21 Min Read
Feb 24 2023
Andy Goldie was appointed Academy Manager at Swansea City in August last year, following an almost four-year spell at Dundee United. The Scot has experience working in his native Scotland, England and now Wales, while also amassing experience at governing body level with UEFA, Sport Scotland and the Scottish FA.
Reflecting on his career to date, Goldie spoke about becoming a leader and how the Association of Sporting Directors, self-reflection and his network have played a role in his journey.
Goldie did not come from a playing background and he quickly channelled his energy into equipping himself with the skills and experience as a platform for his career in the game.
“I think if you listen to my mum and dad, my football career probably began when I was six or seven years old. By nine or ten, I was arranging games and tournaments between the adults and the kids living in our estate. They remind me of those days and suggest that I was always destined to work in a leadership role.
Officially, once I left school, I realised that I didn’t have the minerals to make it as a professional footballer. But recognising that I had qualities elsewhere, I went to university to study the sciences of coaching. And like so many others at that point, I just threw myself into as many opportunities as possible. I didn’t have a care for money, I just wanted to learn. I was volunteering in football but also hockey, volleyball, tennis, athletics and golf. I picked up as many different experiences and learned from as many people as possible. By the end of my university course, I had amassed over 1,000 hours of volunteering and that was just me experimenting with what I was learning through my studies into practice, self-reflecting and constantly improving. I was aware that so many people would be coming out of university who didn’t really have practical experience so it was important that I built that and stood out from the crowd,” said Goldie.
After graduating from the University of the West of Scotland with a degree in Sports Coaching and countless hours of valuable volunteering, Goldie was ready to work.
“Fortunately, it worked and I was in the right place at the right time. Frankie McAvoy, former Norwich City Assistant Manager, was Academy Director at Hamilton Academical and offered me the under 10’s coaching role. Naturally, I threw myself into it and was there every night for the week. When I wasn’t delivering myself, I was studying more experienced coaches, as well as going in during the day, learning from Billy Reid who was the manager.
After six months, Frankie and the Chairman at the time, Les Grey offered me a full-time role leading the community programme alongside my coaching responsibilities. Being around Billy and Frankie daily, gaining insight into the professional environment and being challenged on my coaching philosophy as much as I was challenging theirs, was an invaluable experience to me,” he added.
After five years at Hamilton Academical, it was time for a change and an opportunity to work at Sport Scotland arose.
“I was then presented with an opportunity to join Sport Scotland in a development role which not only allowed me to support my young family better but also provided me with the opportunity to explore high performance and leadership more deeply.
I also found that I had a lot of dead time coming out of football so I continued to coach in the evenings. I worked with the experienced Ian Cathro and that was the real turning point for me as a coach. Ian is an absolute genius when it comes to coaching and is someone who, although not many people will be aware of, as he stays in the background, is one of the most intelligent people I’ve worked alongside. The level of detail in his coaching and preparation is unbelievable. But on top of that, he was involved in other projects and strategically building an external network and future career for himself. So I learned so much from Ian,” added Goldie.
Goldie was destined for a return to football and it was the Scottish FA that presented his next opportunity. While also gaining experience with UEFA, Middlesbrough and the Scotland Women’s National Team.
“In 2012, I went to the Scottish FA to work as an Elite Performance Coach and had the opportunity to work with some of the country’s most talented players across our seven regional Performance Schools and National Youth Teams. The Performance School programme was launched in 2012 to increase the number of quality and individually tailored contact hours our best young talent were benefitting from. The vast majority of players were attached to professional academies and they would train with us during the day as part of their school timetable before participating in their club programmes in the evening. Working with some of the best players and coaches in the country was great. I’ve always felt that we underestimate what young players are capable of but, I’ve always learned more from the top players as subconsciously they demand more from you, so I had to be on point.
At that point, I realised that I had an interest and curiosity in more than what was happening on the grass and became a bit more strategic in terms of “what do I not know, what do I need to know, what am I currently uncomfortable with?”, I was never going to become an expert across all areas but felt I needed to know enough about other disciplines to at least be able to check, challenge and connect with staff who were delivering these programmes. I was also aware that this would be vitally important if I wanted to progress my career.
That led me onto doing some work with UEFA on a technical project, working with Middlesbrough as Lead First Team Scout in Scotland and supporting Shelley Kerr with opposition analysis in preparation for the Euro Championships and World Cup, as well as continuing my role with the Scottish FA. These experiences really helped broaden my horizons and provided me with a greater understanding and appreciation of how roles connected and contributed, as well as the challenges they were faced with,” Goldie said.
