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Pete Shuttleworth: A Road Less Ordinary

Teacher, high school head coach, non-league manager, triathlon addict, scout, analyst, Wayne Rooney’s trusted lieutenant.

Pete Shuttleworth has trodden a unique path to become the Manchester United and England legend’s Assistant Coach at top Major League Soccer franchise DC United. The 44-year-old Football Careers client was raised as a cultured midfielder at Nottingham Forest in the heyday of iconic manager Brian Clough, who brought the English title and two European Cups to the City Ground in a glorious spell in the hot seat.

When Pete didn’t quite make the grade as a player at Forest, he discovered a love for coaching. And he recalled:

“I was teaching PE at a school in Chesterfield and I took a team of U15s. By the time we got to the U16s age bracket, we had made the National Schools Cup quarter-finals. We played in front of over 2,000 fans at Chesterfield’s old stadium, Saltergate, and I thought to myself that I might have a chance to make an impact on players.

“We had two Sheffield United Academy players and the rest were from grassroots, so I felt I was influencing them. As time moved on, I went to a club called Shirebrook Town FC. I was still playing midfield with all these teenagers around me in the A team and within a year, I was first-team assistant — and then I was put in charge of the top team at the age of 27.”

Pete was a coaching anomaly in the gritty, rough-and-tumble world of English non-league football. His academic life as a successful sports science graduate at the elite Loughborough University meshed with his previous football education at Cloughie’s Academy.

He had an idea of how he wanted to see the game played… and coached. And he reasoned:

“I had got myself involved in coaching at Loughborough and found that I liked it more than playing. I had been brought up as a player in the Centre of Excellence at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and their ways were ingrained in me.

“We were taught total football there, play and move — but when I didn’t make it at that level and dropped to non-league, I was shouting for the ball as a midfielder from the centre-back and they were thumping it 50 yards over my head! I didn’t like that very much, to be honest: I thought there had to be more to football than that.

“That was an interesting baptism for me as a coach, though. Loughborough was an elite environment and there were good players there, but at non-league they were all playing the same way. It was a game of chance and I felt I could improve players and break the mould a little.”

Pete Shuttleworth, D.C. United
Image: D.C. United

Pete was making his first steps as a manager, but he would soon discover there were elements of the role that dragged him away from his true passion. He wanted to surround himself with similar minds, people who were on the same page and all pulling in a shared direction.

Looking back now he knows he didn’t find that when he was a gaffer. And he sighed:

“We stayed up in the league with Shirebrook, which was success in the context of that season — but I was too young to create a network of staff around me that I could trust. My passion was to be on the grass with the players, I didn’t want to negotiate salaries.

“I put in people to do that for me but it didn’t go well: players were coming and going without me knowing. I decided then that management was not for me, that was my last manager’s job and it probably always will be! It’s not for me.

“I moved on to Sheffield FC, who were founded in 1857 and are the oldest club in the world. Then it was Worksop Town with a coach called Mark Shaw who’d played for me at Shirebrook.

“We’d made the play-offs at Sheffield but had a man sent off and lost 7-0, and got sacked the next morning. We went back to Shirebrook on the rebound and then ended up at Worksop in the Northern Premier League, which is a good level.

“We had a terrific year at Worksop, one of my best in football — we were such an attacking team and we scored 120 goals that season. Players went on to make it in the Football League and they kicked on in the game, but we lost in the play-offs to Fylde. We just couldn’t score that night and it was very tough to take, our backer pulled his money out and left and a new chapter was opening for me.”

Pete’s love of sport and fitness and his inner drive drew him toward the world of triathlon. Still teaching, he was also dedicating 20 hours to the gruelling world of training for an event that typically sees you swim 1.5km, cycle 40km, and run 10km. The rigours of triathlon would provide a sliding doors moment in the Shuttleworth career trajectory. He revealed:

“I had raced against the Birmingham City Head of Recruitment in a triathlon and he asked me to do some scouting there. I was training 20 hours a week for triathlon and thought I’d stick with that, but he persuaded me to do Aston Villa v Notts County in the League Cup.

“I grew into it, I was part-time and I’d be doing two or three games a week there. Gary Rowett was the boss but then he was sacked and Gianfranco Zola took over.

“I was still involved but it was a loose arrangement, and on Good Friday in 2017 I was watching a player at Nottingham Forest. I met a guy in the ground and chatted away, he was a Loughborough alumnus and into his cycling like me. It was a lesson to me to always be positive because I just chatted away about how much I enjoyed my role at Birmingham.”

The chance acquaintance was Jeff Vetere and Pete’s life was about to change forever. His doorway into full-time football, the one we all crave as coaches, was about to open. Pete stressed:

“Harry Redknapp had come in for Zola and we stayed up after a really difficult season and I thought little of that chat at Forest. Then I had a phone call from Jeff, who it turned out was now Birmingham’s new Director of Football — and he was the guy I had talked to at the City Ground!

“I’d had no idea, he felt we had made a connection, I had been teaching for 16 years at the same school and I was ready to make the leap into football full-time. That was my sliding doors moment.

