Jon de Souza was appointed Academy Manager at Colchester United in July 2016, after a coaching career that has taken him from club he joined as a schoolboy, Luton Town, to a coach education role at the Football Association and Brentford FC. PDP spoke to Jon about his career, and discuss the importance of coaching the individual.

Jon de Souza began his footballing journey at Luton Town, signing for the Hatters as an under-14 player. Despite their fairly lowly status, Luton Town are a club with a reputation for producing fine footballers; in the youth team at the same time as Jon were several who would go on to play Premier League football, such as Jerome Thomas, Kevin Foley, Leon Barnett and Curtis Davies. Future England and Republic of Ireland internationals Matty Upson and Gary Doherty were also at the club a couple of years ahead of de Souza.

It gave Jon a feeling that the Premier League wasn’t actually that far away. But although he made it through the ranks to the under-18s, Jon “didn’t quite make it” as a professional. De Souza realized at that time that success, or reaching his dream of the Premier League, would need to be achieved as a coach rather than a player.

“As a player I wasn’t going to be good enough to reach the Premier League,” he says. “But I was seeing coaches who had worked with me and my colleagues and helped develop us, and I wanted the opportunity to work with players at Luton. Luckily enough, the Head of Youth at the time gave me a job.”

And so de Souza’s career in football took a turn into coaching. He began as a part-time coach for the under-9s, before working his way up to Academy Manager while also holding down the roles of under-18s and reserve team manager over the next five years.

Speaking about his break into coaching at Luton, Jon remembers: “When I started coaching I was lucky enough that the Head of Youth at Luton at the time Gregg Broughton, who is now academy manager at Norwich, saw something in me and gave me the under-16 role. What was really valuable to me was he appointed someone called Wayne Turner, who had a lot of experience of first-team football and in academy football, so basically, he mentored me as an under-16 coach. Wayne was a massive massive help and still is a massive help, and I don’t think I would have got to where I’ve got to without working with Wayne.”

“I’ll still speak to him, I’ll have an hour on the phone every couple of weeks and it still blows my mind. It just shows you that people like that, it still keeps you on your toes that you’ve got so much to learn and do to become very, very good.”

A move to Brentford followed in 2011, where he oversaw the under-18s and under-21s at the Championship club in his role as Senior Professional Development Coach and Coach Developer.

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Jon Hoggard
Jon Hoggard
Jon Hoggard is the Assistant Editor at Player Development Project
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