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Open conversations, players taking responsibility, and getting the pens out: how Gavin Gunning has tackled being in interim charge of Swindon Town

Gavin Gunning has been in interim charge of Swindon Town for two weeks now, so how has the 31-year-old tackled his time in charge. Total Sport’s Joe Acklam spoke to him ahead of the cancelled Stevenage clash.

Gunning was placed in charge of the Swindon team after Scott Lindsey’s departure, despite being just six months into his coaching journey, but has impressed many with his short stint in charge

The Irish former-defender spoke about what he saw as the role of the coach and how he felt players learning to understand the game from themselves was a key part of improving as a player.

He said: “It is about application, you have to give the outline to the picture and they have to get the pens out and fill it in.

“As a coach you can only do so much, you have to have lads who are prepared to listen and take the information on board.

“But in a game you have to adapt and see things with your own eyes, it can’t always be a coach telling you this, because to evolve into a better player and to a higher level that is where you need to get to.

“As a young player if you are going to play at a good standard, at some point you are going to have to start filling the pictures in yourself.

“You are going to have coaches who are really good and will give you nearly everything, but it can’t be one of them where you are always looking to them.

“My son is 12, he is looking to the side for coaches to tell him what to do, but he has to get to a point where he isn’t looking to the coaches.

“He has to see the picture so he can evaluate what is happening in a situation and how he can improve it.

“A lot of the players here have been at top academies, we don’t just pick and choose at random, we have a very good recruitment team who are bringing top calibre young players here.

“They are taking it on board and they are doing a lot better more recently. At the start of the season a lot of the young lads struggled and a lot of them didn’t feature early on, apart from Tom Clayton.

“But I think now they are starting to push their way through past the senior lads, but those senior players have been good for them as well.

“To do it you just need to watch football. Watch football, get to know it and understand the game.

“Watch as much football as you can, practice as much as possible, be the last one to come in from training every day, be the first one out there.

“Any little bit you can get from training, get it. Get as many touches of the ball as you can, because you will develop a lot quicker.”

Gunning has also taken a lot from his own missteps during his playing days, be it his own attitude or parts about his coaches that he wanted to emulate and apsects he wanted to do the opposite of.

He said: “As a kid I was one of the best in England, but  I didn’t have the right attitude, application, and injuries then because of how I lived, that curtailed my career and I finished at 30.

“Realistically, it was my own fault.

“I was unlucky at Birmingham, first game I did my knee really bad, but apart from that I can’t have any excuses, it is your own fault that you haven’t made the most of your career.

“I took a couple of bits from a lot of coaches, but sometimes you learn from the bad experience more than the good ones.

“It is taking the good bits from coaches, using some of that and putting your own spin on it and the bad bits you have to think, ‘I don’t want to go there’.

“As a player, I always thought coaches would never tell you the truth about what they wanted or if you are not playing, the reason for it.

“So what I have tried to do in the last week or two, is to try and explain to boys: why are they not playing, what they can do to improve and get in the team, and just being open and honest.

“It is massively important to be transparent with players these days, especially with a lot of them coming through academies.

“This is what happens if you want to be a top class manager, you have to deal with people and explain the situation to them.

“Why they are not playing? Are they going to impact the game? Is it a game for them?

“It can’t be just, ‘oh, you are not playing blah blah blah’. It has to be constructive, so if you see them as coming on and making an impact in this position then that is fine, but you have to explain it to them.

“You can’t just have them sat there thinking they have been dropped, so just communicate with them. I think communication is key.”

The Republic of Ireland youth international said that he thinks success at League Two level from a coaching perspective requires different things than higher up, but he is enjoying the experience of Swindon to work out how he can improve.

He said: “If you do the small details really well you can be really successful at this level, but in League One and the Championship there is a big difference.

“At this level you can get away with things a little bit, but we don’t want to be that team who are getting away with it and gets a few results.

“You have to look at where they [the opposition] are weak, look at where they are strong, put your strengths into their weaknesses and look to work around their strengths.

“Everything is an experience, you have to take the negatives and the positives and see what you have learned from it.

“You can’t just go into a role and think ‘this is rubbish because of this’, you have to see why, don’t always look for an excuse, look for solutions.

“I want to be a manager at a high level of football, but I am still only 31 and I have a lot of learning to do, but hopefully being here can get me there.”

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