Simon Wiles says his job as Fleetwood Town’s Under-18 coach is not just to steer his young crop towards a football career but also to develop them into good people.
Wiles signed for Blackpool as a trainee in 2003 but his career was plagued by knee injuries. He left Bloomfield Road in 2008 after 31 appearances, going on to play for Dunfermline, Barrow, Chorley, Salford and finally Bamber Bridge.
Not all of the 33-year-old’s Town scholars will earn pro contracts but Wiles is working to develop them for a successful future off the field as well as on.
And as his U18 side prepare to face Bury at Gigg Lane in the second round of the FA Youth Cup tonight, Wiles said: “I was lucky enough to get my professional contract after serving my scholarship at Blackpool.
“I struggled with seven knee operations. My first big one came when I was 16.
“Now, when the players get injuries and get down, I feel I have that experience for them to lean on. I can say, ‘Keep going, it is not the end of the world. You will come back stronger because that is what I did myself in that situation.
“I have come through the system and can guide them as to what is required to progress as a professional.
“I still need to make sure we are developing them as people, making them better people around the place and making sure they stick to the culture we are trying to develop.
“If it is successful at the end of two years, fantastic; if not, we feel we have done our duty and made them better people to be successful in the rest of their lives.
“It is just great to be part of developing players for that journey we hope they will grasp.”
A number of Town’s U18 crop, like James Hill and Ryan Rydel, have been involved in Fleetwood’s first team this season. That’s a source of pride for Wiles (left), who took the role in the summer, and the academy staff.
He added: “I’m really enjoying working with the players every day. You get time to improve them.
“The proud moment for us is when the boys get called up to train and be involved with the first team. That shows we are doing things right.
“We are lucky to have the staff we have got – the analyst Ryan Shorrock, Academy manager Ciaran Donnelly and Steve Macauley the physio. The group dynamics are really good to help take these players forward.
“This is my first involvement since I was a scholar myself.
“I’m looking forward to the Bury game but it is just the next game in the players’ two- year journey.”