A return to club football followed with Goldie gaining experience on the Executive Team at Dundee United, alongside heading up their Academy following new ownership at the club.
“On the back of the success of the Scottish FA Performance School programme, another ASD member Tony Asghar (Sporting Director, Dundee United) approached me with the opportunity to join him at Dundee United, following their takeover by Mark and Scott Ogren. Tony was clear from our first meeting that he wanted to put the academy front and centre of the strategy going forward and I was honoured to be given the responsibility to create and then lead that as Academy Director. The trust and autonomy Tony provided me was unbelievable, not only for my ongoing development as a leader but also as a strategist. We achieved some remarkable results during our time working together. After two and a half years in the role, I was then promoted to the Executive Team at the Club, where I was able to play a more significant role into the delivery of the wider-Club strategy, whilst gaining invaluable insight and experience into working with and reporting directly to ownership, policy, regulation, investment and marketing and the inner workings of running a football club for foreign ownership. All of which has prepared me for my next step as Academy Manager at Swansea City.”
What is evident is that Goldie has experience working with various stakeholders across multiple sports, something which is rare for someone so young. This has proven beneficial particularly at the academy level as numerous people are looking to influence player development.
“Those experiences and opportunities allow me to be bilingual, in that I can work across, connect with and most importantly speak the same language of the various disciplines, experts different levels of ownership, management and leadership across the Club and externally. Ultimately, to live and achieve the vision, mission, objectives, strategy and tactics of the Club, it is imperative that we collaborate and take people on the journey with us.
So, by having those experiences and seeing player recruitment, care, development and, if successful, trading, I believe I am now better placed to lead an interdisciplinary approach to help provide the player with one collective integrated plan,” said Goldie.
Although similar in title, the role at Dundee United and now at Swansea City are both completely different challenges, helping Goldie to continue on that growth journey.
“The two roles are completely different. Dundee United was a complete rebuild – they had enjoyed incredible success with players such as Duncan Ferguson, Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Gauld, John Souttar and Andy Robertson all being developed and sold on. But then there was a real gap as the Club rested on this success. The owners and Tony (Asghar) made it clear that the academy was going to drive the future of the club and that they wanted a self-sustaining model. My role in that was to deliver a profitable ROI model through the recruitment, development and progression of young homegrown talent. I was the only member of the academy staff at Dundee United when I first started, there was no strategy, facilities were poor, and the budget was minimal but, there were some really good people there holding it together and maximising what little they did have. Whereas at Swansea City I have inherited a historically successful programme which has continued to produce International and First Team players through the Academy and/or Emerging Talent.
Swansea was the sixth highest-represented academy at the World Cup. Previously at the EUROs, we were second alongside La Masia (Barcelona). So there has always been a production line of talent coming through. So although there are particular areas of the academy requiring significant turnaround, the role here is more of a re-alignment job and a different challenge for me,” said Goldie.
Now plying his trade at Swansea City, Goldie has taken time to listen and learn from others, a trait he has valued from early in his career at Hamilton.
“It has been important to understand the people who are working here already before I try to make them understand me. Looking at the last few years, there has been a demotion from a Category One to a Category Two academy and a relegation from the Premier League to the Championship. The club had some redundancies where several staff and their friends lost their jobs while others took pay cuts to help save jobs.
This time my approach has had to be more collaborative, building trust and understanding with staff, empowering them by developing them themselves as leaders and making sure they are connected with the journey we are going on. When you inherit a full-time staffing of over 30 people, all with different experiences and adversities, it is about understanding them first and then we go on our journey. A lot of the success I mentioned at the Club has been a result of the efforts of many of the staff that are still here and who have been unbelievably loyal throughout the most challenging times. So it is as much me learning from them, respecting and guarding the success that they have had and the identity of the Club, but also providing strategic direction on how we can evolve, improve and future-proof what we do – not just standing still,” he added.
In terms of developing his leadership style, Goldie has developed a clear leadership model which he uses to continue to check, challenge and grow.
“I think my leadership developed thanks to a combination of experiencing it myself and always being open to not knowing everything, learning from those around me and seeking out external opportunities. I found out very quickly that everything is about connection. So, it doesn’t matter if you have 12 or 35 full-time staff and all the external stakeholders whom all have a significant role in the development journey. If you don’t have a connection, you don’t have a foundation in which you can build upon.
