Few weeks after his appointment, VFC’s new technical director Jonathan Pepper is in Nigeria to work closely with the technical crew in designing and instilling the club’s new direction in player development, playing and coaching philosophy, and overall football structure.
Jonathan who is the first person to occupy the VFC TD role, has about 25 years experience in professional football, and last worked as Burnley’s Academy Director for five years before leaving the English Premier League side last year.
Speaking on Monday, shortly after physically observing the Lions’ training session for the first time at the team’s facility in Uyo, the 49 year-old UEFA A Licensed coach described VFC as an “exciting project”, among other ideas he shared in this chat with VFCTV.
VFCTV Welcome once again to Nigeria. It is your first day at Vandrezzer FC training facility, what are your thoughts?
JP It is a nice and calm place. Nice to see the palm trees in the background, and yeah, it is a great environment to work. A lot of differences back in Europe, but it is a facility that can help develop the players. What we are doing now is to sit down with the coaches and plan what we are doing this week, look at the previous two games and see how we can move forward and build on some of the good work that has been done already, and also look at areas we can improve as a group and team.
VFCTV Now that you are here, enlighten us about your long term mission with Vandrezzer FC?
JP Well, we'll soon take a picture of strategic stuff that will be more long term, to put structures in place on the football side and ensure that the future of Vandrezzer FC is safeguarded and we have a real good foundation to build from below right through to the first team.
That is a longer term strategy and then we'll look at processes in place, how we work, how everyone works within and on the football side. Initially we'll have the first team, and then as the academy grows, we filter down to the Academy. It is about some sort of short term things that we put in place in terms of processes that will last long term and more strategic and opportunities that we are looking at, that we can develop the ground of Vandrezzer and also the football side, and identify real talents in Nigeria.
VFCTV That involves the kind of football we play, like tiki-taka, total football and all that, right?
JP Yes. I am involved in putting a playing philosophy in place that will filter down from the first team right through the different academy groups when the academy starts. So, that's where what we’ve drafted, and at the moment working with the coaches to engage in that process and get some feedback on that. It’s about playing exciting attacking football, dominating possession, creating lots of scoring opportunities, but also being quite tactical defensively. It’s not good being great going forward only, but have an absolute disaster on the defensive side, so we need to get a fine balance and also develop players in those areas. We want good defenders as well as exciting attackers. You know we want that for the fans and as a group, we need to defend well. The coaches are already on with that and then as the academy grows, we'll start developing players with those attributes.
VFCTV What was your perception about Nigeria before coming here, and now that you are here, what’s the difference?
JP We hear lots of things and we have to come and prove it with quite an open mind what Nigeria is about. We in Europe understand that Nigeria has a lot of talents. I was surprised about the number of people in the country. With this amount of people, you got to be able to develop talents that have passion for football. I can’t believe when I came over here how much the Premier League and La Liga are dominant and prominent everywhere, and everyday, the peoples’ language is football. So, there’s passion here and a massive talent pull, and from that we have to try to identify and put them in a structure and environment where they can thrive. It’s about identifying talent and making sure they can realise their potential. Obviously, a lot of players in this country don’t realise their potential because they don’t have the opportunities.
VFCTV What does it say about Vandrezzer FC, a two-year old club in the second division, getting someone with your pedigree, in addition to having a UEFA Pro- licensed coach, a strengthening and conditioning coach from South Africa, plus other innovations?
JP I think the club is forward thinking and wants to challenge the norms in Nigeria. They are innovative and realize that there’s an opportunity to change what's happened in Nigeria over the years. I wouldn't come all the way from England if it was not an exciting project. The president of the club is very passionate about what he does, very passionate about football and change in Nigerian football. The leaders I think want to make a difference in the inconsistencies in Nigerian football and raise the standard for others to follow. Hopefully, we want to constantly challenge the standard and be innovative in what we are doing.
VFCTV We certainly look forward to that collective change, and wish you a successful stay at VFC.
JP I am delighted to be here and positive we’ll have a lot to celebrate soon. Thank you.
Vandrezzer FC..Victorious Together!