything that I’ve ever seen. I’ve got to keep striving to achieve what he believed this project could become. We’re still doing things day in, day out, that he set up, it’s incredible. He would be made up with the standard of recruitment and would be chuffed to bits to see the influence that the B Team graduates are having on the First Team; the likes of Mads Bech Sørensen, Marcus Forss, the likes of Jaakko (Oksanen) out on loan- Rob was fundamental in bringing those, and many more, boys to the Club. He would always challenge us on player development because the key is to get players through to the First Team so that’s what we’ve got to keep striving for and to make sure the impact of the B Team on the Club remains as positive as ever.”
With the B Team project now in its fifth season, Allan believes the setup is continuing to progress with a strong desire to keep on improving the model to make the pathway into the First Team as effective as possible. As a collective, the coach says everyone in the setup, players and staff, are pushing as hard as possible to keep on building.
He continued: “With everything you do right you do something wrong as well and managing that is tricky because it’s not just plain sailing. If you look at it from the outside, I think you’ll see success, but you don’t see what happens on the inside, the time, effort, hours and the influence that every single staff member puts into it. From the kit logistics team in Jordan Marley and Trish Taylor, Ben Strange and all the media department, the medical staff in Richard Potts, Liam Horgan and Stella Zhang, Claire Hiskett our Assistant Club Secretary, right through to all of our coaches; Neil MacFarlane, Sam Saunders, Jani Viander, James Purdue, as well as those members of staff who constantly support the B Team project and those who have moved on to new challenges. Everyone who has worked within the B Team since its formation has bought into the project with one collective aim to ready our players for First Team football as best as we possibly can.
“The support that we get from the First Team manager, the Directors and the Board is fantastic and it’s true that the belief in this project starts from the top. I don’t know the inner workings of other clubs, but when you look at football as an industry and as a business, then to be successful they have to be run with a clear strategy and a direction.”
Of course, the 2019/20 season for Brentford B was brought to a premature close following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March this year. As players returned home, they had to go about their individual fitness plans for a number of months until they were able to return to training. With staff working from home as well, Allan is keen to credit the whole setup for maintaining the togetherness as the country went through, and continues to go through, a very difficult period.
“You have to give huge respect to the players, the time and the effort that they put in when they were off,” explained Allan. “They wouldn’t have known anything like it, and they had to come back in a good place to be prepared to develop. You also have to look at the staff, during that period, arguably some of the toughest periods of anyone’s lives, the impact it was having day to day, yet they still remained motivated when not at work and when working from home they still had to maintain that level of togetherness. If you look at how the players and staff responded and the efforts they’ve put in then I think that’s what gets you through.”
With games interrupted, even going into the new campaign, there is no doubt that the B team programme was influenced due to the inability to travel across the continent to play fixtures as they have done in previous seasons.
On the games programme and how it has been impacted this season, Allan admits they’ve had to change approach slightly, which has brought about the opportunity to play against a number of National League sides like Bromley, Aldershot Town and Maidenhead United.
Allan continued: “I would say the point of the games programme is to provide a varied and realistic environment. You’d go and play Bayern Munich to try and replicate what it’s going to be like to play a different tactical formation, a different culture, the conditions or the travel.
“You play against a National League team because it’s going to give you more realism and an understanding of what it’s like to play against a men’s team. There’s going to be advantages you can get against National League teams and playing overseas as well. It’s always about providing realistic and varied experiences for the players. The Cup games are the only competitive games that we can get, and they add extra pressures in new environments, you’re coming up against lads who may look to us as the big fish and we may be expected to win those games, and that adds another level of pressure.”