I have developed my leadership model which I refer to as the 11 C’s and I always go back to that to check and challenge myself to make sure I remain consistent and never lose sight of the direction and what is important, as that can be difficult in a leadership role, with so many low level operational tasks. I always go back to the centre of the model which is connection. It could be a connection with staff – that you understand them on a personal level first and foremost. Or connection with the strategy and ensuring the programmes are aligned. That is why we have moved from the multidisciplinary model I inherited to an interdisciplinary model – to create integration, alignment, cross-pollination of knowledge, increase critical thinking and problem solving rather than solely relying on me and increase engagement.
I also don’t believe in a hierarchical structure and see far greater benefit in this approach – of course we have to have reporting lines to make sure we are working efficiently. But I see myself sitting in the centre of seven interlinked departments – operations, methodology, player transition, individual player development, recruitment, performance and, player care and education. My job is to make sure that it all connects. Yes, it is academy football and we should always look medium to long term, but the games programmes are still Monday to Monday, Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday, which naturally forces people to look short term. My job is to ensure we are looking medium to long term and we are safeguarding the strategy while continuing to evolve it too.”
From a player development perspective, Goldie has experienced three different environments, all with varying resources but all maximising what they have to achieve success.
“There are similarities between the countries I have worked. I think one of the key things is that they all have different levels of resources and they all utilise those resources completely differently. The one thing that all three (Scotland, England and Wales) have in common is they want to maximise those resources as well as possible to provide the best player development experience possible.
If I look at Scotland, they are probably at the best point they have ever been for producing young talent for a variety of reasons. The EPPP equivalent there is called Club Academy Scotland and I was very fortunate to work on a group alongside some of my fellow academy directors, Scottish FA staff and external experts to help re-write the strategy there. If you look at the Performance School programme which started back in 2012 with seven schools and Celtic had its own. Now Rangers have their own, Dundee United, Dundee, Hearts and Kilmarnock all have their own. So the level of support and service the young players are now getting has multiplied a considerable amount. You now have a number of emerging talents moving down south – Billy Gilmour to Chelsea, Nathan Patterson to Everton, Calvin Ramsey and Ben Doak at Liverpool, Kerr Smith and Rory Wilson at Aston Villa, they all came through either a collaborative programme with the Scottish FA and/or their respective clubs – and there are many more. It’s an incredibly positive time for Scottish football and I certainly can’t remember it being in such a healthy state for producing players in my lifetime.
“My experience so far with EPPP and the opportunities and support from the Premier League and the EFL, there is not much that can match it. England, in particular are reaping the benefits and I personally don’t think it will be too long before they win a major championship. You see the evidence with the number of players coming through and performing in various leagues across Europe.
Another thing I found with the Premier League is how incredible they are in investing in and developing world class staff as well as players. Whether it’s the Elite Academy Managers course, the Elite Head of Coaching course, or the various other programmes, they fully invest in developing staff and that can be forgotten about sometimes. There is no doubt this has played a significant role in the trend in young coaches gaining First Team opportunities here and abroad, something Germany have done incredibly well for years.
I was fortunate to have successfully completed the recent FA Level 4 Talent Management, Strategy and Leadership in Football course at St George’s Park where I learned so much, be it confirming and enhancing the skills I already had and used or challenging my leadership approach through the great depth and variation of expert speakers and presenters we were exposed to, as well as the talent in within the cohort itself. The opportunities ambitious staff have to develop in England is unrivalled.
My experience with the FAW, where the resources are more challenging, but it is successfully led by a real innovator and strategic leader in Dave Adams. They could look at their neighbours and point to financial constraints but they think of ways around it. They are doing some incredible work with regional programmes leading into national programmes. Guys like Gus Williams and now James Holland finding players who are gems with dual nationalities to enhance the backbone of Welsh talent. All maximising the resources they have,” said Goldie.
Looking to some of the core ASD values of support, connect, develop, Goldie has found support from a number of key individuals along his journey.
“More often than not, all the way through my own development journey, my approach is it that you can learn from anyone. In football, there is always that bit of ego where people are reluctant to say “I don’t know” or show vulnerability. Regardless of who I have worked with, I always try to pick up a few gems from them. Even if it is just to challenge my own thinking. Inevitably I might come back to the same conclusion but at least I go through that check and challenge process myself.
