Matthew Shepherd.
Matthew Shepherd.

Development focus attracts W-League coach to vital position

FOOTBALL: Western Pride have appointed former Melbourne Victory W-League coach Matthew Shepherd as the club's new technical director.

An experienced youth coach, Shepherd was previously the inaugural head coach of Victoria's full-time NTC Program. He has held girls and boys development positions with Football NSW and in Canada.

Shepherd joins Pride from Calgary's Ambrose University where he was women's team head coach.

The FFA Pro-licenced coach replaces Gabor Ganczer who left Pride earlier in the year to become State Technical Director at Football Queensland.

Shepherd said he was attracted to Pride due to the club's focus on developing young players and coaches, something he was looking forward to continuing.

"I hope I can encourage our coaches to remain true to the club's philosophy of 'if you are good enough then you are old enough'," Shepherd said.

Shepherd said his main approach to youth coaching was to ensure footballers enjoyed playing.

"I try to create practices that replicate the needs of the modern game in a way that is mentally challenging and engaging,'' he said.

"I also think parents are partners in the player's development."

But one simple piece of advice to all young players underpins Shepherd philosophy.

"Work baby, work" Shepherd said.

Shepherd knows the level of commitment required for young players to reach senior football, having been appointed Melbourne Victory's inaugural W-League coach at the same time he was setting up Victoria's NTC program.

The dual roles allowed Shepherd to assist young players to make the transition from youth football to the W-League.

Future Matildas Stephanie Catley and Brianna Davey were among those who worked under Shepherd during this time.

Shepherd said when he first moved to Victoria there were no full-time training programs for 13 to 17-year-old players.

"(The NTC) came at a great time for young hopefuls like Steph Catley, Brianna Davey and a number of other players who went on to play for Young Matildas squads," he said.

"I was able to create a solid link between youth football and senior football and give young players a chance to shine.''

A similar approach has allowed Western Pride's six-year old youth development program to now regularly provide allow youth players to make the step up to senior football.

Long-term juniors Emma Barnes, Josh Wilson and Salomon Lukonga have become regulars for their senior teams in recent seasons. Wilfred Philip and Ben Barratt made their debuts this year.

Last Saturday Mitchell Hermann became the first of Pride's inaugural U13 boys' team to rise through the ranks and score in a senior fixture for the club.

Shepherd will start at Pride in just over a week while he finalises a permanent move to live in Ipswich.

Shepherd says his immediate focus will be to learn more about the culture of Ipswich, both at club level and in the community.

"I will be looking to get around, meet people and build relationships from day one," Shepherd said.

"No TD can be successful on their own.

"I'll need a lot of help from Pride, the Ipswich football community and FQ if we are going to continue raising the bar at this young but already very successful club.''