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15th December 2019

Science Ryland Morgans: The Ivory Coast’s Welsh assistant manager

Science Ryland Morgans: The Ivory Coast’s Welsh assistant manager


science Ryland Morgans with Brendan Rodgers and Luis Suarez

Ryland Morgans (L) was at Liverpool with with Brendan Rodgers and Luis Suarez (R) when the Reds came close to winning the Premier League title in 2013-14

He has worked under Brendan Rodgers and Jürgen Klopp and with such stellar names as Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Bale.

He has been to the European Championship semi-finals with Wales and now has his eyes on a World Cup appearance with the Ivory Coast.

Ryland Morgans may not be a familiar name among fans, but the Welshman is well-known within football.

He has been on the staff at several clubs including Liverpool and Everton.

The 43-year-old was also part of the Wales set-up under Gary Speed and then Chris Coleman.

These days he is the Ivory Coast’s assistant manager, while he has consultancy roles with various club sides.

Swansea-born Morgans is a fully qualified coach – he has held a pro-licence for almost a decade – and an expert in fitness and performance having gained a PHD in football science.

That combination of skills has led to a career in the higher echelons of the game, which is quite something given that Morgans’ playing days were spent with the likes of Merthyr and Newport after he was released as a teenager by Leicester City.

“Football’s a passion,” Morgans tells BBC Sport Wales. “When you are lucky enough to work in it, you feel fortunate.

“I enjoy mixing the coaching and the physical side – I love my job. That passion is not going to dwindle.”

Ryland Morgans, here working with Gareth Bale, was brought into the Wales set-up by Gary Speed but stayed throughout Chris Coleman’s spell as national manager

Morgans’ first job was in coach education with the Football Association of Wales Trust.

Former Tottenham defender David Kerslake, who was then assistant manager at Northampton, saw Morgans delivering a session and set up a meeting with then Cobblers boss Colin Calderwood.

“That led to my first club role – in League Two,” Morgans recalls. “I was a coach first and then I tried to specialise in the fitness performance-type work.”

After winning promotion to the third tier, Calderwood left for Nottingham Forest and Morgans went with him.

There was another promotion – to the Championship – at Forest in 2007-08 before Morgans had a spell at Fulham under Roy Hodgson and, briefly, Mark Hughes.

Next he joined Rodgers back home at Swansea City, helping them climb to the Premier League in 2011 before following his manager to Liverpool.

“Brendan is an excellent coach,” Morgans says. “He is big on people skills, managing players and managing their personalities – all the things you don’t see on the grass.”

After Rodgers left Anfield, Morgans spent nine months on Klopp’s staff.

Ryland Morgans (R) trains with Raheem Sterling at Liverpool, where he worked for almost four seasons before leaving in March 2016

“I can see why Jürgen is achieving what he is achieving,” he adds.

“He has a very good way of developing togetherness at club level. It’s different with international football, when you are doing it for the heart I suppose.

“But he is excellent at getting everybody – players, staff, the board – on the same page.”

After Liverpool, Morgans had a brief spell at Cardiff City before Sam Allardyce took him first to Crystal Palace and then Goodison Park.

“I have been fortunate to have an array of managers,” Morgans says.

“I can see why they are all successful even though they have different ways of doing things and different personalities.

“Sam Allardyce, for example, is a great person to work with. He is very empowering – it’s ‘you’re the expert, you tell me’. He will back you to the hilt.”

There is quite a list to choose from when Morgans considers the best players he has come across.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha is one of a number a British-based players in the Ivory Coast squad along with the likes of Serge Aurier, Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Kodjia

“People ask me that and it’s a toughie,” he says. “I will have to go Welsh first – Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. I would also put Joe Allen and Ashley Williams in that bracket.

“Then there are people like Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Kolo Toure is another.”

Morgans’ relationship with Toure opened the door to the Ivory Coast job, as the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool defender recommended him to Elephants manager Ibrahim Kamara.

“They are fantastic people. They treat me like their brother,” Morgans says.

“They are French-speaking and my French isn’t great, but I have enough to get through a training session.”

Kamara is based in Paris, meaning he and Morgans can keep a close eye on the numerous Ivorian internationals – such as Wilfried Zaha, Nicolas Pepe and Milan’s Frank Kessie – who play in Europe.

Kamara’s team reached the last eight at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

“That was a decent return for a squad that was missing a few key players and is in a bit of a transition period. They have not long lost the likes of Kolo and Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba,” Morgans says.

“It was a great experience dealing with the culture, food, humidity, heat – all the factors that can affect performance.”

Ryland Morgans (L) joins the celebrations after Ashley Williams’ goal in Wales’ Euro 2016 quarter-final win over Belgium

Next on the agenda for the Ivory Coast is the World Cup – plus the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations – while they will send a team to next year’s Olympics in Japan.

“The World Cup and the Olympics are the ones I haven’t done and I would like to do,” Morgans adds.

Something special would need to happen to surpass Morgans’ experience with Wales at Euro 2016.

“The mantra was together stronger. As staff and players led by Chris, everyone bought into that and everyone was on the same page,” Morgans says.

“There were no issues, no problems – everyone wanted the same thing – and I would still say that if we hadn’t lost Aaron and Ben (Davies) to suspension, we would have won the whole thing.

“As a Welshman, to do what we did meant a lot – but I do look back and think, ‘if only’.”

He will not be alone there.


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