Edward Whyte

European Football Coach, UK Youth Development and Grass Roots Football pioneer and founder of Soccer Kids Schools

Edward, or Eddy as he is known, Whyte was born in Gourock on the 7th February 1956. The son of an MOD Policeman (of the same name), Eddy spent his early years in Rosyth, Fife, where his passion for football was ignited by the fact that he lived a few doors down from Alex Edwards of Dunfermline, the player that Jock Stein gave his league debut to just five days after his 16th birthday in February 1962, making him the youngest outfield player to ever play in a Scottish Football League match.

At the age of 8, Eddy and his family returned to Gourock and it was here that his footballing career kicked off. With best friend Davie Provan, who would later represent Scotland at International level and achieve great domestic success with Celtic FC, Eddy played in the county side that would produce eight professionals including Spurs, Bolton and Manchester City’s Neil McNab.

In April 1968, Eddy and his family moved to Garelochhead after his father was posted to Faslane. He enrolled at Garelochhead Primary School and immediately joined the school team playing alongside Gus McCuaig.

On leaving Garelochhead Primary he joined Hermitage Academy and it was during this period, aged 14, that he suffered a knee injury that would curtail his future ambition of playing professional football. He had torn cartilages in both knees and although it was possible to have an operation at that time the success rate was only 50:50. His mother was given the choice, risk the operation but maybe end up spending the rest of his life without any sport whatsoever, or have a complete rest for 12 months whereby the knees might have self-healed sufficiently for him to play occasional sport in future years. It was agreed that he would not have the operation.

On leaving Hermitage Eddy studied engineering at Clydebank Technical College, and then at age 18, after picking up a newspaper and seeing that four of his former team mates had all signed lucrative professional contacts with top clubs, he was plagued with 'what could have been' feelings. In his own words he needed an ‘escape route’, so decided on the Army and later joined the Royal and Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME).

He first posting was to Wildenwrath, Germany (near Monchengladbach on the Belgium and Dutch borders) where, in addition to his engineering tasks was also appointed Sports Liaison officer for the base. During this tenure, and as a part of a local community project, Eddy asked Borussia Monchengladbach to play against a British Army Team. With his knees now strengthened with the Army training Eddy played in this match and impressed the Germans so much that they later offered him a playing contract. However, after only six months the knee injury resurfaced and his playing career came to an abrupt halt again. Although only 20, he was soon invited back to the club, but this time to work with their players on the art of wing play: close control dribbling skills, quick change of pace, confidence with both feet, and accurate crossing whilst running at speed.

After a stint of coaching with Munchengladbach he had a short spell with Standard Liege before an Army promotion took him to the NATO base at Maastricht, Holland. It was whilst serving here that Eddy attracted the attention of PSV Eindhoven, and similar to his situation in Germany, he had a short 6 months playing career with them before injury struck, and then moved into coaching, but this time with the additional role of identifying skill weaknesses and individual programming from the academy level right through to the top senior players.

Eddy left the Army aged 24 and returned to the UK. With his playing days over and the coaching structure different in Britain, he felt he was too young to join the professional club ranks, so made the big decision to quit the game altogether and head in a completely different direction.

In 1994, the lure of football was too much, so using the coaching skills and experience that he had gained in Europe, and totally disillusioned by the gradual demise of the British game, he published a plan that would enhance the future structure of football in the UK: Grass Roots Report 1995.

The report highlighted particular faults in the British system at that time and recommended several proposed changes around a new Systematic Structured Development (SSD) layout - a fixed set of principles and concepts laid out within a framework for the development of young UK footballers age 5 - 21 that incorporated a mixture of both the traditional British and modern continental style coaching techniques.

Although strongly backed by a number of top managers, the report ruffled the game’s authorities. Undeterred, and in an attempt to prove his theory right, Eddy later founded Soccer Kids – development football schools for children age 4 to 12 based around the SSD principle. With the backing of the University of Sheffield, the first Soccer Kids School was created in Sheffield (1996), and it soon caught the attention of the media and soccer coaches worldwide. A franchise plan was then developed to expand the concept UK wide, but again the Scottish & English FAs tried to block it. At the end of the day Eddy sold the franchises to professional clubs and decided to focus all his efforts on just one single school. Today, Eddy’s school remains the largest single football school in the UK and continues to be the most successful in terms of producing young talent - a total of 68 children age 6 to 9 from this school have joined professional club Academies.

Over time, and with the continued disappointing performances of the British National Teams on both the European and World stages, many aspects (70%) of the Grass Roots Report were later adopted and are now included within the Football Association’s Academy Scheme, plus the majority of the SSD elements are also being used by many other countries throughout the world as a standard part of their junior and senior level development programmes.

In 2010 Eddy produced a second report, Kicking into the Future, which once again called for an improvement in football coaching. In his words, ‘Change is a continuous process, if you stop you get overtaken by your competitors’. In this report he outlined the cultural changes over the years that needed addressing (obesity, reduced playing/practice time of our kids, reduced school sport, sale of local playing fields, lack of facilities, computer age, etc, and pushes for additional SSD elements to be added to our standard training programmes (flexibility, positional interchange skills, mental nurturing, step training programmes, ball retention drills, and others). He was also highly critical of the ‘one cap fits all’ approach to coaching, especially in England, and recommended a complete need set of specialist coaching qualifications, child, youth, development, and senior level.

In 2011 the English FA announced that radical changes would soon be made to their development and coaching programmes (all of which had appeared in the Kicking Into The Future 2010 Report), but like the Grass Roots Report 1995, Eddy does not expect any recognition. The purpose of this report was, once again, to bring the facts out into the open and hopefully kick the relevant authorities into action. In his words, “We need to get rid of this big boy physical direct approach to our game and bring through the young players who have a high degree of natural ability (DONA) irrespective of their size or physical stature. We have been trying to convert athletes into footballers, when we should be converting naturally gifted players into athletes”.

Over the past 14 years the success rate of the English Academies in terms of producing regular premier league standard players is only 0.48% and Eddy feels that too may talented youngsters have been allowed to fall by the wayside and this needs to change.

Today, Eddy lives in Derbyshire, is a full-time football consultant to the professional clubs, and also represents and mentors some of his school’s most talented youngsters.