Coach bringing continental flavour to Matlock youngsters
Matlock Town's development manager Justin Tellus spent over a decade playing professionally in Europe where he developed an obsession with continental football.
His admiration of the style of football abroad has continued after his retirement, since he made his transition from playing in the Champions League to the touchline at Causeway Lane.
Tellus played professionally for 16 years and spent the majority of his career abroad, featuring for Birkirkara and Valetta in the Maltese Premier League.
This was where his appreciation of European football materialised.
“I think the style of football abroad is more technical, it’s more possession based and there’s a strategy in regard to keeping the ball and hitting players in certain areas at certain times,” Tellus said.
“The English game is more direct. There’s an urgency to get the ball forward quicker and not pick people off.”
“I think the physicality is huge in the UK. It takes away some of the technical ability, especially at the lower levels.
“Whereas, if you look on the continent you can see there’s a technical ability and a way of playing all the way through the leagues.”
Tellus, 43, has experienced what it is like to play in both England and abroad.
He played for Millwall and Stoke City at youth level, before being offered his first professional contract in the MPL at 18.
Tellus praised the style of football that Manchester City are currently playing under Pep Guardiola in the Premier League and believes that it is slowly transforming the style of English football.
“There are teams, like Manchester City, that are changing the philosophy of the game to more of the continental way of playing,” Tellus said.
“I think it’s really important that our coaches are looking at teams like City and are saying ‘this is the way we should be playing football.’ There are teams that are doing it, even with lesser budgets.
“You look at teams like Bournemouth and Sheffield United, they try to play through the thirds and build the play up.”
Tellus has been the development manager at Matlock Town for three years, since its establishment in 2015.
He expressed the importance of teaching young players at the club how to alter their style of play depending on what league they are playing in.
“It’s a challenge for us as a development system,” he explained. “We’ve got a set way in our academy and our system at Matlock Town.
“We set a play where we like to play football and we like to play the right way by trying to play out from the back.
“We try and move the ball in the right way to achieve that we are not as direct, but if you look at first team level, to the National League North and South, it is direct football.
“Our lads need to change the way they play when they go to the first team as it’s a totally different ball game.”
“I think that’s the way we have got to be able to adapt our players, to be able to play direct if they are playing in the lower leagues in England, but also to play the technical route if they want to play for our national team or at a higher level in the UK.”
During his time in Malta, Tellus was managed by Arsenal legend Alan Sunderland.
Tellus admitted that he worked under some “great coaches” during his career, but singled out Sunderland as one of the best, despite his typically English direct style.
He said: “I had some good technical coaches, but he was old school.
“He was a good manager, your typical English coach. He set up his foundations and he was very strict. He believed in his principles and he was direct.
“He was a good motivator, disciplinary, and I think he got us into a mindset that made us tactically disciplined and that got us a lot of results.
“He wasn’t a flair coach for sure, but he was definitely a hard-working coach and he expected that from all his players.”
“He was interesting and a great character with a lot of experience. “You can’t buy experience regarding a coach, and a coach that has played at that level can bring so much to the table.”
Sunderland famously scored the winning goal for Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup final against Manchester United.
The former Arsenal striker only coached Tellus for a single season in 1996 at Birkirkara, in what was his only ever managerial role.
Matlock certainly seem to be doing something right with their youngsters with Sheffield United buying Zak Brunt for big money and Max Hunt going to Derby County.