This interview originally appeared in Future Sport magazine. Click here to read the 2020 edition.

In June 2017 Paul Simpson led only the second ever England team to World Cup success when his U20 side famously beat Venezuela 1-0 to join a very small but elite list of world beaters. Their success in South Korea that summer was at the height of the greatest summer English youth football has ever experienced, which included an U19 Euros win and then an U17 World Cup win. Following a playing career which included time at Manchester City, Derby County and Blackpool, Simpson took up management roles at the likes of Rochdale and Preston North End before fate led him to taking over at St. George’s Park in 2017. Future Sport caught up with the England U20 manager to find out more about coaching at youth level and shaping the future of English football…

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What would you say to young coaches who want to cut their teeth at youth level?

It’s really important to not have the expectation that you’re going start at the top, because that very rarely happens. You have to be prepared to go and earn your stripes and work your way through the system. I remember my first days in coaching, I was coaching the under eights at Blackburn Rovers, then went to a first team manager’s job where you’re dealing with the same problems but you’re still working with people and learning what makes a person tick. It’s really important to get in and learn the basics of the role, and it’s great to do that with younger players.

How important is it to continue your education when an experienced manager?

The day that you think you know everything is the time to get out because you’re kidding yourself. You can always learn something. I find it fascinating, even now, going round and watching people; sometimes you come away thinking ‘I actually do that quite well’, other times you think you could take something from a session and develop it.

What type of people do you like to surround yourself with to help you do your job?

I think you’ve got to surround yourself with people that are positive, that’s really important, and you don’t need to be afraid of surrounding yourself with people who are better than you. If you can get somebody who is really good at a specific role, then bring them in. The more people who you can learn from and who you can develop with has got to be good for you.

What benefits can a sports psychologist bring to the team?

We have coaches who work on the grass, medical people in recovery, but the mind is such a powerful tool for players and coaches. It can help players and help them deal with issues, not only negative but to deal with the positive too. The game has so many rewards for players that I think they need to be educated on how to deal with that.

Paul Simpson, right, and England U20s winning captain Lewis Cook following the World Cup win in June 2017.

What is your approach to creating the best culture and team spirit?

The way I try to go about it is that I try to place importance on every single person in the group. Whoever they may be, everybody has a really important role to play. One of the things that was a real test for me was when we went out for the World Cup, it was the first time I had a really big group of staff. We had 19 staff with us over the 35 days; that became a big challenge looking after everybody and making sure that they felt involved and had a say. With the players the culture we aim to create and enjoy creating is that they have ownership and are prepared. They need to understand the identity of what it means to be an England player and what value that adds to them as a person and as a player.

How important is it to recognise the specific needs of individual players?

Coaching is about knowing that we’ve got such a wide range of personalities and backgrounds. We are such a diverse country that I think it’s important to understand the culture that people have come from and the life they’re living – one size doesn’t fit all. I remember my first manger job at Rochdale thinking that I’d be able to change people; I learnt very quickly that you can’t change people but you can get the best out of them.

What is the most effective way to communicate with younger players?

Sometimes there has to be a little bit of short, sharp, shock, but young people now don’t react to negative feedback, they react to positive. It’s something that we are really trying to do because in the heat of the battle it’s sometimes difficult to keep a positive mind-set. I want my message to be clear and simple and not overloaded with information. At halftime, when we come in, players have been running around for 45 minutes and they’re not going to be in the state of mind where they can really absorb new information, so we try to do it by keeping it simple.

What has been your favourite moment in football? Surely it was that summer in South Korea?

If I’m honest the best is still sitting here today and being involved in football. Starting as an apprentice at 16 at Manchester City and wanting to get a professional contract, having a playing career to just short of my 40th birthday and then getting into management and working with some fantastic people in some great organisations. I even include the setbacks in that. All of that and my degree – it all led to winning the World Cup. The whole experience of being in football just gives you a buzz every single day.