Steven Sharp: From football first aider to first team manager

You are currently manager of Stonyburn. I wanted to take you back to the beginning. How did your journey into football start?

It was a strange journey, it is not your normal journey where someone plays the game and then retires and goes into coaching and management. I suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease and I did not keep great health as a youngster so I never played the game at any sort of level. I always wanted to be involved in football so I started off as a first aider for my local semi professional team and I was 16 years of age at the time.

I ended up doing that job for about ten years and then the opportunity came that the club that I was at had an under 16 team starting and I was asked if I wanted to get involved in coaching them. I coached there for two years and I learned a lot and in my experience I have learned a lot from some very good managers in the semi professional game. Whilst I was in the background as a coach I observed things that people would not normally look at such training methods and how the players conduct themselves in the dressing room and in training sessions and I managed to put in that style of play when I was coaching the under 16’s.

I then got offered the opportunity to go and manage in the amateur game in Glasgow and then after deciding to take the plunge I decided that it was my time to move on. I have taken the club as far as I could. I then took some time out of football and I was out of football for only three months I was contacted by the manager of the time of Stoneyburn Juniors if I would be interested in going along as first team coach which was a fantastic opportunity to get at the age of 29 years old and to be asked to become a first team coach at a semi-professional club and it was also a massive honour especially when I have had all my health issues and also not having that experience of playing.

After the Stoneyburn manager resigned at the end of that season I was fortunate that the club thought that what I have added since I joined and coupled with my style that it would hopefully continue to build on the club’s success and they offered me the manager position and after ten months I have only had two competitive games due to Covid -19 but I am absolutely delighted that Stoneyburn have given me the opportunity.

You mentioned being Stoneyburn manager for only ten months so far. What do you view as the main challenges of managing the club?

I think at the moment it is very difficult because having been at the club for almost two years and manager for only ten months and the toughest thing at the minute would be that even though we started up again The Scottish FA have put a three week suspension on football so it is trying to manage from a far and not being with your players.

Trying to make sure that everything is ok for the players and that their mental health is good because things such as the love of football has been taken away from them at the moment. Dealing with Covid 19 has been very tough and you have a lot of procedures and protocols that you have to follow but the toughest part for me is the stop start. I am ten months into the role as manager and I have only had five friendlies and two competitive matches and it is tough because you have got a lot of plans in place, you have good things you want to do but you are limited due to the limited time because of Covid 19.

I pride myself on making sure that I am available for my players and we make sure that we do a catch up on video call just to make sure that they are all ok and I am very lucky that I have got some great friends in the professional game such as Brian Rice at Hamilton Academical FC, Mark Warburton at QPR and Russell Martin at MK Dons and they have sent through things to me to make it exciting and engaging for the players. I am very fortunate in that aspect. I am looking forward to continuing the great work that the previous manager of the club did.

My Football CFB colleague Callum McFadden told me that you have met and spoken with current England manager Gareth Southgate and former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Did you receive any specific advice or encouragement from them?

Yes, I met Gareth Southgate when I was down in Newcastle when I was there with my previous club. I took the players to Newcastle. Guys like Gareth Southgate and Sir Alex Ferguson you do not get much time with them to be fair and they give advice such as always stick to you own values and apart from those guys I am very lucky to have a great support network and guys within the professional game such as Craig Brown who managed Scotland and is someone who you have also interviewed James. Craig is fantastic and I can pick up the phone or text him anytime for advice and support and I have done.

The same with Alex McLeish. Mark Warburton at QPR has been one of the most supportive from within the professional game and he has been outstanding. He would check in on me every week and vice versa and anything that I need support with or advice or if I am not sure how to deal with a situation these guys are always at the end of the phone which really does help. Brian Rice who is currently manager of SPFL Premiership club Hamilton Academical FC, you couldn’t buy the advice and support that he has given me only as recently as last night we were on the phone for about 15 minutes talking about this current situation and things to do to help the players and it really is a great support network.

Finally Steven. You are still very young and looking ahead to the future. Is there anything in particular that you would ideally like to achieve during the remainder of your managerial career?

Yes, I think for me that it is always about trying to be successful and to try and progress as much as I can and whether that is helping Stoneyburn to progress as a club or even as an individual. My biggest goal is to try and be successful whether that be in terms of winning league and trophies or helping develop players to go to a higher level and helping to move players on to achieve their dreams if I can do that then I am achieving everything that I want to achieve.

Every manager wants to be successful personally as does every manager but I think sometimes in football management and I have seen it at all levels of coaching when the coach or the manager becomes self absorbed about how they want to be. I want to do this I want to do that and sometimes it is about what you can do for other people and what you can do for the club because at the end of the day you are not going to be successful if you can’t help the people round about you be successful and I think that is the way that I am always going to do things.

My success might be determined in that I have been able to manage at semi-professional level and who knows it might go well it might not however that is success to me because I went from not being able to play due to ill health, to managing and that is a successful journey and for me my biggest goal is to continue to progress and continue to learn and continue to build my support network and continue to build the people round about me whether that is helping people get into coaching, whether is is helping players achieve their dreams, that for me is what I want to do and continue to do between now and until I finish in football and as long as I know that I am making a difference to someone or a club then I feel that I am on the right track. I am never going to be perfect I am always going to be learning and always wanting to improve my skill set and support network and if I can continue like that, then I am going to be very happy.

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