With just over a quarter of the season already completed, we sat down to chat with Assistant Manager Billy Rowley to find out more about his background, why he enjoys coaching and his outlook on football.
Tom Bradbury: Hi Bill. Great to talk to you in this very positive moment for the Swans. But first, let’s talk a bit about you. What’s your background, both in football and life in general?
Billy Rowley: I was a local kid, grew up in Molesey. I spent my youth playing for Molesey, Surrey district and then some time at Fulham FC as a school boy. I then went on to sign for Walton Casuals at 16. Being a poor man’s John Stones and not fully enjoying the playing styles into my late teens, I had to opportunity to move to New York to coach and play. Sadly I tore the dreaded ACL early into that and then fully fell in love with coaching.
Eventually I returned to England to then work for Chelsea, Fulham and Millwall within the academy. This gave me the opportunity to work with some really talented young players over the years. I have a huge passion for helping players on their journey in football and stay connected to them. For example, Harry Pointing and Jacob Munting were in my U12’s group at Millwall in 2013 for instance.
TB: By the sounds of it you would’ve been more appreciated these days as a ball-playing centre half! Of course, now you find yourself working alongside Scott at the Swans. What has your role been at the club since coming in with him in April 2020?
BR: My role is officially “Assistant Manager/1st Team Coach”. As mentioned above my primary job over the past 15 years has been coaching, so that’s where I’m most comfortable and happy.
I feel the balance between Scott and I is really good. He’s very much a great communicator between players/owners and I’m left to plan training and go over match footage. Then we’ll meet up and discuss what we think moving forward.
TB: It sounds like you two have a great thing going. In terms of training, can you give us an insight into your methods and ideals?
BR: That’ll be hard to answer in a paragraph, but I’ll try. The ideals are pretty simple; to control the game and opposition with the ball, having awareness or where the space and advantages are (numerical, positional and qualitative). The way we want the players to play has its ‘risks’ – particularly in build up – but we always feel with the correct messages, shapes and courage, the rewards outweigh the risks. Linking that with how we train, very rarely is there wasted time in what we do.
Even from a rondo we plan towards a small sided game – it’ll always be linked back to player or team needs. I have a firm belief that if you create the right training sessions for the players, you don’t need to bark as much on the sideline on a Saturday. If it gets to “lights, camera, action” moment and they don’t know their lines… horror show.
TB: You can definitely see that philosophy on the pitch with how Walton have played over the last two seasons. At times, it has been mesmeric. How do you incorporate the younger players into the playing style?
BR: This is a good question. Firstly I will always tell a young player to be themselves on the pitch and within training. It’s important to encourage them to do what they originally did to merit their inclusion in the team. We don’t try to change who they are or what they can do.
What we want them to realise is they don’t need to produce a viral Instagram clip every time they touch the ball. Sometimes they just need some time to learn men’s football. The speed and size of players naturally means you need to probably take less touches and be highly aware of your surroundings. Once they’ve been around the players and staff for a while, built some rapport, then we’ll start adding some detail into their game.
TB: It must be very satisfying to see a player visibly develop from your coaching. Was there a particular moment where you saw work on the training ground transfer well to on the pitch?
BR: Yes, this happens almost every game. What we’ve been trying to work on in recent months is just learning how to play out against different shapes. For example, how you build against a 4-3-3 is different to when playing against a 3-5-2.
When you see the penny drop in certain situations on the pitch it’s a great feeling, often Scott and I will high five a pass that’s got us out of our half more than a goal we’ve scored. So to answer that – yes! We’ve scored multiple goals now in which Liam has attracted the opposition really well with Max, Joe and Reece, then 6 passes later the ball’s in the opposition’s net. Love it so much.
TB: It’s so fascinating to hear that insight as obviously most people would not have noticed these specific patterns of play that you and Scott have worked on. In terms of outlook for the season as it progresses, how do you feel about the Swans’ chances in the league and FA Vase this year?
BR: I’m really happy with the league form. If that continues then I can’t see anyone stopping us. In regards to the FA Vase, it’s a tough one. Often the draw wins the cup and let’s just hope that’s kind to us. Hopefully we play at away grounds that suit our style. With the way we’re playing though, you wouldn’t bet against us.
TB: There’s certainly a lot to be hopeful about. On a more personal note – how do you enjoy spending your time away from football?
BR: I’m big into music, having learnt how to DJ at around 13 years old. I’ve actually played on a couple of the party islands, some radio stations, and I’ve just started at some local bars. So maybe see you out there!
I also don’t mind a computer game. I’ve actually got a trial for Reece Brewster’s/Will Kouadio’s Pro Club team on FIFA next week. I’m fully expecting the arm band gents!
TB: And our last question for you, Bill – have you got a message for the Swans supporters?
BR: We value the fans so much. We actually look across the pitch each game and genuinely hope it’s more than the last one. We want the club to grow on and off the pitch, and it gives us encouragement that we are putting value for money on the pitch. Our aim is to entertain people.
TB: Thanks for your time, Bill. All the best for the rest of the season!