Mick Leslie – A Coaching Journey

From Nottinghamshire non-league football to the sun-kissed pitches of Australia, Michael Leslie has travelled the globe in pursuit of his footballing dreams.

Despite international recognition, the 35-year-old’s heart has remained in the East Midlands.

As a Youth Development Coach at Nottingham Forest, he has come full circle, including returning to the place his career began – Notts County.

Now, a second-floor office at Park Vale School in Top Valley, Nottingham might not be where you would expect a distinguished sporting story to be told, but this is where Leslie invited me in to relive his football career. He explained: “I’ve always managed work and football in the non-league game and still, when I’m progressing into academies.

“I currently work full-time for the Redhill Academy Trust and I manage a provision for children who have been suspended from school. It’s hard to get that work-life balance, but it’s great.”

The Notts County Academy ‘Centre of Excellence’ was the first stop on Leslie’s football journey in July 2004, he explained: “I did a scholarship at Notts County and that then allowed me to move to play in Australia.”

Leslie would return to the club as an academy coach 19 years later in what was a career orbit, he revealed: “As it turned out, Kevin Gee who was my actual academy coach when I was coming through; I was actually coaching and working with him so that was brilliant.

“Just being around the building brought back so many memories.”

A product of the Notts County Academy, Leslie made the journey to Australia in the Spring of 2007. His new chapter was a contrast to his East Midlands upbringing as he recalled: “I found things massively different, here you jump on a bus and you’re there for an away game, whereas we would be flying to away games and staying in hotels which was an amazing experience.

“They have different processes in place but there’s no right or wrong way to play, coach and educate yourself in football.”

Continuing his football journey with Springvale White Eagles in Melbourne, Leslie then moved to Ballarat City in Victoria where he began to coach alongside his playing career and stayed from 2008-2012 honing his skills.

Having coached the Under-19s and ladies team at the club he eventually progressed to be the first team manager. Reflecting on his time in Victoria, he realised the lasting impact of his role, stating: “Even now in my practice, I go back to some of the things I’ve implemented and in doing so I take bits from what I learnt there.”

Returning to the UK, there was only one place for Leslie to reside; Nottingham. Leslie returned to his hometown as a player-manager for Ruddington in the Nottinghamshire Senior League (step 7).

Leslie (left) with Steve Chettle at Basford United.

This humble start to non-league life allowed him to progress to become the manager of Nottingham Forest Ladies and eventually land a coaching job at Basford United in the Northern Premier League (step 3). He reflected: “I was at Basford United for five or six years and that went really well.”

Joining as a first team coach, he then became assistant manager, working alongside former Nottingham Forest captain Steve Chettle: “I’ve worked with lots of experienced ex-pros and I think we did really well. We had some really successful seasons.

“If you look at some of the players we had, I think they used that experience and progressed. We had Tyrese Sinclair (Rochdale) and he’s now doing well.

After being released by the club in a management switch, Leslie moved to Grantham town as assistant manager for a season before his aforementioned move back to Notts County.

During his tenure at County, he revealed: “I got the opportunity to go to a Category 1 academy in Nottingham Forest so I made the decision to progress.”

Now, at the Reds’ Nigel Doughty Academy, Leslie’s focus lies on nurturing the next generation of footballers, he said: “I look at specialist areas that we need to work on and I’ll be incorporating that into our sessions.

“One of the biggest problems I saw when I was coming through was the support around the player. The support players get off the pitch now is fantastic.

“I’m a much more developed coach than I was at Basford United. Hopefully I’ll keep on improving.”

Speaking on Leslie, Marc Williams a former Gedling Miners Welfare player and off-field colleague at Basford United said: “In my opinion, modern day footballers need a shoulder to lean on and I think Michael has that ability to individually mentor players.

“I’m thrilled, but even more happy because he’s hard-working and a friend as well.”

*Article provided by Matthew Benton-Smith (Sports Correspondent).

*Main image @Official_NCFC Mick Leslie has worked for Notts County’s centre of excellence.

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