“A good relationship between players enhances the performance of the team as a whole.” – Eric Black
As a young player at Aberdeen, Eric Black was coached by Sir Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox. The move from Aberdeen to FC Metz then introduced him to a very different style of coaching, and these experiences not only influenced him as a player but also as a coach.
Eric signed as a young pro when he left school at the age of 16. He says,
“Playing in the first team at Aberdeen, you developed with the atmosphere around you. I had nothing to compare it with at the time, but looking back, I realise how structured it was. The standard was exceptional, the work ethic was exceptional, and there was massive pressure on the players to perform because someone was always waiting to take your place.”
At the time, Eric wasn’t thinking about coaching, he was only interested in improving his performance as a player but later, as he embarked on a coaching career, he became aware of the subconscious influences, saying,
“I think it rubs off on you. It’s only when you go into coaching you realise the comments made and the things said and done (that I didn’t like) were based on improving me as a man and a football player.”
As for the coaching approach at Aberdeen, Eric says,
“You were forced to take it in and if you survived it, you survived it.. Archie was a winner – he was out to win football matches – and that’s what he (and Alex) drove into us. Some survived it, some didn’t.”
FC Metz Approach
Eric not only survived it, he thrived on it, and moved from Aberdeen to FC Metz, becoming the first British player to play in the French League. Here, he experienced a different coaching approach: “They were more advanced in terms of applying sports science – I remember getting my pulse taken and wondering what that was all about.”
Compared to what he’d known at Aberdeen, this was Eric’s first experience of individual coaching and small group coaching. He found it immensely helpful as a player and it became an approach that stuck with him in his own coaching career. However, benefiting from his time at FC Metz took considerable personal effort:
“It wasn’t easy. Nobody in the dressing room spoke English, the manager didn’t speak English. I made a massive effort to learn French, and it was only then that I became part of the team. I could take part in the banter and socialise with the other players in their homes, and this makes a massive difference when you’re on the field. I don’t think people realise how important the relationship between players is in terms of enhancing the performance of a team as a whole.”
The Ripple of Influence
Experiencing the benefits of a different coaching approach as a player led to Eric taking a greater interest in coaching, but it’s interesting to note that 90 percent of the players he played alongside at Aberdeen went on to work in coaching.
The influences of Sir Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox may have gone unnoticed at the time, but they were subconsciously taken on board and the ripple of that influence continues…
Don MacNaughton has worked for the last 17 years helping professionals in Sport and Business get the most out of their talent.
To listen to the full interview with Eric click here