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Top of the class Terry seeks honours with the Dons!

Extensive interview with AFC Wimbledon Assistant Manager

3 January 2024

Club News

Top of the class Terry seeks honours with the Dons!

Extensive interview with AFC Wimbledon Assistant Manager

3 January 2024

His time in professional football spans over three decades, but Terry Skiverton still has that burning desire to be successful – and that’s led to another coaching qualification at the age of 48.

Far from resting on his laurels with a wealth of coaching experience behind him, our Assistant Manager recently gained an LMA Diploma in Football Management, as he strives to keep pushing the Dons forward after a highly encouraging 2023/24 campaign so far.

In case you missed the interview in our programme for the Sutton game, Terry talked extensively about the following:

  • The experiences at Yeovil that shaped his coaching career
  • Promotion success at Wembley 10 years ago
  • Why he's so determined to build upon Wimbledon's resurgence
  • His spell working in television - on Sky One series Dream Team
  • Graduating from Liverpool John Moores University

What are your ambitions, as a coach and for Wimbledon?

I never look too far into the future. I’ve got all my coaching qualifications and I’ve just finished my Diploma in Football Management - graduating earlier this month from a course at Liverpool John Moores University. It took a year-and-a-half, focusing on leadership skills and managing high performing teams. Robbie Fowler, Jamie McAllister, Jason Euell and Derek Adams were all on the same course. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the graduation ceremony to throw my gown on!

The course helps you to deal with players, certain situations that you might come against, and the media. It was really pleasing to come though it and I always aim to be the best version of myself. I feel I’m at a club that I really want to fight for – I want to help this club to get promoted. I was at Yeovil for a long time and I’m not someone who likes to jump about. I like a really good project and to leave something behind that will offer a real legacy for the future.

Would you ever want to be a manager again?

No, it doesn’t interest me at all. I think that time has passed me now. I really enjoy supporting managers and I really enjoy supporting the gaffer. I feel there’s nothing wrong with being a very good Assistant Manager. I’ve been a manager – I know what the scars feel like – and I think that helps me to bring a grounded support for the gaffer because I’ve already carried out that role.

What was your toughest time as a coach in football?

There was that spell at the beginning of the Covid crisis when clubs were asked to finish the season off. We were in the play-offs at Yeovil and we had to create a bubble for the squad and staff at the stadium. We would turn up there on a Monday and be there until the Friday, sleeping over every night at the stadium! It was a really tough time because people were away from their families and there was nowhere to go – we were basically trapped at the stadium for three-and-a-half weeks.

Your career has involved keeping Yeovil up against the odds as a manager. Did this type of experience hold you in good stead for difficult times in your career, for example the end of last season when we were struggling to get wins?

When I first took over as manager at Yeovil I’m not sure I was perceived as a long-term appointment, but I ended up staying there for three years. I was player-manager initially, which was too much really because I had no experience at the time. I managed for about 160 games  – my Assistant was Nathan Jones, our first-team coach was Darren Way (now Assistant Manager at Fleetwood), and Ben Roberts (now at Chelsea as Head of Goalkeeping) was Goalkeeper Coach. We had no experience at the time, but everyone involved progressed in their careers. We learned on the job.

The competition was fierce - in League One at the time was Leicester, Southampton, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. We had to keep coming up with ways of winning against the odds. I was very fortunate to be at Yeovil for so long – as a player, Manager and Assistant Manager. The opportunity came up to join Charlton to help the gaffer – and it was one that I jumped at. It was a big step to go from Yeovil to Charlton.

Johnnie and Skivo 16.9.JPG

Was there a previous connection with Johnnie?

I did the prelims for the Pro Coaching Licence with the gaffer, and I knew Lee Bowyer from when he was young, so I had been in phone conversations when the gaffer was there. We graduated from the course together and we had mutual friends as well. The opportunity came up at Wimbledon, so I went and met the gaffer. We clicked straight away – and we haven’t look back since.

Fast forward to this summer and the challenge of revitalising our squad after a difficult end to last season. What stands out as the changes you and Johnnie had to make to take us forward?

The major thing was recruitment, we all knew that. When we first turned up it was a squad full of children – that was literally the case when you looked at our bench. When we were taking on teams with players full of 29 and 30 year olds, they looked at Wimbledon as children, not as young players, and they would treat us that way. That’s why we were conceding late goals, so we had to learn and change that. We felt we did that by bringing in players with experience who knew the league and how to win games at this level. We needed to have that turnaround.

