When Rob Edwards retired from professional soccer in October 2013, he wasted no time before embarking on the next chapter of his life.
In a career that began at Aston Villa and spanned 14 years, the 38-year-old played for nine clubs, achieved promotion to the Premier League twice and won 15 games for Wales.
But it was a career often interrupted by injuries and, after leaving Barnsley at the end of the 2012/13 season, in addition to the fact that interest from other clubs was less than the next, the former defender chose to hang up his boots at the age. of 30
Having been content with making a life-changing decision, there had to be something significant in the pipeline.
“Soccer is a strange thing. You can have your objectives or goals, but it is difficult to plan your route and your trip,” he explains to Sky sports.
“When I retired, I knew I wanted to pursue the coaching profession. I already had my A license and found myself entering Manchester City and Wolves, working with the U16s. One thing led to another and my first role was as a Sub -18 Coach at Wolves, which was a brilliant first experience.
“In the first year, I rose pretty quickly with the first team and then I had three years at the first team level, working as a coach. I was a coach at Telford in the National League North for a year, then I went back to do the Wolves U23, what I did for a year and a half. I’ve had a good mix of experiences. “
Having made such an impression during his time working in the youth setup at Molineux, and helping the U23s get into the Premier League 2 Division 1, in October 2019 he was hired to work as a coach with England U20s. .
Within a year, he had been appointed head coach of the U16 team, as the gradual progression continued.
“It was a fantastic experience,” he said. “I worked with great people, really good coaches, obviously top-level players and I learned a lot. I felt really privileged to be in that job coaching the U16s and assistant for the U20s.
“Learning from people like Lee Carsley, John McDermott, Keith Downing, Steve Holland and Gareth Southgate himself, of course. I leave a lot of people there, by the way, there are brilliant people there. It was a great experience and one that I will be around forever. grateful.
“I mean I do not claim absolutely any credit for any of those players who do well! They are going to go on and do great things because they are really good players. They are really good hard working people. It’s good for me to say, ‘Oh, Wow, I worked with him, ‘but I have nothing to do with me.
“I probably wasn’t there long enough to have a major effect on any of the players, but I feel privileged to work with some of them, and I’ve probably taken more of those players, either because of their mentality or some of the things that they were doing with the ball or tactically, I probably took more than they took from me. “
As Edwards previously alluded to, due to the uniqueness of the soccer industry and its ever-changing nature, it is seldom possible to follow a detailed plan when building a career.
But Edwards’s work ethic, enthusiasm, and likeability make him an attractive candidate for managerial positions, something Forest Green owner and president Dale Vince clearly saw when looking for Mark Cooper’s long-term successor in summer.
“With England, I was in a really good role and I wouldn’t have gone for nothing,” he says confidently.
“This opportunity was too good for me to turn down. I think the things that I have experienced in my eight years as a coach have helped me and prepared me for this moment. It was something I had always wanted to do.” and it felt like it was the right club at the right time.
“The previous coach had been in the position for about five years, so the fact that he was clearly given time and support was very important to me. I thought there was also a very good base to start with because a good part of the players I had done so well they were still here and signed for this season. I didn’t feel like I would go in and have to start all over again. In League Two, there are often big player turnovers and people can start over every almost year. .
“I felt there was fantastic support from the top throughout the football club. With Dale and Rich Hughes, the football director, there is real support for us; there is a great group of staff and a fantastic group of players. It was a no-brainer for me. “
Support has also come from Steve Cooper, whose journey to top management was similar; He also worked in England’s youth organization between 2014 and 2019, before taking over from Swansea and guiding the club to the championship play-offs in two consecutive seasons.
“His journey definitely offers inspiration to me. In fact, I know Coops, we didn’t cross paths in the FA, but he was someone I talked to a lot when I was going to leave the Wolves and take over in the FA and I still talk to him now.
“When I had my A license, he came and did my course with the FAW (Football Association of Wales), so I started talking to him and got to know him. He’s always been someone I’ve been able to. I ask him different things. He’s a Such a good coach and he has a lot of experience in his training, so I try to dig into his brain quite regularly and have done it this season as well.
“What he’s done is very inspiring for someone like me. It shows that you can do things a certain way and be successful.”
The start to Edwards’ life as Rovers boss has been encouraging. His team ranks atop Sky Bet League Two ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stevenage, having returned to the top after last weekend’s 1-0 win over Northampton.
They won five of their first seven league games and scored 14 goals on the road, while in the Carabao Cup, they beat championship Bristol City on penalties and even took the lead against new Premier League boys Brentford before falling. finally to a 3-1 defeat in West London.
It’s safe to say that you’ve been impressed with what your team has produced so far.
“Starting with four wins in the league, beating Bristol City and then performing the way we did against Brentford was outstanding because the games are strong and fast and we were very consistent in our performances and our performance levels. We couldn’t have done it. he asked for much better.
“Port Vale was probably a bridge too far [a 2-0 defeat on August 28]so we took a little hit, but I think we recovered very well against Northampton in the Papa John’s Trophy and for the 90 minutes we played well.
“We played Cardiff and Swansea in the preseason and we performed very well against both and then we went into that Bristol City game after a good win.” [against Sutton] – full of confidence. We were at home, the fans were brilliant and it was a very good night. We got a draw that we felt we deserved and then winning on penalties was fantastic and ended the night very well.
“Particularly the performance of the first half against Brentford was excellent, it really was. The second half was still very good, but they made some changes, they affected the game and they deserved to win at the end. Both games give you a lot of confidence to be able to act as that way in the face of superior opposition. “
While this is only Forest Green’s fifth season as an EFL club, they have made the play-offs twice in the past three seasons and lost a spot in last season’s finale after a 5 aggregate loss. -4 against Newport.
Edwards deliberates wisely before choosing his words when asked if there was a clear desire to set the record straight upon arrival at the club.
“I want to be careful in saying what our goals are,” he adds cautiously. “Our aim is to try to improve last season. The guys did very well last year, they made it to the play-offs and were unlucky enough not to make it to the final.
“Dale just wants to improve across the board. We just want to improve in all aspects on and off the pitch, and if we’re ready to do something this year, then great, but if we’re not, we’re not.”
Forest Green’s trajectory at EFL is still in its infancy, however, having started to lay the foundation for a positive season and with a bright young manager at the helm, there is a feeling that it won’t be long before the club be cutting your teeth at a higher level.