Asian Football European Football Interviews

The Rory Winters Story Part 3: Shaping Minds and Careers

Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already!

In the second part of this three-part article, we shared how Rory experienced a revelation. Football may have been his first love, but coaching had been his calling in life. Guiding and nurturing others came naturally to Rory, who was extremely passionate about this new line of work.

“When I coached that school team, I found more joy in than I ever did play. And that includes playing for England [u-19s], which every footballer would say is one of their proudest moments – to have represented the country.  [Playing] pales in comparison to coaching.  You know, making decisions and looking tactically at the game. It was school football, but it was serious.

“We got into national competitions. One of the more serious opponents we faced was Norwich City’s academy, whom Darren Eadie managed. Eadie played in the Premiership with Norwich for years, and I collected him in my football sticker books. Now, I’m playing against his side and we’re beating him; tactically, I’m outwitting him.”

Image Credits: Rory Winters

This period instilled the belief in Rory that he had what it takes to coach, and it motivated him to chase this newfound goal. Yet, coaching had not been the only commitment he was engaged with. Rory was juggling between coaching the school team, teaching as a PE teacher and playing for Rushden and Diamonds when an opportunity in Singapore came knocking.

Singapore

“So, my best friend, Dan Gregson, from the masters degree, came over to Singapore and took a chance here with this company here. [Dan] came to Singapore on the back of our Rugby contacts during our Masters and he told me to come over and give it a try. [I remember looking at his socials] and I saw him in Bali, and then he’d be in Malaysia, and then he’d be in Singapore next. I was like, wow. I was looking at Northampton; the job was good, but I was 25-26 [years old]. There was more to life than that. So, I came over and I’ve been here for three years.”

Singapore became an avenue for Rory to really explore himself, and he unrestrained the shackles a tad bit.

“I was always so driven and disciplined that I missed out on years of experimenting and messing around and making mistakes. I couldn’t afford that as a footballer, even in a semi-pro level. The teams I played with are so driven that I couldn’t let off. I had to remain disciplined to keep my place in the team. I wasn’t a maverick like Gascoigne. So, when I got to Singapore, I saw it as an opportunity to really spread my wings a bit and find enjoyment in life again. I knew football was done.”

Rory thought so after giving it one last shot at a professional career in Singapore. Sometime in mid-2018, the former Preston centre-back tried his luck signing with Tampines. While he secured a trial with the club, it wasn’t meant to be for the former Preston player. Jürgen Raab, the manager at the time, did not want to sign him because of his physical play style but told the player to return in December for another shot with the Stags.

Rory declined the opportunity, opting instead to continue working for Ufit and progressively deviated away from the prospect of playing as a professional player. Instead, he used the December period to return to England to visit his family.

Yet, while you can take the football away from the man, you can never take his love for the game away. Rory had been following local football for some time now when he realized he could play a part in its development.

Image Credits: Rory Winters

Edge Of The Box

Rory founded Edge Of The Box with the aim to improve both the physical and mental aspects of Singaporean footballers. Hearing what Rory has to offer, I was blown away by what the lad offers the professional football players (both men and women). Besides providing a comprehensive conditioning programme that is really tailored towards footballers, Rory focuses a lot on the mental coaching aspect of the game that is significantly lacking in the local scene.

Image Credits: Rory Winters

It is easy for someone to say that footballers need to be mentally disciplined, but Rory actually guides footballers on how to achieve this. Besides that, I found it rather intriguing that he organizes Zoom sessions with his players and invites former professionals who have played in top divisions in Europe and around the world.

Rory also pushes his athletes to the max. Some time ago, I was invited to come and watch one of his training exercises, and man really motivates his players to push themselves to the limit without overstraining or injuring themselves. Players like Harhys and Ryhan Stewart have been training with Edge of the Box for some time now. The Stewart brothers have been a constant presence in the Young Lions team and seem to never run out of gas in the tank. Training with Rory has undoubtedly improved their game. I mean, Harhys has featured twice so far in my SPL Team of the Week selection, and I will maintain this yet again; the Young Lions look more stable when Harhys is in the team.

Image Credits: Rory Winters

I sincerely wish to see Edge Of The Box grow in Singapore because Rory’s initiatives are truly addressing pain points that have long plagued the league and Singapore football. We need more people like Rory in the league because it will only improve the standards. And before you go on about this man’s lack of qualifications, I’m going to stop you right there. Rory has a BSc in Sport & Exercise Science, an MSc Coaching Science, and a ‘UEFA B’ Coaching License. He is also a fully qualified Physical Education Teacher (UK PGCE) and a Level 3 Personal Trainer. He is a walking library of certificates.

I truly believe in Goal 2034. The FAS has tried and tested so many systems in the past, but have they been successful?. It is time for fresh new ideas to be injected into the system, and we need people just like Rory leading the charge?

To end off, let me share an exciting experience that Rory had in Singapore. I say interesting because, as a United fan, I am not envious of this. I will still admit it is cool.

EPL Masters

Rory had the chance to rub shoulders with some of Liverpool’s finest and even turned out for the club during the EPL Masters in 2017. How did he pull it off?

Well, Rory was helping the physios out but since he himself wasn’t a physio, he didn’t have much to do in the changing room. Jason McAteer goes up to Rory and thinking that he was a physio, jokes “you’re going to be busy today, you.”

When McAteer found out that Rory was not a physio and in fact a former professional footballer, he couldn’t believe his luck. The Liverpool legends team were short on players and given their old age, they asked him to turn out for the reds.

Image provided by Rory Winters

Rory had brought his boots along and the rest was history. He came on for Luis Garcia and it was one match he won’t forget.

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