It has been seven years since Gary Bowyer was last coaching at Moor Farm, in that time he has managed teams from League Two all the way up to the Championship – now he is back and looking forward to being a part of Derby County’s high-flying Academy.
The 49-year-old joined the Under-23s’ coaching staff on Friday ahead of their return to Premier League 2 Division 1 action against Manchester City on Saturday following a six-month absence from play due to Covid-19.
Bowyer said he is delighted to be back as Professional Development Phase Coach and looking forward to getting started as he links up with Pat Lyons to replace Craig Short, who departed the club to become Assistant Manager at Oxford United last month.
Moor Farm is where Bowyer began his coaching career, following his retirement from professional football, where he served as an academy coach for six years.
“It has been a while, but I am delighted to be back,” Bowyer told RamsTV.
“I left in 2004 when Moor Farm here was just in its infancy, but it is great to be back and I can’t wait to get started.
“The club has always had a great tradition and history in terms of producing young players. A young Tom Huddlestone made his debut at 16 when I was a youth coach here, right through to the talent we have now in the first team.
“It is something that I have always kept my eye on, and to be part of that again was something I just couldn’t turn down.
“Coming in to work at such a fantastic facility as well and the pathway at this club has been superb and I just want to be part of that again.”
Derby County continues to be a leader in the league for nurturing young talent to progress to the first-team and Bowyer is excited to be a part of that.
Though he says ultimately it is up to the players, playing a part in their success is the biggest joy of his job.
“It is why you do the job,” the former Nottingham Forest defender said.
“The job itself requires a lot commitment, a lot of long hours and dedication and that is the main buzz when you see someone that you have worked with, or known since under-12s and seen them progress throughout the years to make their first-team debut – which is fantastic, but to then to have an established career as well.
“You take great pride in yourself knowing you played a small part, ultimately it is them who step out on that pitch week-in-week-out.”
As Huddlestone went on to have a fantastic playing career, with more that 200 Premier League games sandwiched between his two spells with the Rams, Bowyer went on to have an established career in management too.
After departing Moor Farm in 2004, he moved to Blackburn Rovers where he started out as Under-18s coach and worked up to the reserve team manager before becoming care-taker manager of the first-team during the end of their 2012/13 Championship campaign.
Managerial roles at Blackpool and Bradford City followed. With the Tangerines, the former full-back guided the club back to League One, winning the League Two play-off final in his first season.
He is hoping to use his experience of managing first-team football to give an extra edge to the Rams and a greater insight of what is needed to make the step into senior football.
He added: “I think it gives you a real great insight into what is required at that level.
“I have been fortunate to manage Championship, League One and League Two, so for some of our lads – they won’t all make the Championship, but with my experience at being at different levels, I will be able to pass that on to them.
“Also, to help them and educate them on what a manager is looking for. The manager at the end of the day needs to be able to rely on a player and trust him so to pass on those little hints and tips as well will hopefully continue their development.”
Bowyer will jump straight in to work, with the Under-23s back in action on Saturday when they travel to the City Academy Stadium and he is raring to go.
“A game Saturday at Manchester City, so a nice easy one for me! In all seriousness, it is a great game for the lads to go and test themselves against the real top quality that Manchester City will have,” he said.
“From what I hear, we have some good lads here as well who have not progressed to the first-team yet so it will be really interesting for me to watch the game and see what we do what in store.”