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Mike Kelleher

Filed: Saturday, 12th November 2011

By: Staff Writer

For the latest KUMB.com Q&A, Wes M caught up with Mike Kelleher of the West Ham United International Academy...

Mike was appointed as West Ham United International Academy Partnership Development Manager in 2009. His career in football spans 14 years on both sides of the Atlantic.

He worked for the Premier League for five years where he assisted the Director of Youth in implementing the FAís Academy program, designed to develop elite young soccer players. In 2001 he moved to Miami to work for Sportsio LLC and the United Soccer Leagues and Umbro.

Following four years in West Virginia, which saw Mike undertake a number of roles he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where he studied a Sport Management Masters Degree. He also coaches for FC Alliance in addition to being a Tennessee State Soccer Association Coach Educator.
Mike attended his first game at the Boleyn Ground in 1979 and held a season ticket with his father for 10 years.

KUMB: Mike, thanks for agreeing to talk to us. What are your responsibilities within the Academy?

Mike Kelleher: My responsibilities within the Academy are to oversee the whole of the International Academy which includes the US, Australasia, Mexico and Bermuda. I build relationships with the various clubs that we are linked with and make sure that the Academy caters to their every need and can help them when and where possible.

KUMB: What are your goals for the future of the International Academy and what do you want to achieve ?

MK: The Goals for us within the Academy are to grow international partnerships with clubs and to be able to organise various ID camps in which we are hopeful of being able to take on players within three to five years. Thatís the goal, we want to be able to get an end result and ultimately give kids the chance to make it as a professional footballer and start in one of the best Academyís in the World.

KUMB: Good luck with that Mike, that would be great to see. What areas of the Academy are you looking to upgrade on within the next year?

MK: Well really we believe we have everything in place structurally within the Academy but of course we are always looking to improve on the partnerships that we have formed by listening to their needs and to be of value to our partner clubs whenever possible.

We want to be there for them, to help them, to guide them if they want - but we want to be viewed as somewhere that they can trust and turn to if ever they want or need to. That what weíre always looking to do and the better we get at that, the better it will be for all concerned.

KUMB: That would be very beneficial and doing that would make you a great outlet for a club, no doubt about that. How do you go about addressing that though, and implementing this in the future?

MK: Well I think communication with the partner clubs is key. Again, listening to their needs and [knowing] what they want from us will, in turn, help us get better and be able to be more of a help to them. If we know where we can help and in what kind of areas, that allows me to be able to solve certain problems that we may start seeing, whatever and wherever they might be.

KUMB: Moving on to the players themselves, how do you rate the standard of players within the Academy this year and in the past year? And do you feel any will be able to get to the UK at any time in the foreseeable future? Recently I was told that you took a couple of kids from the 97 in a recent ODP (Olympic Development Program) from North Carolina recently?

MK: Yeah, the standard of player here is very good. Having a presence here gives us a great advantage over lots of other clubs because here, within the US, there is a much bigger pool of players to both work with and ultimately select.

We generally like to run our own ID Camps for players to participate in, they are residential camps down in Georgia where the kids stay for a few days so we can assess them. Itís great fu n for all concerned and the kids really enjoy being part of it all.

With us [West Ham United FC] being a top English club and with an exceptional Academy, itís good grounding for them. We are taking over three groups from the camps in March 2012 which we are very much looking forward to.

KUMB: Thatís fantastic news, it will be good to see how they progress. Mike, with regards to you personally, how did you get into the game itself and how did the opportunity at West Ham arise?

MK: Well initially I took all of the FA coaching courses that I could, that was first and foremost. I then did various summer camps in the US - like so many did back in the '90s. Upon my return to the UK I got a job with the Premier League at Lancaster Gate.

I became familiar with Tony [Carr] and Paul [Heffer] from there and when the chance came up at West Ham I jumped at it. I am a West Ham man, I had a season ticket with my dad for years and West Ham is my club, so it was a no brainer. I donít regret it for a moment.

KUMB: Thatís much like myself with regards to the club, weíve got a lot to thank our Dads for, hey?

MK: [laughs] Yeah possibly... or... [laughs again].

KUMB: Lastly Mike, I wanted to ask you if you had any advice for anyone who is wanting to break into the game/business?

MK: Well, firstly Iíd say that you need to gain as many qualifications as you can possibly get, especially here in the US. Then Iíd say that you should be able to get experience - be it coaching or anything within a club's structure.

Do it, just to be involved. You obviously need luck and you are much more likely to get it being involved in the game than not, thatís for sure.

KUMB: Ok thatís great Mike, thank you. I really appreciate your time this morning, all the best.

MK: No problem, it was a pleasure. Good luck in the future and 'Up the Irons'!