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Hunty's Column: An Interview With Dylan Kerr (Part One)

Hunty speaks to former Reading FC hero Dylan Kerr in this week's column.

Alan Stubbs of Celtic challenges Dylan Kerr of  Kilmarnock

It's not every day you get to speak a man as obsessed with 80s music as myself, let alone a fine football coach and all-round top bloke.

Well this week I have been speaking to Dylan Kerr, who graced Elm Park during our Division 2 winning team of 1994, and the play-off finalists in 1995 — and what an absolute pleasure it was. to catch up with him!

Firstly congratulations on the new coaching role with Chesterfield Under 18s.

Thanks, it's great to be back in the game. I took six months off and came back home for family reasons. I did miss the game and had a few offers overseas that didn't materialise, but now I am enjoying working the academy lads.

What's the difference between when you started out as a 16 year old and the academy players you work with today?

When I was the first youth training scheme footballer back in the 1980s you had to earn the respect of the professionals you did your jobs: cleaning the toilets, floors, players' boots and working hard.

The first thing I did at Chesterfield was ban mobile phones before training, and introduced games to teach them respect and discipline. If they questioned me I'd say, "If the First Team Manager told you to do it, they would do it, and this is no different."

When you joined Sheffield Wednesday you were initially a more attacking player before Howard Wilkinson pushed you further back into the left-back we all know and love, how did the change come about?

Three months before end of the season Howard told me that I didn't have the all round vision, and that he had better players in midfield which I knew, but he said I'd be great as left back. So I worked my balls off, and got a contract.

Sadly, you got released at end of that first pro contract. Why?

I was giving it the big "I am" having the social life, going clubbing, eating at top restaurants with the top pros, and never played a game — I then spent 6 weeks crying when I got released.

I sent letters to all the clubs including a stamped addressed envelope but only got a few replies, whilst on trial at a club an ex-coach got me the opportunity to play in South Africa for three years whilst spending Christmas training with Howard Wilkinson at Sheffield Wednesday.

Then luck and a newspaper intervened?

I'd booked flight back to South Africa when I was offered 50 quid to play for a local non-league league side. I scored four and set up two, and it was spotted in a local paper. Next thing I knew I got a two-and-a-half year contract at Leeds.

Even though you didn't play in first team regularly, you captained the reserves and were part of a fantastic squad including the likes of Gordon Strachan and Eric Cantona, what was Eric like to deal with?

If he didn't want to talk to you, he would just start speaking in French!

You’ve got experience of coaching in Asia for last few years, and you were very successful. What did you learn the most?

The players have the ability, skill, and work rate. The games would be played in front of sell out crowds. However, it is controlled by the money men who want to buy the players they want which makes it difficult to get your philosophy across, but you worked hard to get players on your side.

Due to poor wages and players not being paid for weeks, they would not always put the effort in during training or matches. One player, who wasn't on my team, was in so much debt trying to support his family, he was allegedly paid to fix a game and ended up in jail for three to four years for it.

You've also coached in Tanzania, what was that like?

50,000 crowds and the fans were intense and would chase if you lost. I got the players to visit the homeless and kids in hospital to build strong links between the players and fans.

At Simba Sports (the Manchester United of South Africa), Dylan initially got reluctant egos to spend hours singing and dancing with children at local schools to make them realise they were role models and got great coverage for the club.

In Part Two, Dylans talks about his love of Reading the sacrifices he made for the game — and his love of 80s music.