To what extent was patience required to get us winning matches regularly?

We felt last season that everything was good with our training and preparation. If the Club hadn’t felt that, we probably would have gone during that period last season when results were not going to plan. I think people knew that we needed to have a vehicle that we could drive. All of the processes were put in place for the last two and a half months of last season. Though we had to make sure we stayed up, it was also about building towards having a strong start this season.

There was still a big hoodoo surrounding our home form, and all of those old memories kept on coming back. We think we’ve addressed all of that now and we are moving in the right direction, but we have another important transfer window coming up. We have to learn from the mistakes we’ve made in the past and move forward, so that we continue pushing forward.

Does it feel now that you and Johnnie have been able to put your own stamp on it, and this is more of the squad you wanted now?

100 per cent – and I think it looks more like a Wimbledon team. When we came in it didn’t feel like Wimbledon and we’ve changed our style a bit to make sure that we entertain our supporters. We feel we’ve addressed that now, but it hasn’t happened overnight. The gaffer went through some dark times when we suffered late defeats and heartache.

As a management team, how did you deal with that?

It is never easy. People have to realise that it hurts us and it hurts the players. I know some supporters may think, ‘they go home and forget about it’, but we don’t - it sits with you. What you have to do – and the gaffer has been brilliant at this – is to take all the responsibility on your shoulders. The gaffer has always been honest and positive. Sometimes you have to bite down on the gum shield and be ready to go another round. If you give up, you always lose. If you keep going and trying, you will get the chance to turn it around.

It is credit to the board and the supporters here because they’ve stuck by the management team and the squad. Without the support of the board and the fans, we would never have got this going again. It’s been vitally important – with Craig Cope coming in as well – for us to be open and transparent, but also having a few tricks up our sleeves to move the team forward.

Skivo and Omar 16.9.JPG

A real credit to the progress made is that we’ve got one of the best defensive records in the league. How much pride do you take in that?

We do a lot of split group work and I make no bones about it - I do like working with the defenders. It is a team collective though and the gaffer does a lot of work on shape and organisation. Our shape is our strength and even when we went to Chelsea we were hard to break down. We are a strong, powerful team, and we’ve been really good at attacking too. That’s because we’re doing well with our transitions.

It’s been good to put our stamp on the team, but the fans know what we are trying to do and how we are trying to play. I think we have a clear style, Wimbledon has a clear way of playing. The players run, fight, and tackle – they do it for the football club and the manager.  When those things are aligned, it’s really good, and it’s something that the supporters can really get behind.

With six successive wins on home turf, it feels like things are really taking off now and there’s a bit of momentum building. Do you sense that?

It doesn’t happen overnight and people want to see instant success. For us now, it’s a really important window coming up, so that we make sure that we don’t come out of it worse off. That has happened before and we’ve all got to pull in the same direction. We all know where we want to go and I think the best thing about this football club is that everybody - whether that’s staff behind the scenes at the training ground or at the stadium - are pulling in the same direction.

In terms of helping young players to develop, how different does the approach need to be compared to years ago?

With young players coming through these days, you can’t treat them in the same way as years ago. There’s a lot more safeguarding now, which is a good thing, but you can still tell them when they’re playing well and point out when things are not right. You can ask them questions and for us it’s always been about inspiring the players.

We will also collaborate and work with them because we want to empower them so that they go out and play to the best of their abilities. We want talent to thrive, so I will treat Hus in the same way as Browny. We’ve got experienced players here and you have to talk to everyone like human beings. They will know when they’ve done something right or wrong and you’ve got to be able to give them that information. We’re not questioning them as people, we are only ever questioning actions. If you make that clear to them you can still get your point across, without having to scream or shout.

And the FA Youth Cup run – beating Blackburn along the way – certainly reflects well on the work being done by our Academy staff. Has that really impressed you?

Simon Clark, Michael Hamilton and Jack Matthews are all doing fantastic jobs. Whenever we’ve got numbers at first-team training that are a bit over, Jack will go and take them off to do individual work. We are all working together, from the Academy right up until the first-team. Even this season, the gaffer has given a lot of debuts to players coming through the ranks. We’ve got some exciting young talent in the building and exciting young talent already playing. The present is good, but the future is bright as well.

