ERIC Ramsay has reflected on whirlwind few years which has seen emerge among the leading up and coming football coaches in the English game.

In an interview freelance journalist Jonny Drury, the boy from the Welsh borders looked back on his journey from Llanfyllin High School to assistant coach of English Premier League side Chelsea's under 23 squad.

It was a journey which, like so many young people, had begun with dreams of being a professional football player.

Instead he heard the call of coaching and over the past decade has continued to climb the ranks and, through his role at Stamford Bridge, shape the careers of some of the top talent in Europe.

He said: "I do feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had in what has been a relatively short coaching career so far and proud of the fact that I’ve been able to take them.

“It’s a really difficult industry to thrive in – particularly as a non ex-professional player- and I sincerely hope that I can continue to do what I love doing for many years to come.”

In his younger days, Ramsay was involved with a number of professional clubs at academy level, and featured at youth level for Oswestry based TNS.

During his time at Park Hall he was bit by the coaching bug

He said: “I was involved with a few professional clubs as an academy player and then, whilst a player in the youth team at TNS, my local club in the Welsh Premier League, I started to take coaching more seriously.

“I spent a year with the first team at TNS and on loan to another Welsh Premier League side at that time, Welshpool Town and worked as an academy coach.

“I had the option to stay at TNS as a full-time player but I had my heart set on going to university in Loughborough and continuing to combine playing at a reasonable level, coaching and studying.

“I was well-aware that I was never going to reach the level that I might have liked to have done as a player and I felt like I’d found my passion with coaching and player development.”

It was at Loughborough he took on his first coaching role and upon graduation he entered the world of professional football at Swansea City.

Ramsay said: “I worked with the U18s and U23s over three and a half years during the club’s high point in recent history.

"The first team were more than competitive in the Premier League and the academy was making the transition to Category One.

“My role as coach with the then U21s came at a point when I had only just turned 23 and I had to learn quickly. We worked closely alongside the first team and it was my first experience of working with professional players.

“It was a phenomenal first role in coaching and it’s great to see so many of the academy players from that era playing important roles for Swansea, Wales and other clubs at the moment.”

Ramsay's next port of call was one all too familiar as he joined the coaching staff of Shrewsbury Town, the club he had supported as a child, as under 18s manager.

His spell with the Salopians also included a spell of running the first team.

Ramsay said: “A little while down the line, unexpectedly, Danny Coyne and I were put in charge of the first team.

“It was my first exposure to an environment where points – and league status – were all important and, fortunately, things went our way.

“I loved the intensity and pressure of working in the build-up to games at at first team level and that continued into my time working alongside Sam Ricketts for the remainder of that season.”

Ramsay had been happy at Shrewsbury but the call of the big city and Chelsea proved irresistable and made the move 12 months ago.

Ramsay said: “When the opportunity arose to join Chelsea and work with the U23s, as much as I was loathed to leave Shrewsbury, it wasn’t one to turn down.

“The club has an exceptional player development system – arguably one of the best in the world – and is the most successful club at UEFA Youth Champions League level.

"I knew I’d have the chance to work with potentially world class players, coach in a European competition and work alongside some top-level staff.

“Our side was unbeaten in the Premier League Two last year, we produced some standout performances against Ajax in the UEFA Youth League – a European giant in player production – and two of the group have made their mark in the Premier League. I’m sure all of the staff involved would look back on the season with real pride.”

Ramsay's role has been made all the more significant after the club's transfer embargo which led to more youngsters making the step up.

He said: “In hindsight, it was the perfect time to join the club because as the season has panned out it has become clear that the integration between the first team and academy is gold standard. There is a lot of movement of players between the groups.

“The first team staff – many of whom have previously worked in the academy – are real advocates of the club’s player development pathway and that has been in evidence with the crucial role Academy graduates have played at first team level.

“It’s a real motivating force to know that you are working every day to try and contribute to that pathway’s continued success and the strong connection between the academy and first team is essential in that.”

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