Tony Dewhurst talks to former Morecambe stalwart David Artell about coping with the job of managing Crewe Alexandra and how the PFA helped him become a forensic scientist.
No-nonsense defender David Artell was a hugely popular figure at Morecambe.
Artell, who played alongside Morecambe boss Jim Bentley, scored the final goal at their former home Christie Park, before the Shrimps moved to the Globe Arena nine years ago.
Now Artell has emerged as one of the most capable young coaches in the Football League.
He took charge at Crewe Alexandra in January 2017 and last season guided the Railwaymen to the fringes of the League Two play-offs.
Artell, who was all set to pursue a career as a scientist before he was appointed Crewe boss, talks to Tony Dewhurst about the pressures of management and how the Professional Footballers’ Association helped him to plan for life after football.
TD: At the aged of 38, you are a young and relatively inexperienced coach. What advice would you have for a player who wants to be a manager?
DA: I can clearly see why some managers might struggle with the constant demands of the job and the stresses and strains of daily life because it is an all-consuming profession.
Even if you’re going well, there’s big lessons to learn on the job.
If you don’t then football can be a very brutal business.
First, I’d say to any player who wants to become a boss is forget about football. That might sound strange, a contradiction, but the main priority is to understand yourself and to be really secure in your own being. Once you’ve done that, then you can learn about management.
I was at Crewe’s Academy – I had a passion for coaching – and I didn’t have any aspirations to become their manager.
It was a shock when they asked me to take over because I never saw myself as a manager in waiting. But the older I got the more I wanted to help people.
My mum and dad were my rock, the paternal influence that forged a grounding of knowing what was right or wrong.
That’s why some players need guiding because they perhaps weren’t as fortunate as me, having those strong role models growing up.
And if you guide them properly then they will re-pay you tenfold. Does that responsibility weigh heavily on my shoulders? Not really.
It is part and parcel of the job of managing a football club. I left school at 16 and a few days later I was working at Rotherham United, so football has always been my life.
TD: How do you cope with the pressures of being a manager?
DA: I tell my players that pressure is for tyres – and it goes if you want it to. If you want to build pressure in your head, then go and read what every Tom, Dick and Harry is writing about you on social media.
Some people might believe it – I call it the white noise.
Most players work on instinct and what they know.
Arguably, the biggest skill a footballer possesses is intuition. And that is why you have to be entirely honest with yourself and the person you are talking to.
It is not nice, having to tell a footballer that they are not playing or will not receive a fresh contract.
There’s a fine line between discipline and respect and players seeing kindness as a weakness. But never lie or sugar-coat a situation with a player. Of course, you deal with those pressures as best you can, even if outwardly you don’t show it to your family.
You have to be consistent and I’m able to put the pressure in a compartment.
TD: You enjoyed a successful spell at Morecambe, from 2007 to 2010 in League Two. Now your former team-mate Jim Bentley is English football’s longest serving boss and is one of your rivals in League Two.
DA: When you look at the job Jim Bentley has done, he’s pulled up trees for them. He’s a good fit for Morecambe but he has gone unrewarded there.
I’d say Jim was always going to be a manager, you could see it in him, that strong role model figure.
There was none of this, ‘I’m doing it for my own gain.’ That’s not Jim and that’s why he has survived so long because he has a good moral compass.
He’s had success at Morecambe in terms of longevity.
I had a great time at Morecambe. In my second game, I scored at Deepdale when Morecambe knocked Preston out of the League Cup in 2007. Adam Yates knocked in a free-kick, North End’s goalkeeper Wayne Henderson couldn’t hold on to it and I popped up with the winner late on.
Jim Bentley scored the other, a sweet volley, and Andy Carroll, who was on loan from Newcastle United, came on as a substitute for PNE.
Scoring the last goal at Christie Park (against Dagenham and Redbridge in 2010) is something I will always treasure.
I did learn a lot about myself at Morecambe.
As a footballer you don’t look too far ahead because you are living your boyhood dream. If you stare too far into the future, you might scare yourself.
TD: You won several caps for Gibraltar, what was it like facing the then World champions Germany five years ago?
DA: My dad was born in Gibraltar, but I’d never been there. One day I received an e-mail, saying I was eligible to play for Gibraltar.
Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and their first fixture was against Gibraltar, a Euro qualifying tie.
We lined up against Neuer, Gotze, Kruse and Muller - and 50 Gibraltarians sang their national anthem inside a 70,000 capacity stadium in Nuremberg.
Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller turned to me and said, ‘This is your big chance lads.’ We were crying with laughter and he was having a good giggle too. Gibraltar lost 4-0 – but it was probably the best defeat we ever had.
David Artell is qualified to work as a forensic officer was applying for jobs in the forensic science sector when he was doing a bit of part-time coaching at Crewe.
He said: “I’d watch episodes of ‘Diagnosis: Murder’, starring Dick Van Dyke, after training and I thought, ‘That looks like fun, solving a crime’. I was very determined, so I contacted Oshor Williams, the former Preston striker, at the PFA education department.
Oshor had the expertise to advise me about the university science courses available to me via the PFA. I studied very hard for several years, but the PFA were with me all the way, part funding the cost of the fees. I now proudly hold a Bachelors’ Degree in Forensic Biology.”