Former Leeds United and Bradford City academy coach Burchnall heeds own lessons on his journey to the dugout

Former Leeds United and Bradford City academy coach Ian Burchnall is now manager of Ostersunds.
Former Leeds United and Bradford City academy coach Ian Burchnall is now manager of Ostersunds.
0
Have your say

As far as career paths go, moving from the lecture theatre to the football dugout is not the most well-trodden.

But Ian Burchnall revels in such a unique apprenticeship.

Little did he know when he moved to Leeds to attend university that it would one day lead to him working in the world of football management.

Burchnall went from classroom to coaching, combining a role at the university with working at Leeds United’s academy.

This in turn led to him landing an assistant manager’s role to former Whites’ striker Brian Deane in Norway before he left to forge his own managerial career.

Today he is the latest incumbent at Swedish top-flight side Ostersunds, his second full-time management job.

Former Hunslet Club coach Ian Burchnall with former Leeds, Sheffield United and England footballer Brian Deane at Sarpsborg 08 FF

Former Hunslet Club coach Ian Burchnall with former Leeds, Sheffield United and England footballer Brian Deane at Sarpsborg 08 FF

Not bad for someone who is still only 35, an age at which most players are beginning to wind down and think of what chapters await them, in or out of the sport.

His story shows that determination and persistence can sometimes be more beneficial than having a playing career behind you.

When reflecting on his journey so far Burchnall insists the coaching outlook abroad is far more beneficial than the managerial circus that exists back in England.

“More coaches and players are thinking about going abroad now because they can see the benefits about learning elsewhere,” Burchnall told The Yorkshire Post.

Coaching evolves from what you see, read and learn. You watch top-level coaches and see how they operate.

Ian Burchnall

“I think you just get a broader learning experience. It’s crazy back in England how managers are hired and then fired.”

Burchnall, originally from Leicester, began coaching while studying sports science at Leeds Beckett University. Upon graduation he accepted the role of coaching the men’s football team at the University of Leeds – “I went to the dark side,” he quipped.

It was a role that he would enjoy for seven years and one that opened up a gateway to coaching youngsters at Leeds United and Bradford City.

But he looks back on his time at the university as being the catalyst for his transfer to professional football as it gave him valuable contacts, most notably Deane.

Ian Burchnall taking a training session in Norway.

Ian Burchnall taking a training session in Norway.

“Brian came and did some work at the university, doing his badges,” said Burchnall. “Then when he got a job at Sarpsborg in Norway he asked me to go with him as his No 2. It was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot from him about professional football because I had no background in that. It was great for me.”

He quickly got up to speed with the professional game and it was not long before he moved on. Viking, another Norwegian club, came calling and after two years as assistant he was eventually given the top job.

Burchnall’s stint at the helm lasted just under a year and, despite departing due to a number of off-field issues, he says the experience was hugely beneficial.

He said: “Viking was a good chance for me to take a step up at a big club.

“It was a fantastic club with lots of supporters. We had a good start there, but there was some financial problems.

“It reminded me of Leeds United: a really big club that was having problems with money.

“It was a learning curve to be part of that situation and have to manage that.”

Burchnall admits he takes inspiration from plenty of different coaches, but from none more than the current Elland Road chief Marcelo Bielsa.

“You take inspiration from lots of different areas as you go on,” he said. “Coaching evolves from what you see, read and learn. You watch top-level coaches and see how they operate.

“I said as soon as Bielsa joined Leeds that if they keep him there for the whole season then they’ll go back to the Premier League.”

One of Bielsa’s counterparts this season in the Championship is the man who Burchnall replaced at Ostersunds, former York City player Graham Potter.

Potter, who himself had a spell coaching at Leeds Beckett from 2009-11, enjoyed huge success in Sweden as he led the club to three promotions, a Swedish Cup and a memorable run in last season’s Europa League, all of which led to him being appointed manager of Swansea City this summer.

Burchnall’s task is to carry on the good work that came before him.

Despite plenty of upheaval upon his arrival, the club are fifth in the top flight with a third of the season remaining.

In terms of his immediate aims, he wants to build on the club’s recent success, but when it comes to his personal progress he says he is not thinking about following in Potter’s footsteps just yet.

“It’s been a big transition – 18 players and staff have gone since we came in,” he added.

“I’m happy we’ve been able to stabilise.

“It’s a club that is run really well and is in a good position.

“I think I’ve got quite a journey left before I head back to the UK.

“It would be good to get a job in the Premier League or Championship, but there is absolutely no rush for me.”