For the second time in his life, Vaughan Ryan didn’t hesitate to answer Wimbledon’s call when the chance came to join our first-team coaching staff.
We recently interviewed Vaughan about his return to Wimbledon – 27 years after he left the club as a player – for the match day programme and for those that missed it on Saturday, it’s reproduced in full below.
After building up his coaching experience with former Wimbledon defender Scott Fitzgerald, who is Millwall’s Academy Director, and former Dons midfielder Ian Hazel at Carshalton, Vaughan was offered an opportunity to be reunited with Wally Downes.
Vaughan said: “It’s what I wanted to do, it’s something that I thought had passed me by in fairness, especially at the level I’ve come in at. I have previous experience of coaching at youth development ages, but this is the type of opportunity that I really wanted. Once Wally sounded me out about it, I couldn’t turn it down. It’s good and I’m enjoying it.
“It’s like I always remembered it: there’s a pecking order and I’m at the bottom! Wally influenced me when I was a 13-year-old kid and he has always influenced me with things in my life. I made my debut with Hodge and he was the one who encouraged me to get back into coaching. I’ve always stayed involved in football. On the outside I’ve always watched football and stayed in touch with past team-mates. I’ve had friends who have been involved in coaching and management, so I’ve always stayed in touch with them, but Hodge was the one who encouraged me. People may say that we are all friends, but that’s nothing new in football. Wally is my Guvnor and Hodge is my Assistant Guvnor! When I’m here I’m here to do work. That was always the same years ago as well.”
Vaughan first joined Wimbledon as a teenager at a time when his signature was courted by bigger clubs. Of course, Dave Bassett was building something special at Wimbledon in the 1980s with a crop of home-grown talents helping the club to a remarkable rise from the old Fourth Division to the top-flight. Bassett’s powers of persuasion were well known, but Vaughan recalled that he didn’t need much convincing.
“I was an England schoolboy international and could have gone elsewhere, but I sat down with Dave Bassett and he said to my Dad ‘if your son is any good he will get in my first-team’. That’s what happened. I wanted to go and play, to be in with a chance of playing first-team football, so that’s why I joined Wimbledon.”
Vaughan’s decision was certainly vindicated as he went onto earn regular first-team football with Wimbledon, his dynamic midfield displays making him a valuable member of the squad.
“I broke my cheekbone three weeks before the 1988 Cup Final in a match against Chelsea,” Vaughan recalled. “My honest thought was ‘we’ll get back here next year.’ As a 19-year-old kid, I honestly thought we would get to Wembley again. I played in the Charity Shield a few months later, but I thought we would get back there in the cup. I fancied us in every game that we played, that was the mentality back then. That’s how we were.
“There’s footage of me walking off with Gouldy and he’s got the cup! I had my head shaved because I’d had the operation, having my face rebuilt. I played a lot of games that season and matches in the run-up to the final. I was involved at Newcastle and against Mansfield. It was a great time to be at Wimbledon.”
Vaughan’s introduction to the Crazy Gang came on an away trip to Bournemouth. It didn’t take long for Vaughan to realise that this was no ordinary group of players and he said that there was a special bond between them that still exists now.
“As a 15-year-old kid I was on the coach to go to Bournemouth. Hodge turned up late, I was sitting in the dressing room, and he came up to me and said ‘are you playing?’ He was late and there was a chance he might get fined, but we won the game and the fine was forgotten about! We travelled back and I was on the coach thinking ‘what the hell is going on?’ My Dad knew that we had won and he asked me what it was like when I got back. I said ‘they are just mad!’ I fitted in all right, I was chirpy, but I knew my place!
