Dave Reddington: From coaching high-flying Eagles to great Danes

Dave Reddington worked for Crystal Palace in two spells spanning 14 years

Dave Reddington worked for Crystal Palace in two spells spanning 14 years

More and more Danes are taking their seats at the top table of English football.

There’s Head Coach Thomas Frank at Brentford; newcomer Johannes Hoff Thorup (and his assistant Glen Riddersholm) at Norwich City; Technical Director Johan Lange and Head of Insights Frederik Leth at Tottenham; and CEO Rasmus Ankersen at Southampton’s owners Sport Republic.

Dave Reddington is one of the few Englishmen to have moved in the opposite direction, having spent the last three seasons as assistant at Superliga side AGF in Aarhus.

This season AGF reached the Danish Cup final, losing 1-0 to Silkeborg, and finished a creditable fifth in the league. Now Reddington, a protege of Roy Hodgson, is returning home.

“My daughter has been offered a place in a good school in England and for my family this is the right time to return,” Reddington tells TGG. “It's been a brilliant experience, but I wouldn’t want to commute back and forth to see my family.”

"Uwe has been fantastic and is exactly what this club needs at the moment" Dave Reddington

For the last two years, Reddington has worked alongside the former Leeds United, Wigan and Brentford manager Uwe Rosler and will miss the German.

“Uwe has been fantastic and is exactly what this club needs at the moment,” Reddington says. “He works very hard and is demanding of his staff and players. He is a complete blend of German and English - organised and detailed but with passion and a fantastic sense of humour.”

Reddington understands why Danish coaches and executives are in vogue in English football.

“It’s a young league and very competitive,” he explains. “The clubs have to sell, so they bring young players through into the first team, develop them and move them on.

“At AGF, we sold Albert Grønbæk to Bodo-Glimt, Yann Bisseck to Inter Milan and Adam Daghim to Salzburg. The clubs are very strategic in what they do and there’s a very strong work ethic.

“I don’t think there are too many players with that individual ability to go past people here, which makes the game much more tactical, and more and more clubs are looking for this in their coaches.

Mina Cup

“There are only 12 teams in the league, so it’s very intense. It’s competitive and there are a lot of rivalries. Aalborg and Odense are two historic clubs, but they were relegated because they had one bad window or made a few bad decisions.”

The chance to work in Denmark came about when Hodgson, with whom he had worked at Palace for four years, recommended him to AGF Sporting Director Stig Inge Bjørnebye, the former Liverpool and Norway defender.

“When Roy was leaving Palace (in May 2021), Stig called and asked if any of his staff would be interested in coming to AGF. Roy mentioned me straight away, but said he didn’t know if I’d want to make the move. As soon as I spoke to Stig I realised it was a great opportunity and I said yes pretty quickly.”

Reddington has never been afraid to go out his comfort zone to pursue his coaching career. As a player, he was a “lightweight” centre half in non league and moved into coaching at the age of 22.

“I was taking the Under-19s at Stevenage in the day and the U12s at Palace in the evenings,” he remembers. “My parents were concerned, because they didn’t see coaching as a career but, looking back, it was an unbelievable grounding.

“The hours I was doing were crazy, but all the time I was learning the art of coaching. You had to be adaptable, because you didn’t know how many players would turn up for the session, if there would be trialists, if players would be pulling out.

“I really enjoyed it and knew this was where my future lay, because I was a better coach than a player.”

"Roy has invested a lot in us as a family and I take inspiration from his story" Dave Reddington

When Palace seemed at risk of going into administration, Reddington went on to work for Watford’s Academy for four years, under Nick Cox, who is now the Academy Director at Manchester United. Then he returned to Palace as U13s to 16s Lead in July 2013, before being appointed U23s Assistant, first under Gary Issott, who had given him that initial chance with the U12s, and then Richard Shaw.

It was then that he came to the attention of Hodgson and his long-time assistant Ray Lewington.

“Ray and Roy used to come and watch our 23s sessions in the afternoons,” Reddington remembers. “One summer I got a call from (Sporting Director) Dougie Freedman and he said, ‘Roy is going to call you. He wants you to be his first-team coach.”

After many years of working in Academy football, Reddington was now getting his chance to become a senior coach in the Premier League. His “first taste of the environment” was a 10-day pre-season trip to Sweden. This was a relatively gentle introduction, but he still knew it was sink or swim time.

“For a young coach to progress from the Academy to the first team is brilliant, it sends a great message to the other coaches, but you still have to be ready,” he says.

“These guys (the players) are experts and your session has to be foolproof, from the outside in, because if it’s not nailed on the players will know. You can lose the players if you’re uncertain or disorganised. They can see panic.

“I had one week to make my mistakes or else I was in big trouble.”

Reddington will forever be thankful to Hodgson and Lewington for the opportunity and education that they gave him.

“I couldn’t have done it with anyone else really,” he says. “They gave me time to adjust, to feel the environment. And I learnt so much from them.

“Roy has five or six sessions that are his go-tos. He’s very strong on defensive structure and shape but still likes delivering attacking play. Ray will tell you that Roy has mellowed a lot as he’s got older.

“He wouldn’t even do a five-a-side when he was Fulham manager, but that had changed by the time he got to Palace. He’s very strong, doesn’t accept certain things, but has this incredible drive every day.

“To have the energy that he did at his age was incredible, it just shows his love for the game and his dedication. They were the perfect double act really. Ray was very good on the grass and also very good around the lads.

“He taught me a lot of things about my sessions, like the importance of spaces and sizes - one yard makes a big difference to a session. And Ray knew the environment, he had this complete feel for everything. He also had Roy’s back completely and was honest with him all the time, although he knew the right time to tell him.

“It also stuck with me how calm they both were. They didn't peak up and down with the games and remained level headed all the time.”

They had a successful formula, because in Reddington's three seasons as first-team coach Palace finished 12th, 14th and 14th. In his first season they equalled their highest points total in the Premier League (49), which has been matched again this season.

Reddington remains friends with Hodgson and they regularly catch up.

“Roy has invested a lot in us as a family,” he says. “I take inspiration from his story, because he started coaching in schools and put in a lot of hours. Look what he’s achieved, with teams all over Europe - it's incredible.

“We went to watch a game together in Malmo and he was given a standing ovation. He’s still so highly regarded there.”

Reddington also praises Freedman, Palace’s in-demand Sporting Director, who has just signed a new contract with the South London club.

“Dougie has done a fantastic job in terms of recruitment and has a great eye for a player. He wanted us all work hard and made it clear that it’s all about mentality.”

So what does the future hold for the Pro Licence coach?

“I want to support someone in best way I can, as a first-team coach or assistant,” he says. “I love being on the grass and delivering sessions. I’ve experienced the drug of first-team football and it’s been a hell of a ride. I’d never say, ‘I have to be this,’ because that’s not how football works."

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