Terry Skiverton.jpg

Why was Wimbledon the right option for you?

An opportunity came up for the interview and the gaffer went for it. It was quite strange that we both went together for the interview process. The Club were looking for the gaffer’s type – an up and coming manager - to come in.

There was a feeling that the Club wanted to get ahead of the curve, so that it could grow together with the manager. Robbo did a fantastic job of bringing the youth through, but he was in a tough division at the time with a lot of young players. It just shows how good a man he is because he still comes to the Club all the time for matches. He’s also gone on to a fantastic job at Chelsea, developing their best young talents – that shows you where his strengths are.

Taking you back to your days as a young footballer, how did you get spotted by Chelsea?

I played for a very famous Sunday League team called Senrab, based in East London. In my age group were other players who went on to become professional footballers including Ade Akinbiyi and Muzzy Izzet. In the year below we had Jermaine Defoe, Ledley King and John Terry.

I played for Senrab from Under-10s right up until Under-14s when I signed schoolboy forms for two years at Chelsea, before I got a six-year professional contract.

What did you learn from your time at Chelsea?

I learned from being around experienced players including Dennis Wise, Vinnie Jones, Tony Cascarino, Andy Townsend and Mick Harford. You couldn’t be a shrinking violet in that environment and you needed to have a bit of personality about you. I didn’t manage to break into the first-team at Chelsea - the closest I came was when I went away with the squad for an away game at Rapid Vienna.

I played all pre-season one year, but it was the crossover point for Chelsea when the likes of Ruud Gullit joined and the club became a bit more international. It was a great upbringing to be around some top professionals, but people from below started coming through as well – players like Micheal Duberry – so that was when my time at Chelsea started to come to an end. I was sent on loan to Sandefjord BK in Norway, and then I went to Wycombe Wanderers on loan before signing for them in the summer. Although I didn’t quite make the grade at Chelsea, I loved my time there and it set me on the right path to become a professional footballer.

What has been the toughest time in your career so far?

When I was let go by Wycombe Wanderers it was the only time that I had really been unemployed - for about a month – and I was having to find myself at the age of 20. I went on trial at Barnet and did well all pre-season, but they didn’t sign me, and I ended up scrambling around looking for a club. I joined Welling United and signed there for a year before I joined Yeovil. I had a lot of success at Yeovil, starting in my first season when we won the FA Trophy and then in my second season we got promoted into the league. I never looked back after that as I worked my way with the team up to League One.

Did that spell with Welling United make you feel that being a professional footballer cannot be taken for granted?

When I was at Welling I went and got a job outside football. I sold faxes, photocopiers and computers – in effect trying to become a salesman. The company was called Icon Solutions and it was based in London Bridge. I worked there for about seven or eight months and I enjoyed that, but then an opportunity arose to join Dream Team, the TV show on Sky One. I was a Choreographer, setting up all the teams, and I was in it as well as the Assistant Manager.

I was involved with matching up scenes – they used Leicester City games – and I would book the actors in. Then I would have to get the actors to make a run, turn, or shoot, basically recreating football situations. I helped get in a man who went onto have a magnificent career – Andy Ansah. He became involved with Street Soccer and Wayne Rooney after starring in Dream Team.

At this stage, did you think you were going to get back into football?

We trained two nights a week at Welling and then four days a week I was in doing the show, so it was a busy time. We did all of the filming down at Millwall and I really enjoyed it, but then a chance came along to join Yeovil. They went full-time under Dave Webb, who was previously at Chelsea, and I was offered the chance to be captain, so I went down the football route again. I really enjoyed my time working on Dream Team, but I had belief that I could still make it as a professional footballer.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Winning the play-off final with Yeovil (as Assistant Manager) at Wembley – beating Brentford – to reach the Championship. As a one-off day, that was one of my favourite experiences in football. People don’t realise what goes into getting promoted, but so far a real highlight is also being at this football club.

I’m starting to feel like a Womble now! I was at Charlton for a short time and it wasn’t long enough to get to know and like a football club, but as staff now – in our second season – we really feel at home. At first we were outsiders, but we feel that the place has really took us in and we love coming into work every day, being at the training ground and coming into the stadium. We love working with all the people involved and we are a lot more inclusive now. It’s about having clarity that we’re all pulling in the same direction to help this fantastic club to progress.

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