Manning helped nurture the likes of Wickham, Dozzell and Downes at Ipswich... now he's heading for the bright lights of New York City
PUBLISHED: 17:00 24 April 2019
Liam Manning is a former Ipswich Town youth team player and academy coach who is heading for New York City FC via West Ham United. Andy Warren spoke to him ahead of his big move.
Just 12 years ago, Liam Manning was spending wet and windy Friday nights coaching primary school children at Ipswich Town's development centre in Lowestoft. Now he's heading for the bright lights of New York City.
The former Ipswich youngster, who went on to become a leading academy coach at Playford Road before moving on to West Ham, has been appointed director of coaching at MLS side New York City FC's academy and will start his new role in the Big Apple at the end of the Premier League 2 season.
Coaching is a vocation that, by his own admission, the 33-year-old stumbled into following his release from Portman Road but it's one he's excelled in.
He worked his way up at Ipswich, starting with an Under 13 group which included Connor Wickham before working with the likes of Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and Luke Woolfenden as they moved through the system.
He caught the eye of the West Ham management, where he's worked with the likes of Declan Rice, Reece Oxford and Grady Diangana since 2015, and will now be charged with developing the young talent in New York as they bid to become one of the leading lights in the MLS.
But he wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the support he's received from his boyhood club, Ipswich.
“I was saying to my wife the other day just how mad it is to think how much has changed in just 12 years or so,” Manning said.
“If you told me then, on wet and windy nights in Lowestoft, that I would be heading to New York then I wouldn't have believed you. But it's really exciting.
“Ipswich have to take a lot of credit for everything that I've managed to do because they gave me my start and they look after their own.
“You just have to look at the academy now with Kieron (Dyer), Hoggy (Chris Hogg) and Nashy (Gerard Nash) all back coaching there. That's great for the club.
“Ipswich develop good people and that's something that's really important to Bryan (Klug) there and it's something I've taken on as part of everything I've done since I left and something which attracted me to this opportunity in New York, too.
“That's one of the things Claudio Reyna (New York City's director of football operations) made clear to me when I was speaking to them about this role – that they want to develop good people.
“I can't wait to get started.”
Manning will be joining one of the biggest operations in world football, given New York City are part of the City Group.
The group have stakes in seven clubs, led by Premier League champions Manchester City and also including sides in Spain (Girona), Australia (Melbourne City) and Japan (Yokohama F.Marinos)
“It's an exciting opportunity,” Manning said.
“Obviously the City Group is spread all around the world in seven clubs and, while there's an element of sharing knowledge they are very keen to make sure all of the clubs retain their own individual identities.
“The MLS has grown hugely in recent years and it's not just a league where they try to bring in players in their late 30s to see out their careers anymore.
“They are trying to recruit players in their prime and bring through youngsters as well, which is obviously a big part of what I'm going to be doing.”
Manning is preparing to move his life 3,500 across the Atlantic but he will still be keeping a firm eye on events at Portman Road, not least because so many of his former players will be part of the club's bid to win promotion from League One at the first time of asking.
“Watching young players progress and break through is the kind of thing that keeps you going in this job,” he said.
“It's long, unsociable hours at times and you're not paid huge amounts, but you do it for the moments where you see young players break through.
“It's been great watching those young Ipswich players. I still follow them and I went to Northern Ireland to watch Andre Dozzell's England debut.
“They have a great opportunity to play and that's big for them. They are good players who have played at international level so there's clearly a lot of ability there. They will be well supported, too.
“You look at Southampton when they went down, they gave young players (including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana) and look how well they did.
“I'll certainly be keeping an eye on how they're getting on.”
MANNING'S CAREER PATH
– Manning was with Ipswich Town between the ages of 13-19 before being released at the end of the 2004/05 season without making a first-team appearance.
– Following his release he spent 10 months in Iceland, playing for Selfoss, where his passion for coaching developed.
– Despite having the option to stay in Iceland for another season, Manning returned to Suffolk and played for Leiston under the management of former Ipswich Town player Jason Dozzell.
– Former Ipswich academy chief Tony Humes brought Manning back to the club during this period, working as a part-time coach alongside new general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill.
– His first group was the Under 13s – a squad including current Crystal Palace striker Connor Wickham.
– Alongside his work at Ipswich, Manning had a brief stint as manager of SIL side Melton St Audry's and also worked at Combs Middle School alongside O'Neill.
– Manning eventually became the Blues' Under 16s coach, working with the likes Andre Dozzell, Luke Woolfenden, Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam.
– West Ham, after tracking him for some time, recruited Manning to be their assistant academy manager in December 2015. He went on to manage the club's Under 23 team.
– Following an approach, Manning has become director of coaching at New York City FC.