By Shahrukh Sohail & Malik Riaz Hai Naveed
Pakistan’s constant flings with foreign coaches have been well documented over the past decade or so. From Bert Trautmann in the early 1980’s to the recently disposed Serbian Zavisa Milosavljević, trainers have come and gone but no one has made a lasting impact.
But luckily for two Englishmen, Dave Burns and John Layton, the crop of players they nurtured from a young age went to showcase their sublime talents on the International front and given Pakistan’s poor standards, put up a valiant fight against sides such as Japan and UAE, while grabbing 2 Gold medals at the SAF Games.
Quality coaching given to the likes of Muhammad Essa and Jaffar Khan early in their age was the key to their International success and according to Layton himself, he worked with young players for the National Team and it paid dividends in the future.
“I spent most of my 3 year spell in Pakistan identifying and developing young players for the National sides with some success at all levels U-16 to U-21, while also being in charge of all the national teams right up to the senior side,” added the England-born coach while exclusively talking to FootballPakistan.com.
“ It was a chance to put in place a structure of sorts that could continue when I left, which I am pleased and proud to say it has, many of the young players selected at an early age have gone on to play for Pakistan for many years,” added Layton.
Providing exposure was a major facet of Layton’s plan for Pakistan and tours such as the one in England right before the World Cup qualifying matches served as ideal preparation for the National Team, although they didn’t deliver the results the Pakistan Football Federation was looking for.
“The team I selected for the FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds was one of the youngest sides ever put out, and it is that exposure at a young age that gives the players confidence and experience for further games, as it continue to show when I left,” claimed the former Hereford United player.
Reminiscing about the past, the 62-year-old revealed that after parting ways with the Pakistan side, he had a stint with a club in the Maldives League before jumping ship to the soccer-mad United States.
“After I left Pakistan I had an offer to coach a side call Hurriya F.C. in the Maldives which was very interesting and a good learning experience, I then went to America to help a friend of mine at a coaching academy.”
The stress of professional football took a major toll on John’s health, however he recovered in time to join Lower Hutt City FC in New Zealand before deciding to end his travels and return to the U.K., where he worked with the English F.A and presented their F.A Level 1 and Level 2 courses.
“I had to undergo a hip operation due to overuse and as soon as I recovered, I received a job offer from New Zealand, Lower Hutt City F.C. who play in the central league, again a great experience and a chance to see a beautiful country. After my return to U.K. I had a chance to take a teaching diploma and teach in a college which I did for a few years, alongside presenting the English F.A. levels 1 &2 Coach Education courses,” said Layton.
After wandering without a club, it was his old abode, Hereford United that came calling and under Layton’s management setup a youth academy to focus on the stars of tomorrow.
“Two years ago my local Football League club Hereford United F.C. were looking to start up a youth academy with funding from the football league and asked me to be the Head of Youth and again identify and coach young local players.”
However, John revealed that after Hereford’s relegation from the Football League, funds dried up and he was unfortunately let go, but not without a contribution, as his protégés are still playing with the club and are expected to be signed on professional contracts.
“This I did until recently, unfortunately the senior team were relegated from the football league after a year , and there for the youth funding grants were not forth coming, and cuts had to be made, my signings are still playing for the club at present and I’m sure a few will get professional contracts in the future,” added the Englishman.
Relating to Pakistan’s youth development, John claims that Pakistan has to work with long-term gains in mind and not short-term profits.
“With football development you have to have a long term view , not just instant fixes, I hope Pakistan look to build a pathway from youth to seniors , incorporating the best Coaches that they can get to work in a structured way, learning techniques, skills and game understanding at International level.”
Lastly, he added that he made some good friends in Pakistan and realized the barriers faced by the country’s footballers, but if everyone were to work for the development of Pakistani football, it could one day rise from the ashes.
“I made many friends during my time in Pakistan, and understand the frustrations that can arise, but I also understand the passion that was for football, if that passion can be utilized and everyone work for the cause of Pakistan football not just separate groups, then Pakistan can and will climb up the world rankings,” the former Pak Shaheens boss was quoted as saying to FootballPakistan.com.
In June 2013, John Layton was also coached the Pakistan International XI, a team that contained several Pakistani Internationals based in Europe and played a charity match against Bradford Park Avenue at Horsfall Stadium.