I have been very fortunate to work with some incredible people. Frankie McAvoy who I mentioned gave me my first break. Billy Reid and Stuart Taylor were the first to give me that real depth of insight into the professional game. Ian Cathro who is an absolute genius in player development and someone who invested so much time in developing himself. One key individual for me that many people won’t know is Brian McLaughlin who worked at the Scottish FA. He was unbelievable at putting the person first before the player. He was so driven in putting what the person needed front and centre. Brian was a big influence on Nathen Patterson (Everton) as an example.
Tony Asghar who I mentioned, gave me a break into that executive leadership position and his biggest strength in how he helped me was that he trusted me, he empowered me, he believed in me and he backed me, even when I got it wrong. To have that opportunity to almost experiment, was incredible. But he was always there for me.
Working with Russell Martin was a big reason for my coming to Swansea City. The clarity in his vision and his unwavering belief and attention to detail in developing and delivering our style of play has been incredible over the past few months. To have that alignment throughout the club is extremely powerful.
I think it is also important to have external sounding boards and Dr Dan Parnell has been invaluable to me. He is somebody who really makes me challenge my thinking, self-reflect and find holes in the process I go through to reach decisions.
We can learn from everyone and it is important to listen to everyone and avoid the “hippo” effect – so avoid that the highest paid person in the room has the most important or prominent voice. I very much believe in that to avoid groupthink. It is important to also learn from the players too as it is their journey and ultimately, they will dictate the future of the game,” Goldie said.
Goldie has also used the ASD events to help further develop himself within the industry too.
“The ASD online events have been extremely valuable for me because of the depth and diversity of guest presenters, subjects and topics. The depth of people on the call for breakout rooms and sharing experiences, checking and challenging what has been presented too is invaluable.
I remember one of the first events I attended and it was a real lightbulb moment. The speaker was Mark Batey who delivered on the creative process. And I don’t know if it was just a timing thing that I was almost living that at the same time. I followed up with him afterwards and also worked with Dan Parnell too on the back of it. Just to hear him talk about his creative process in such simplicity but with real clarity, passion and detail, I thought wow – this is the quality of people involved.
Dr Seamus Kelly, I think was possibly the next workshop I attend and he made me really challenge who I was as a leader. And he said something which I was probably struggling with at the time – “observation is the future of leadership”. Then at Dundee United, I was still very much hands-on because we had a big programme and not a huge staff. But I was probably seeing that much that I wasn’t seeing enough. So, again taking that back into my own leadership to evolve and ultimately become better.
Another one with Rachel Wilson who was a negotiation expert was fantastic too, an expert in a completely different field. She spoke about a behavioural change stairway model which impacted me in creating the 11Cs model I referred to earlier. I picked up something from every single one. The timing too allows you to self-reflect and work on your development before the next session,” he added.
Connecting with fellow members has also assisted Goldie, with an almost unspoken acknowledgement of membership providing an instant opportunity to speak openly and honestly about challenges being faced.
“I think when you are in a virtual room with experts such as Dan Ashworth, Kevin Thelwell, Stuart Webber, Mike Rigg and so many others, you cannot help but learn from them. I was at the live event at St. Georges Park and how they are still invested they are in their own self-learning and development, still curious to try and learn something new, despite their successes and how highly regarded they are. When you speak with them, they are asking more questions about me and others, I found it quite humbling and insightful. It shows how invested they are in their self-development despite their senior leadership positions. Then when they speak, they do it with real conviction and clarity.
The funny thing about the ASD online too is that when you meet these people out and about at games or events, you feel like you know them and you can go quite deep into certain topics and share details and challenges. Organically you have that network behind the scenes. In my experience what I found is that as time has passed, people within the industry are now willing to share. The openness and transparency are now there. There has been a culture change with heads of academy, coaches, and sporting directors phoning each other. People are wanting to learn from each other and long may that continue.” Goldie stated.
The benefits of the ASD within multiple departments of a football club are clear to see. As a place where not just Sporting Directors can come together under support, connect and develop, we can see how Academy Managers such as Goldie can take away valuable teachings from industry experts and put this into practice at their respective clubs. This echoes the work and reach of our colleagues at Abex Futebol in Brazil who are providing a pipeline for future Sporting Directors. As the Association continues to expand, members can be excited for the future as more opportunities to support, connect and develop through education and events throughout the year.