JR “Morning Brian, thanks for speaking to me today at TSF, there’s a lot to get through but let’s start with how you came into the professional game with FC Volendam in the Netherlands.”
BT “Yes, that’s right I came through the youth setup at FC Volendam and I had a total of five years at the club. My highlight would be the promotion that we achieved to the Eredivisie. A low point would be the relegation that we suffered. But I look back fondly on my time at the club and I still have good contact with many people there, we had good times together at FC Volendam.”
JR “From FC Volendam you then embarked on an amazing Greek odyssey, first with Panthrakikos FC and later at Fostiras FC.”
BT “Yes it was amazing, and I would say that my time in Greece was the happiest and most successful period of my football career. Panthrakikos FC were promoted four times in a row from the lower divisions in Greece to reach the top flight so I had a fantastic time at the club. Komotini is a beautiful city, and I also grew as a person on a human level. When I arrived in Greece I did not speak the language, but during my first three weeks when I was in my hotel room after training I really worked hard to try and learn the Greek language and within six months I was speaking fluent Greek. I still have a lot of contact with people at the club as well as with old teammates and also the owner. All in all I really did have a fantastic time during my stay in Greece.”
JR “For Reading fans in particular this is where things get really interesting. You held the role of Sporting Director with the Royals, and in those four years there wasn’t a lot that you didn’t see was there?”
BT “I also had a fantastic time at Reading FC. I worked there for four years as you say and when I arrived at the club as head of development I quickly secured a promotion after two months to Sporting Director. But it was a really difficult situation as we had 16 players running out of contract and there was no budget. On the one hand that is nice because you can start from scratch and arrange things, which is what we managed to do.
We managed to create a pathway for the youth players and I managed to get players in from the reserve teams of clubs such as Chelsea FC, Manchester United, Manchester City and Leicester City. I also appointed Jaap Stam as manager and we had a great first season narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier League.
Our youth academy model was similar to AFC Ajax in that the better youth players were brought through the academy and those players went on to do very well and debut for the first team. A nice confirmation is that the fans now realize the vision that I had and that they still send me messages that I must return to the club, that gives me satisfaction. I would have liked to stay at the club for longer because I was working on a good process but then another CEO arrived at Reading FC and they made life very difficult for us and that is the reason why I left the club."
JR “A lot of rumours have flown around Reading ever since as to what exactly happened during those years. There were lots of positive signs during your time there, but from the outside looking in it seemed to self implode, is that fair?”
BT. “Yes of course, Reading FC were a team that only the season before were relegated from the Premier League so there was pressure to return to that level as soon as possible. We experienced a tumultuous season and it was a shame that there was no budget so we had to do something in terms of gaining promotion, but on the other hand there was no internal pressure that we must get promoted back to the Premier League at all costs.
We had a three year plan where we had to finish in the top ten in our first season, then the top ten in the second season and then in the third season gain promotion to the Premier League. But of course you notice the pressure from the fans and outside the club that an unknown person has come from the Netherlands to arrange things at the club so I had to deal with that locally and nationally.
But eventually when I made clear what I wanted to achieve during my time at the club things were only positive. We gave a lot of youth players their chance in professional football but I would say that the pressure was not from the owner but more from the football entourage inside that club that sometimes wanted to interfere with things. That led to feeling a sort of pressure, but it never influenced my work as it was all about my work and commitment to Reading FC.”
JR “Interesting stuff. Brian, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Before I let you go… you’ve operated in many different roles in football around Europe, what role do you still hope to fulfill?
BT “To work in the Premier League would be the ultimate and I would like to work in England again one day. I came through the coaching setup at AFC Ajax so I would always be open to returning to the club in the future. I am open for everything but if you look at the ultimate and what I would like to achieve, I would like to do at AFC Ajax what I could not finish when I was a coach there, namely helping the young players break through by fulfilling a role within the organization of AFC Ajax.
And in terms of England, whether that be in the Championship by bringing a club back to the Premier League from the Championship like I came so close to doing with Reading FC, or to work in the Premier League would be the goals and objectives that I would look at.”
James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.