Middlesbrough’s Academy Manager, Dave Parnaby was recently rewarded for his incredible achievements in developing Boro’s youth system by receiving an Honorary Doctor in Professional Achievement from Teesside University.
Middlesbrough’s Academy was awarded Grade 1 status in 2012 under the new Premier League EPPP rating and so remains a top facility nationally.
Before taking up his position at Middlesbrough, Dave was a teacher at Longfield Comprehensive School in Darlington and coached England under-15 school boys. He has long been recognised and respected as one of the most talented academy heads in English football and it is very fitting that he has now been honoured by the University.
Q: Dave we are standing in front of a wall of those honoured like you at Teesside University. I can see Wilf Mannion, Steve Gibson, George Hardwick, how does it feel that your picture will be alongside them.
DP: To be classed in the same arena as those people is quite humbling really, emotional but I am very, very honoured and delighted to be here.
Q: How many years have you headed Middlesbrough’s Academy?
DP: Sixteen years now Rob. I started in 1998 under the Charter for Quality, when Mr Gibson came and had a chat and Mr Lamb. I have got to give special thanks to Keith, it was Keith who brought me to the club. And another big thanks to Ron Bone who pointed me in the right direction of the club. Ron has been at the club now for 26 years and deserves as much credit if not more than me. I’m the Academy Manager, I’m at the forefront of everything and I get nice days like these. But everyone in the Academy, in the six departments that we have, deserves as much credit as I do.
Q: This is recognition of incredible progress that has been made under you.
DP: Again, I keep repeating myself but the progress we’ve made, I’m at the helm organising but real credit goes to people like Wendy Thomas in administration and operations. Peter Hood has been with us six years in Sports Science and Ron as I say 26 years, the whole of the coaching team which is a big, big coaching team deserve as much credit as I do and I will go on record as thanking them all personally.
Q: What age do you first get kids in?
DP: We have Development Centres now Rob, throughout the region with 6, 7, 8 year olds. But our first Academy team is actually our under 9s. So we run teams from under 9s all the way through to under 21s.
Q: You are looking after the education then as well as player development?
DP: Yes, we have embarked on what we term as the day release programme, where boys come into the club from school on a day to day basis. So 15s and 16s are on a day and a half, 14s and 13s all day Tuesday. And the 11s and 12s come in all day Thursday and up to now it has proved very, very successful. A nice education environment and two nice classrooms. A real credit to Barry Dawson and his team in the education department for providing the environment but also credit to everybody around for looking after the young players that we have.
Q: A phenomenal number of young players have come through to play first team football over the years, this must bring real satisfaction to you and all the staff?
DP: Yes any team that fields academy players, every member of staff throughout the country has a great thrill when a young person coming through the academy steps out on the first team pitch and we are no different, we are thrilled, it is the big talking point. Debuts are special, when they have come all the way through and we get a hint that someone’s going to make their debut. So, that is a really, really special moment for everybody at the academy and it is always the talking point around the building when it happens.
Q: I imagine when one young player makes it that it is a boost for all the other kids right through to the very youngest.
DP: It is. We always use it as a measure. Whoever it is they could be the next one. But as I said earlier it is a long, long process, a very patient process. But the bottom line is that the boys have to have potential first and foremost and then they have to develop that potential with talent. What we call the four corners. The technical, the tactical, physical, psychological and social. All that fits into the jigsaw. And they don’t always fit together sometimes.
(Above Vice Chancellor Graham Henderson left pictured with Dave Parnaby – right)
Fly: Because you are trying to produce rounded..
DP: Yes rounded individuals. There is great satisfaction for everybody as well. So, hopefully when they leave, they leave with lots of humility, respect and honesty. They are our core values running throughout the club.
Q: They were special circumstances but when we fielded that Academy produced side at Fulham it must have been a very proud moment.
DP: Absolutely. I remember driving down with Stephen Pears. We knew it was going to happen the day before the game but we drove and actually got lost in London and so we arrived right on kick off time. Fortunately Mr Gibson was there that day and I always remember him saying John Hall wanted to do it but I’ve done it. All credit to him.
Q: Obviously that was just before reaching a UEFA CUP Final with a team including several players that had come through the Academy.
DP: Yes that was a special day for us as a club and although it was a pity about the result but to achieve what we achieved that year was massive in itself. Hopefully, in the next year we will be sitting in the Premier League if Mr Karanka can run a string of results together and then we maybe on the way. And the league is that wide open anything can happen really.
Q: Aitor Karanka he is someone that as well as working at a top club in Real Madrid he has coached at youth level in Spain.
DP: Yes very much so. He comes from a coaching background, a teaching background. He understands the psychology and the technical levels of young individuals. But at the same time his job is winning football matches. Our job is to produce players to go into that winning environment. It is not an easy task. As I say it is a long journey. His is pretty short term; he has to get results now.
Q: I watched the Under 21s recently in the cup against Everton at Riverside and there looked to be a few useful prospects.
DP: We were disappointed with the performance first half but second half there was a lot of reorganisation by the coaches. Then we were a bit unfortunate not to come out on top.
Q: But we are still in a position where the Academy can produce future talent?
DP: Oh yes without a doubt. If you look at all our age groups there are good players in each age group. It is getting the jigsaw right with all of them Rob, if we can do that we will continue to produce.
Q: The link ups with Atletico Madrid seem an exciting new move for the club.
DP: Yes, it is an educational process that as well. We are developing links, developing ideas, recruitment ideas, technical ideas and player exchange ideas. It will take time. Joe Public won’t see instant rewards for the link because things like that take time to build up relationships. We have to decide what works and doesn’t work and what applies to our programme and what doesn’t. So, there are many, many facets to it all.
Finally, I would just like to take this opportunity of offering condolences to Dave’s son, Stuart and wife Paula on the tragic loss of their baby, just one month short of the full term of the pregnancy.