Interview With John Francis

Evan Seaman talks to Ilkley Town’s new coach John Francis, about his playing days at clubs such as Burnley and what his new role at the club will involve.

You have recently joined Ilkley Town as a coach for the sixth form scholarship at St Mary’s. How pleasing is it to be given this opportunity?

It’s a great opportunity and one that I am really looking forward to. The scholarship is a great programme which I cannot wait to get started on. 

You have previously been a professional footballer at the likes of Burnley and Sheffield United. Are you looking to use this experience to develop young players into first team players at the club?

Yes, one of my main aims is to support the young players to progress into the first team men’s football at some point and gain some valuable experience. Firstly, prioritising for Ilkley town, although some may not be ready for that level straight away so having great contacts with other local clubs is a plus. 

In your playing days you were previously a striker. Will you be specialising in that position, or will you be helping the youngsters out in all positions?

Yes, I support all players on all positions and their specific needs in the game; the part of the job I love is to work with players and look at how we improve their individual learning objectives. But also, there will be players who will have striker’s instincts and will need different levels of support, their movement timing, receiving skills, end product in front of goal and from crosses in the box.

In your time at Burnley, you scored an impressive 36 goals across two stints in the 1990s. Are you hoping to turn Ilkley’s young strikers into prolific goal scorers as well?

Of course, it’s always rewarding to have prolific goal scorers in every team, and I will always be on hand to offer support and share my experience when needed.

How will you be looking to work with Ilkley’s scholarship manager David Cope?

Really looking forward to working with Dave. I’ve known Dave for quite a few years, and it’s great to work alongside a coach with similar beliefs in how the game should be played and the pathway to develop players. 

What are your ambitions with the club?

My ambition is to support all the young players in their understanding and knowledge of the game to support their application. With implementation of a philosophy and ethos, this instills good values.

How much did you know about Ilkley Town before joining the club?

I have close family and friends around Ilkley and surrounding areas. I also know Sam Dexter from my days working at the Leeds United Academy and know the hard work he and his colleagues have already put into the club with the success they have had. So yes, I am familiar with the progression the club has made. I am excited to see how far and what more as a club they can achieve.