INTERVIEW pt1.: Darren Sarll on stepping up to become Stevenage boss Teddy Sheringham’s first team coach

Darren Sarll. Pic: Stevenage FC

Darren Sarll. Pic: Stevenage FC - Credit: Kevin Coleman

Teenager star Ben Kennedy one of Sarll’s successes while in charge of Boro’s academy

Darren Sarll does not like this time of year.

The Comet speaks to the 32-year-old as he’s handing over his role as the head of Stevenage’s Academy following his promotion to first team coach in a new management setup at the club.

“It’s full tilt for 10 months and then you’re expected to just shut down,” Sarll says.

“With players it’s probably easier as they’re physically more drained than mentally.

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“As an academy manager your head’s racing, you’re chasing your tail, and then you’ve just got to stop.

“I’m really bad this time of year, I like working.”

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Sarll is now back working with the first team after a successful period in charge of Boro’s academy for the last three years.

In that time he has seen the quality of players improve and the number of youngsters who have now had first-team involvement over the past couple of seasons is touching on double figures.

Ben Kennedy is the stand-out name, while the club has high hopes for Ryan Johnson, who in May 2014 became the youngest player in the club’s history at the age of 17 and 215 days.

There is also Dale Gorman, like Kennedy a Northern Ireland youth international, and George Casey, both of whom signed professional deals with the club this summer.

It is the progression of players through to the first team on which an academy coach will be judged, and it is clear to see that Boro hold Sarll in high regard.

“I know Phil [Wallace, chairman] wanted me to progress. It’s always been an organisation where people can develop,” he said.

“Teddy [Sheringham], being the new manager, didn’t know me and he had to sign me off in the supportive role which a first team coach is.

“Phil hoped Teddy would want to work with me and I certainly did. We met and we hit it off as we’ve got similar mindsets.

“It was a very comfortable first exchange.”

Sarll added: “The academy has really come on in the last three years, it’s evolved unbelievably and it’s a big operation now.

“What drives this industry is the quality of players you’re working with and the people you’re working with and what we have been able to do is recruit some very good players with great potential.

“They have that mentality to drive them on. Ben Kennedy is driven on by that, he’s not afraid of anyone.

“It’s the same with the others, even those who didn’t get pro deals with the club. They’ve helped to create that environment at the academy.”

Sarll came back to the club in 2012 for a second spell following a previous stint at Boro in the mid-2000s that saw him work in the community department before moving up to the U16s, the Centre of Excellence, the U18s and then reserve team manager during the reign of Peter Taylor.

He has since spent time as head of youth at Brentford and a coach at Rotherham United before returning to the club.

“I came back to the club when Gary Smith was starting his first full season,” Sarll says.

“I had little to do with first team duties and when he was relieved of his duties I had a spell helping [former defender] Mark Roberts in a caretaker role before Graham [Westley] came back.

“I’ve always had a background of working with first team players.

“Fortunately, for the last seven or eight years I’ve watched an unbelievable amount of Championship, League One and League Two football.

“I won League Two as the first team coach at Brentford [in 2008-09] and I’ve got that experience of winning this league.

“My strengths will always be operating on the grass and being a good coach and developing players in the best way possible for the team.”

Sarll added: “I’m a big believer that it is players who define our philosophy.

“Hopefully during the pre-season period the players who will join the club will dictate and showcase the type of football Teddy Sheringham wants to play at Stevenage.”

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