Posts Tagged ‘Alan Wilkie

01
Dec
10

Interview with Alan Wilkie, Part Two

Here is the second part of my interview with Alan Wilkie, who has just concluded a stint as Top Referee Instructor for the JFA. It appeared in Weekly Soccer Magazine on the 23rd November.

In last week’s column former English Premier League referee Alan Wilkie provided his opinions on the stadiums, fans and players in Japan. Having come here to assist in referee development though, what are his thoughts on the men in the middle?

Well, upon arrival a year and a half ago, some differences were immediately clear.

“Referees would not manage or engage with the players – communication was a big problem. My initial impression was that referees in Japan referee in isolation, they are not part of the game they are peripheral to the game. That was one of the main things we had to break down as a team of coaches.”

How did the Japanese officials take to being told what they were doing wrong though?

“Once people recognised that I had something to offer the support and the camaraderie in the JFA refereeing team was very good. There are some very good people working in the JFA.

“What I try to do is influence people, I don’t tell anybody anything. I try to persuade them and give them a good example.”

The biggest problem, he believes, lies not in the ability of the officials, but in their confidence.

“The issue in Japan is that most of the referees are very, very self-conscious and self-deprecating. I will not allow the de-brief to be ‘you did this wrong, you did this wrong’. The way that I de-brief is that I get people to accept that they may have been able to do things a little better, and it works.”

Increased confidence results in increased respect – something Alan does not believe Japanese referees receive much of at the moment.

“In Japan, cautions mean nothing. You can tell nobody cares by the demeanour of the player when the referee’s cautioning him, he’ll just walk away and wave his hand. That shows complete disrespect and I’m trying to get the referees to change the yellow to a second yellow and red because it’s dissent.”

Diving and other gamesmanship is also on the rise, but Alan is surprisingly not totally against this.

“It doesn’t matter whether I think it’s negative or not, this is football. If the J.League wishes to be in the top 10, or perhaps the top 5, in the world, they will have to be able to compete and deal with exaggeration, overreaction and gamesmanship.”

2010 was a fantastic year for one J.League referee – Yuichi Nishimura, who was 4th official at the World Cup Final – and Alan is very proud of the 38-year-old’s achievement.

“Nishimura was my best pupil. The way that he handles and uses his body and the way that he engages with players is European. That’s why he’s a success.”

He also has a lot of respect for his boss, Yasuhiro Matsuzaki.

“[He] has football and refereeing at heart. His vision is to see football in Japan develop into a European style. I admire his vision very much and think he’s much-maligned and much misunderstood.”

So, as his time here comes to a close, what are his final thoughts?

“The best thing is seeing progress, seeing success, seeing referees develop. [But]I’m not finished! This is ongoing. I keep saying to the referees that if you sit and look at the good things you’ve done you’ll be left behind. Keep going.”

And has he learned anything to take back to England with him?

“I’m taking away masses and masses of training techniques because in Japan the methods of training leave England way behind. Every time they do a practical training session there’s two football teams there. In England we pretend and make referees be players, can you believe that?!”

Recent changes at the top of Japanese football also encourage him, and he expects big things of the game here in the future.

“There is a change of chairman in the J.League and I have great faith in his vision. [Kazumi Ohigashi] gives me the impression of being a man of integrity and direction.”

“Junji Ogura; I have great aspirations for him. I think he will be monumental in the development of football. Great vision and also an extremely nice man. Sometimes they don’t go hand in hand, but I think with him you will get results. I quite seriously have great hope for Japan, I really do.”

01
Dec
10

Interview with Alan Wilkie, part one

I recently interviewed Alan Wilkie before he returned to England after a year-and-a-half stint working for the JFA in Tokyo. The interview ran over two weeks in Weekly Soccer Magazine, with this, the first half, appearing in the November 16th issue.

Alan Wilkie, a former English Premier League referee who famously sent Eric Cantona off just before his kung-fu kick incident in 1996, has been working as Top Referee Instructor for the JFA for the past eighteen months.

His contract ends this week so we met for a pint and some fish and chips to discuss his thoughts on football in Japan. This week’s column will focus on the stadiums, fans and players, next week the more meaty issue of referees will be tackled.

While being impressed by many aspects of the J.League, one thing which has frustrated Alan is the distance supporters often are from the pitch.

“I think they need to rebuild stadia. At the moment, playing football with a running track is not attractive. I went to Yamagata on Saturday and used binoculars to watch the game. Outrageous!”

Furthermore, he believes that the lack of permanent homes for many clubs has a detrimental effect on the game here.

“I go to Jubilo and, “Oh, they’re not playing here, they’re playing at Ecopa.” Impossible. It’s impossible to have belonging. The only thing I should check is, ‘are they at home this week?’

“I think there is a need to focus on the heart and soul of football, which is ownership. You’re born to it and you die with it. My son is black and white (Newcastle United), his partner is red and white (Sunderland). So, the first photo of my grandson with anything to do with football, I draped a black and white scarf over him. So I claimed him – he is my grandson and he is Newcastle!”

The lack of belonging in Japan provides a stark contrast to the way fans operate in England.

“What it means to supporters [in England] is, I give a penalty kick against Manchester City and I get a bullet sent to my home. I get an envelope and in the envelope are broken razor blades. I don’t condone it but that’s what it means to them.”

“A bit of aggression’s good, in the right places. Controlled aggression. I don’t think you see controlled aggression on the pitch. The only time I’ve ever come across any aggression in Japan is on the metro! People will push you, people will kill you if there is a seat!”

He also notes another difference on the pitch.

“Sophistication. It can be stoppage time and it can be 3-0 and the team who are nil will still be going for it. That’s a lack of sophistication. Know when you’re beaten and just see the game out.”

Talk of sophistication inevitably leads to Alberto Zaccheroni (you know how much I admire his fashion), and Alan is confident the Italian can do well here.

“If you are successful in Italy as a coach then you can be successful anywhere. I’m sure that his methods – coaching, food, preparation and everything – will be top class.

“Those moving and playing abroad will come back to Japan as better players and with better understanding of the game. The goalkeeper for instance is quite clearly, personal opinion, the best goalkeeper in Japan.”

And how about the other positions? Who has stood out for him?

“Best defender, Nagatomo. He has introduced, as well as his electric pace, some cynicism, or professionalism. In midfield I like Hasebe, but also Matsui. They’re different but I like Hasebe because he’s also introduced some professionalism.

“Up-front, Maeda. Without question the most naturally gifted forward player in Japan. All he ever thinks about is goals. He would kill his mother to score a goal and I like that. Alan Shearer would kill his mother to score a goal and then say sorry!”

He also identifies several players who he feels will ensure a bright future for Japanese football.

“Kanazaki; I think he will play for Japan many, many times. Gamba have a precocious young player, Usami and Ono from Yokohama F. Marinos will be a star.

“I love Makino! Because he’s crazy! Spontaneous, flexible – he’s your man. I don’t think he’s developed enough to go to Europe yet. I think he has the possibility but he needs to work on his concentration. Because of his flexibility and his character, he tends to do silly things!”




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