Ex-Valencia manager and Liverpool coach visits Biggleswade United
PUBLISHED: 09:59 22 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:59 22 February 2017
Biggleswade United's squad were this week the lucky recipients of some words of wisdom from Champions League and La Liga winning assistant manager Pako Ayestaran, writes Richard Thomas.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and Pablo Aimar have all benefited from the tactical and motivational acumen of the 54-year-old, who on Monday visited Second Meadow for a club training session.
The Spaniard was assistant to Rafa Benitez when Valencia won two La Liga titles and also on that memorable night in Istanbul when Liverpool fought back from a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan to draw level before winning the Champions League on penalties.
As a manager in his own right he also led Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv to their first ever treble when they won the league as well as the country’s two cup competitions.
But his passion for the game is not limited to the its top echelon and he is a firm believer in the benefits offered by grassroots football
“It is crucial. It’s not just about the performance, there is a social responsibility,” Ayestaran explained while watching Cristian Colas’ side being put through their paces.
“The players wish to play football. To have these types of clubs, who help them to fulfil their dreams, I think it’s great.
“Maybe one day these guys could be players at a higher level.”
Ayestaran, a friend of United director of football Guillem Balague, praised the job done by Colas and the rest of the Spartan South Midlands League club’s backroom staff.
“The job they are doing is amazing. To get the commitment and to see how determined these players are to perform, I think it is amazing.
“Nowadays, at this level there are many people playing without passion. You can see the passion involved in this team and it is an amazing experience for everybody.
“Guillem asked me to come. I wanted to have this experience which I think is massive for everybody in the community and all the players as well.”
During his address to the United squad, who at the time of writing have won seven of their last eight matches, the Basque drew on the words of legendary basketball coach John Wooden to give what he views as the definition of success.
“For me, following John Wooden’s words, it’s about peace of mind as a result of knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of.
“All of us are responsible for how everything goes. I wanted to make them realise the responsibility they’ve got, they have to share responsibility.”
Balague expressed his gratitude for Ayestaran, who has also managed in Mexico, having taken the time to share ideas and knowledge with United’s coaches.
“It was a fantastic evening for many reasons. Pako had heard of Biggleswade for a while and is instrumental to what has happened here,” he said.
“He loves the amateur side of football. When he sees what is going on here, it is a reminder of why he does his job. He loved sharing time with the coaches.
“All the coaches came back saying they had learned so much. He gave us the whole afternoon and evening and that is the generosity of coaches that you sometimes miss in the elite level.
“It is about woking together, sharing and constantly learning.”