“The principles were instilled in me from when I was a kid and they’ve stuck with me all my life. In recent times, especially since the Crazy Gang book was launched, we’ve got together quite a lot. Wally and Hodge are the obvious ones, I work for them, but I’ve stayed in contact with Mick Smith, Paul Fishenden, Andy Clement, Paul Miller. We had a golf day recently with Vinnie, Wisey, Jonny Gannon, Ian Hazel, Simon Tracey, Gayley, Mark Morris. I have been in contact with Harry ever since I was a 15-year-old kid! I’ve stayed in contact with a lot of the former players and that’s a tribute to what we were like.”
Since his playing days ended, Vaughan had always been looking for a full-time opportunity at a football club, but he had to do his coaching badges again in recent years. Vaughan combined that with his day job as a taxi driver. He’s continuing to do that, but after applying for his UEFA A licence qualification again, Vaughan hopes to make big strides in his coaching career.
“To re-sit your coaching badges you have to be involved at a football club. Scott Fitzgerald was someone who I grew up and played with, so he had me in while I was getting re-qualified. That was in 2015. I had coaching badges that were from the 1980s, but I had to do them again. You don’t have to start from level one, but you have to do your UEFA level B again. I went up to do plenty of hours with Hodge when he was at Stoke. I was also involved in working with Ian Hazel at Carshalton Athletic. I worked for 18 months with him.
“I started doing the knowledge in my final season at Orient. I knew I was struggling at Orient as my body was not how I wanted it to be, I started the knowledge in 1997, but I didn’t finish it until 2003. I have had it ever since.
“All I have ever done is watch games and report on matches, Not necessarily scouting, but watching matches for people in the game. There have been people I’ve played with who thought they were going to get managerial jobs and they asked me if I would be interested. I always responded that I definitely would be, but the opportunity just never came about. To progress on the coaching pathway after passing your level B you need to be full-time at a football club. I applied for my A licence for six successive seasons, but I didn’t meet the criteria as I wasn’t involved full-time at a football club. My application has gone in for my A licence and I imagine I will start that in January.”
Though Vaughan has been friends with Wally Downes and Glyn Hodges for a long time, he’s fully aware that results on the pitch for Wimbledon are what matters for everyone involved.
“The manager was always very bright, but he’s wiser now. When I’m at the club he’s gaffer, but away from the club he’s Wally. I’ve always found him to be bright, articulate, and helpful. He will leave you in no doubt of what’s required and what he wants. I’ve no doubt that if he doesn’t think I’m doing it, we will have that conversation.
“I’m working under the gaffer and Hodge, but I’m also working for Robbo with the development side. I will alternate between the two and I assist Robbo when I’m working with the Under-23s. “I do feel a bit old, but that only comes when I’m doing coaching demonstrations! Finlay (Macnab) is an Arsenal fan and as I’ve always supported the Gunners I will say to him about past players and he won’t know who I’m talking about!”
“On match days I assist the gaffer and Hodge. I am getting a great education from both sides of it. From day one I’ve been given the opportunity to take sessions with the first-team. I have that involvement with the players and I’ve had to get to know them. At the moment, it’s going well, but we need a win.
“There has to be a belief that it will turn. What the gaffer has on his side is last season, but we cannot keep harping back to what happened last year. We’ve got to start putting points on the board. There’s no point in us saying ‘we haven’t got what we deserved to get’. We need to now start putting points on the board. That’s what we are all pulling in the same direction to do.
“Talking about a philosophy, it has to be a ‘we’ mentality, in that everyone is in it together. We set-up to win every game and apart from the Sunderland game we’ve always been in with a chance of winning, but now we have to start turning that into points.”
As a young footballer, Vaughan worked with the late Don Howe, a man rightly regarded as a coaching pioneer, and he believes that football hasn’t changed as much as some people often make out.
“I was watching some footage the other day in the analysis room of the Dutch team from the 1970s and the ‘Total Football’. I was looking at the way they pressed the ball, but Don Howe was light years ahead of everyone in his coaching. He instilled in us that we defend as close to the opposition’s goal as possible. I think that’s called a high press now! I don’t think anyone has reinvented the wheel. What I’ve found with players is that the better ones will work out what you are coaching them.”