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A-grade Ryan could follow in Spurs coach’s footsteps

Ryan Moon

WITH the new Spurs assistant manager having learned his football coaching skills at the University of South Wales (USW), a former Newport County academy player could well be ready to follow in his footsteps.

Joao Sacramento was named Jose Mourinho’s number two when the ‘special one’ took the reins at Tottenham Hostspur last month, and Ryan Moon, 24, could one day pursue a similar route.

After being rejected as a player by Newport County’s academy, Ryan –  a masters student on the advanced performance football coaching course at USW and who works with the Bristol Rovers academy – has recently become Wales’ youngest UEFA A licence coach.

Ryan’s achievement has been one long in the making, and followed some early disappointment. He had the ambitions of reaching the professional level as a player, but his career ended up taking an alternative route.

Spending the early days of his career in Newport’s academy, Moon looked to force a way into the Exiles’ first-team. Despite his talent, he was released from the club when he was 18, leaving him with self-doubts about whether a career in football was for him.

But it was a trip across the Atlantic that reignited his love for the game.

“When I got released from Newport, I wanted a fresh start,” says Moon. “I was there for five years as a player from the under-13s to under-18s. In the same way as everyone footballer when you turn 15 or 16, you want to get a scholarship and become a professional.

“But when you get to 17 or 18 and it isn’t working out, it’s tough to take and you start to think ‘what am I going to do next?’. When I got released, I questioned whether I loved football that much.

“I went to New York on a scholarship to go and play out there. It was the best thing I ever did because I got away from Wales and it gave me that life experience.

“I got to re-evaluate everything; what was important to me and what I wanted to do. That was when I started coaching.”

After returning from a two-year stint playing in the States, he was ready for university life.

Moon began volunteering for Merthyr Town, looking to build up experience of coaching young players. And he was thrown in at the deep-end after a coach failed to turn-up for his first training session with one of the age-grade sides.

“I was living in Crickhowell at the time,” he says. “The biggest local club was Merthyr Town, so I spoke to a few people I knew from there.

“I went up and they were playing Swansea City Under-23s in a pre-season friendly. I asked about the opportunities and the coach said to just turn up the following week.

“I turned up for the first day and the coach of the age group I was supposed to be working with didn’t turn up. I was told to just get on with it and that was my first lesson of whether I could adapt and survive in the real world.

“After that, I was hooked. I would go home and think about it. I used to teach them what I used to learn as a player. It was interesting and I learned a lot.”

Moon spent two years with the Martyrs before an opportunity arose with Swansea City, which he didn’t hesitate to grab with both hands. It was, he admits, his first big step into coaching.

“Swansea City were looking to expand their development centres and they created a pathway with Merthyr,” he said.

“They cherry-picked a couple of coaches to go with them and while that was happening, I was doing my UEFA B Licence as well at the FAW Trust. I started thinking ‘this is what I want to do’.”

Moon made the transition to USW ahead of his second year in higher education, studying for an undergraduate degree in football coaching and performance. He is now an hourly-paid lecturer at the university and is responsible for delivering content to budding coaches.

Moon was also appointed as a coach of the university’s first-team side last season, helping them on their way to a league and cup double.

It was another proud moment in a year which also saw him become one of Wales’ youngest UEFA A Licence coaches.

“I came into a structured university environment where I was talking about football every day,” Moon adds.

“A lot of the people I have worked closely with have been through the FAW Trust pathway and they understand what it’s like.

“I was lucky enough to work with the university’s first team last season and we won everything that we could. And by going to lectures, I started picking up on little things. I thought ‘I could use that in this way’ and then I would go and try it on the pitch.

“Even now I go and read things which will make me a better coach because you want to be the best that you can be. My ambition is to go right to the top.”

Paul Rainer, Head of Sport Coaching at USW, said that Ryan’s achievements are incredible for someone so young.

“He’s demonstrated exceptional coaching ability during his academic studies and, as a result, has secured a number of high-quality coaching roles where has gained experience to allow him to develop his coaching knowledge,” Paul said.

“Ryan’s also keen to pass on his knowledge whenever he can, and provides mentoring and support to staff and undergraduate students during coaching lectures.

“It’s great that the support he gets from USW Football Coaching staff have given him the guidance needed to help him work towards his ambition of coaching at the highest level.”