“He had an Analysis Department and he wanted someone to lead it. I didn’t really know what analysis was if I am truthful, but I have always been a quick learner. It was a big step to come out of teaching — I had a good role as a mentor too at the school, but now I was Head of Analysis at Birmingham City.

“I went in and found out there was all this software they used so I stayed up late all summer and taught myself everything about analysis. Then I found out what Harry and his no2 Kevin Bond wanted from me.”

Pete Shuttleworth is currently Assistant Coach to Wayne Rooney at D.C. United

Pete was part of a tight-knit and knowledgeable team alongside Craig Cope (now Head of Football Operations at League Two AFC Wimbledon) and Dan Millard, who is the First Team Analyst at Millwall in the EFL Championship.

His colleagues pushed their own egos and self-interest aside, they welcomed Shuttleworth and what he brought to the table and he thrived. He reflected:

“They knew more than me, but they helped me to transition into my role in what is now an established pathway for coaches in the game. My own pathway is very rare: the simple truth is I had a stroke of luck and found someone who put faith in me.

“Jeff saw something in me, and I found out that the best teachers in Performance Analysis are the managers you work with. Harry Redknapp taught me so much and then we had Steve Cotterill and Garry Monk, and I learned every single day tactically.

“I understand the popular Jack the Lad perception of Harry from the outside but when you are inside a club working with him, he is such a motivational figure. He makes a football building feel nice and warm and people enjoy going to their work. The players loved him, he knew how to put round pegs in round holes — he had shown throughout his managerial career that he knew how to build a team.”

The irrepressible Redknapp was 70 when he was axed at Birmingham in September 2017. It was his last job in management after 1,395 games in the hot seat that had also taken in Bournemouth, West Ham United, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Queen’s Park Rangers, and the national team of Jordan.

His mission to keep Birmingham in the Championship was accomplished but when he left early the next season, Pete was pitched into a rollercoaster environment. He winced:

“I remember we lost to Forest under Steve Cotterill and that night, about seven staff got fired. I thought I would be next because I was concentrating on the opposition then for our next games.

“The Head of HR phoned me at 9pm and I had that feeling of dread because it was my first full season out of teaching and I was already moving on to my third manager. I thought I was getting sacked and I just felt that would be humiliating in season one full-time in the game.

“I knew Garry Monk was bringing in a new Head of Analysis but in the end, I was asked to stay on. Then Garry left and his assistant, the Spaniard Pep Clotet, took over and I became the game analyst. I was in the changing room at half-time and I was more involved.”

Clotet is now boss of top Russian side Torpedo Moscow, but his spell in charge of the Blues was ill-fated. He won just 13 of 47 matches and when the pandemic hit, there was a feeling inside the building that the gaffer might be on borrowed time. An uneasy Shuttleworth returned to work and said:

“When COVID-19 hit and we came back, we were only allowed to coach pods of seven players at a time. The first-team coach was Craig Gardner and he asked me to take a pod. I was back on the grass again, I’d gone from scout to opposition analyst to in-game analyst to coach again.

“We had players like Jude Bellingham there and I had one of the senior players come and tell me that the sessions I’d put on were great and I should get out from behind the computer. It set me thinking and at the end of the season, they brought in Aitor Karanka as the new boss who had two Spanish analysts who travelled everywhere with him. So my role changed again: I was now no3 in my department from being the top analyst and a coach.

“My thinking was that I was in football to make an impact and if I couldn’t do that, then I should go back to teaching. I decided to walk away and I applied for the job as an analyst at Derby County.”

Pete was at a crossroads in his career. He chose a fork in the road that would eventually see him become Rooney’s Assistant Coach, landing a dream adventure in Major League Soccer.

Yet again, though, he needed to find a colleague who was comfortable enough in their own skin to hire him. He pointed out:

“Ben Warner, the head man, was younger than me at 27 but he gave me the job and I respected that. We worked so well together. Wayne was a player at Derby at first, and that’s when we first got introduced.

“By now I knew the role of the analyst and what it truly entails. If the boss has media duties at the training centre for two hours late in the day, you have to be available when he finishes just in case he has an idea he wants to work on.

“I have a mentor called Joe Carnall who taught me that, to be there to help those ideas flourish. This game can be a severe environment, it’s not all fans chanting the team’s name on a Saturday. There are 60-70 hour weeks that go with that, there are missed holidays and Christmases.

“Whether it is triathlon or coaching, I go at it. The work of an analyst is all-encompassing, you work when the manager is in and I treat my current job with Wayne at DC United no differently. My default approach is to work hard, I have an addictive personality and I go full at it in all walks of my life.”

In Part Two of our interview, we’ll discover just how much Wayne Rooney has come to value that work ethic.

Pete Shuttleworth on Football Careers

“I always had a basic CV in the past and then we had Scotland keeper David Marshall at Derby County who has been involved with Football Careers for a long time, and he recommended the company.

“I love it because every time I want a change it is done quickly and professionally. I have a lot of different angles in my life and my CV, having been a teacher before — and they have summed my journey up so well in the document. It is superbly put together and it helps me in my career, there is no doubt about that.”

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