For the first time in any UEFA Champions League final – for men or women – there was an English head coach on the bench when 1. FFC Frankfurt took on Paris Saint-Germain in Berlin on Thursday – and he won! But who was he?
Colin Bell began his playing career with local team Leicester City FC but in 1982 moved to Germany with VfL Hamm and made that country his home. Beginning as a coach in 1989 at TuS Koblenz, Bell worked for a variety of clubs including 1. FC Köln before taking over women's top-flight side SC 07 Bad Neuenahr in 2011.
Two years later, Frankfurt appointed Bell and in his first season won the German Cup and got to within one game of the title; now they face a crucial week where they host VfL Wolfsburg in a decisive last league match on Sunday before playing Paris for a fourth European crown in Berlin.
While English managers lifted the former European Champion Clubs' Cup or UEFA Women's Cup, no one from that nation that coached a winner under either UEFA Champions League banner. Bell spoke to UEFA.com about his coaching philosophy, shaped by such figures as granite-faced Scot Jock Wallace and one-time colleague Jürgen Klopp.
Coaching influences ...
I have learned from every coach. My first coach was Jock Wallace at Leicester City – he was very hard but he was an expert. Not only did the players have respect for Jock Wallace, they would also have walked through fire for him because they knew he would do the same for them. We also had a great coach at youth level, David Richardson – we are still in touch as he was a big influence. And then as a player in Germany at Mainz, Horst-Dieter Strich was a very hard coach but another great technician, and I also learned from Robert Jung.
As I became a coach myself, I was assistant at Köln to Lorenz-Günther Köstner. I learned a lot from Lorenz who is one of the most underrated coaches in Germany. He is a great man and a top manager. And I worked alongside Uwe Rapolder in Mannheim, learning tactical subtleties from him which have benefited me for years.
During my time at Mainz, I also worked with Jürgen Klopp. He was just starting and we supported and helped each other. But there were a few things I could observe from him. There is always something to learn. There are current role models like José Mourinho, Josep Guardiola too – you watch what they do and how they do it, it's very interesting.
Frankfurt's style of play ...
We try to dominate through possession and a very good passing game, which I think can be further developed in women's football. You need to work on it. In the last few years you can see how that has developed, and I often show my girls footage of Bayern, Spain or Germany, Barcelona and ask them what kind of passes they can't make that the men can. Most of the time there are none.
You have to bring a lot of movement to your game, use the space, give safe passes mostly with the inside of the foot – and of course you need purpose. I don't want to die looking pretty, I want to score goals and our game is influenced by a strong desire to score goals, because I think that is what gets people to the stadium. It's about a battle with a lot of passion, a lot of running, a lot of work – but ultimately it's about goals because people want to see goals.
On dealing with Jessica Fishlock's departure after the quarter-finals ...
It definitely wasn't easy because Jess played a crucial part. She adapted really quickly to the German culture – it was another type of football, another language, another country for Jess, but she did really well and she was an example to our team. In the first two weeks after Jess left, I told the team that every one of us could learn from her. You could just wind up Jess [like a clockwork toy] and she would never be tired. The team did well compensating for [her departure]. We knew she would have to go and we would need to tweak our system – we had to change a few things that I won't divulge now. But we had to compensate. But Jess is still with us in spirit and we are in touch with her after every game. It's even possible she will fly to Berlin [for the final].
Impressions of Paris ...
They are very strong. I watched the first leg in Wolfsburg on the internet – it was tense and it was an aggressive game from Paris. On the day they were clearly better than Wolfsburg. They dominated and were better in every department [winning 2-0]. In Paris, they controlled most of the match, took the lead and were quite safe. But the game was turned around and that's one of the qualities of Wolfsburg – the tenacity they have gained, they never give up until it's really over. But Paris managed to win [3-2 on aggregate] thanks to a great performance by their keeper. They are a well-balanced side who play good football and can be very aggressive too. I am convinced it will be a very intense final.
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