Leaving full-time work to go and study is a daunting prospect for anybody, and Izzy Keighley was no different. But two years after starting her BA (Hons) International Football Business degree, Izzy is living her dream as Head Coach at the Manchester United Foundation. Here, Izzy tells us how she landed the role at her supported club and how her degree is giving her the knowledge to go on and fulfil her career ambitions…

Tell us about your time at Manchester United Foundation so far. In less than two years you’ve gone from Football & Youth Engagement Coach to Head Coach. How did the job come about? 

I started my role as a Football Coach for the Manchester United Foundation in 2019, just as I was starting at UCFB, after seeing a vacancy on their website. In my time there, I’ve worked across Street Reds, Schools and Girls Development programmes, as well as completing both my Level 2 in Coaching Football and starting my UEFA B in Coaching Futsal, ultimately leading to a new role as Head Coach earlier this year.

What’s it like to be working in and around one of the biggest clubs in the world? 

It’s an absolute honour to wear the Manchester United badge, both professionally and as the team I support. At the end of the 20/21 season, I was fortunate enough to spend two days coaching on the pitch at Old Trafford in partnership with the Foundation and Adidas, which hands down has been the highlight of my career so far. If someone told me that one day I would be playing 11-a-side at the Theatre of Dreams, linking up at right back with Wes Brown and going one v one against Dennis Irwin, I wouldn’t have believed you – let alone believe that this is my job!


Some people will ask how your BA (Hons) International Football Business degree transfers across into coaching. Can you tell us about the transferable skills? 

My degree provides more insight into the operations and strategy of clubs, which gives me a more three-dimensional view, for example, understanding budgeting and transfer regulations. It also allows you to be able to identify key stakeholders in any given situation, to assess their goals and needs, as well as how to communicate with them. The knowledge and skills learnt on this degree alongside coaching or management can also ultimately lead into a leadership role such as Director of Football.

You quit a full-time job to study at UCFB and follow your dream to work in football. Are you enjoying the decision you made and your time at UCFB? 

Absolutely! It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I took a huge risk leaving work to study at UCFB, but I realised very quickly that I was now on the right career path for me. I was incredibly pleased to receive the Brendan Flood Scholarship for returning to education, which has afforded me so many opportunities, both financially and academically, that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else.

What advice can you pass on to someone who is looking to study a degree at UCFB? 

If you’re serious about a career in football, just throw yourself into this journey with everything you’ve got and see where the next three years takes you. Football is a rapidly growing industry and new job roles are evolving all the time, so just be open, have a growth mindset and have passion in everything you do.