Exclusive Interview: Nilton Terroso

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR  ‘’Good morning Nilton, thanks for taking the time to talk to me at TSF.  Cardiff City fans will remember you from your time with the Welsh club where you were the assistant manager for two years, what memories do you have of the Bluebirds?

NT  ''Cardiff City, without question, was the highlight of my career so far and I do not say that purely because of what happened on the pitch.  I will always have an emotional attachment to Cardiff because that is where my two daughters were born and that is where I initiated my career working in professional football as a coach.

When I finished my degrees at the University of Cardiff I went into the club's academy and I made a lot of friends there, but there was an attachment to the city too.  The club and the people that were involved at the time when I was there… everybody was just exceptional.  On the pitch I was lucky enough to meet people to this day I am still friends with, and I worked initially under Malky Mackay who was great to me, he was the one who took me into the first team setup.  And then of course Ole Gunnar Solskjær came in afterwards.

My experience at the club was crucial because Malky viewed me much more than just a sports scientist or a fitness coach, he integrated me right into the staff making me an assistant tying it into my philosophy and methodology of football and it worked really well in all aspects of training, technical, tactical and physical.  That allowed me to gain confidence in my own qualities and it gave me the opportunity to see how things worked at the highest level.

Things started off well when we reached the League Cup Final in my first season in 2011/ 2012 and then the following season we won the Championship and got promoted to the Premier League in 2012/ 2013.  I absolutely loved my time at Cardiff City and definitely deep down I hope to return to the club one day in the future.’'

JR  ‘’You started and finished your playing career at S.C. Lourinhanense, a well known feeder club for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal…”

NT  ‘'Well, S.C. Lourinhanense was a different time and what I mean by that is, looking at how the club and the league in which they play is structured today, things have changed dramatically.  What caused such a big change at the time is that, as you rightly say, S.C. Lourinhanense were actually Sporting CP's feeder club.  Today, so many teams in Portugal and around the world are used as a B and under 23 team, but at the time such teams did not exist to do that, so what happened was once players left  the under 18's they were loaned to teams in the Portuguese second or third division or in this case Sporting CP.

They came up with this idea of having a club where they could put players into men's football to bridge the gap between what they would be expected to do with Sporting CP's S.C and how they might improve by being with a team like Lourinhanense and playing first team football.  At the time I was surrounded by extremely good players at Lourinhanense and I remember playing Portugal under 20's games where half the starting lineup was from S.C. Lourinhanense.

We had many players who went to to play in the Portuguese first division and all around Europe so it was a great experience. I was one of the youngest players and I still remember my very first game where I lined up next to Luis Boa Morte, I was just thinking, ‘OK, this is good for me as a sixteen year old about to turn 17 years of age.’  A few weeks later he left the club to sign for Arsenal FC.

It was great being able to play with those types of players and with me being from Lourinhanense, I was living at home at the time and everything worked out really well to be honest and I even got called up for the under 20 Portugal national team during my time at the club.  I have very fond memories of my time at S.C. Lourinhanense.’'

JR  ‘’That’s interesting because as you say, you played for Portugal at under 20 level, but you were also capped at youth level by the country that you grew up in, Canada.”

NT  “Yes, that’s right.  I played for Canada before moving to Portugal initially and I represented them at under 15 and under 17 level.  I represented them again in 2001 when I played for the under 23's and Olympic team in the Franco form games in Ottawa.  I would honestly have to say that although I did not win many caps it is something that I will never forget.  When I was younger I could almost say that I was more Canadian than Portuguese because I grew up in Canada with Canadian friends up until turning 18, 19 and 20 years of age.

I have been in Portugal for a few years but everything was much more Canadian than Portuguese, so for me to be able to put on that shirt and be able to play and have friends and family who still to this day live in Canada, and represent them at that time, was a phenomenal feeling.

To be able to represent your country in the 1999 under 20 World Cup in Nigeria and spending time at the eight day training camp and playing a friendly was just an amazing experience.  Of course, you feel a massive sense of pride at being able to show that you are good enough to reach that level is one aspect of it, but the most important thing is when you know that you have friends and family who watch that and you are representing your country,  that is a great feeling.”

JR  ‘’Even so, you’ll always be very ingrained in Portuguese football it seems, you did, after all, come back to manage S.C. Olhanense for one season, how did that go?”

NT  ''S.C. Olhanense was a really good time for me.  On the pitch we did very well, we just fell short over the last two games in terms of what the season objectives were.  We also managed to identify why, with problems off the pitch including our club President passing away just after Christmas which lead to some difficulties in terms of the logistics and playing salaries.

From a managerial point of view it was a good learning curve and something which I needed. It was important to learn how to deal with those sorts of situations because personally for me you don't quite learn that as much in terms of the theory part of coaching until you actually get to the practical side of things.  That is where you understand that being a coach or a manager is much more than knowing the game or setting up a training session or putting together a practice, in my personal opinion I would say that it is more about the managerial side of your players, how to keep them motivated, how to keep them happy.

And I think that is more and more the case as football becomes more modern and develops into where players have more and more power through contracts and through agents and it becomes more and more difficult for managers to be able to juggle and balance all that.

My time at S.C. Olhanense was really important for me in that sense, in knowing how to deal with such situations.  It was a great opportunity to bring people together that I had not worked with before and I have worked with some fantastic staff in my last few clubs.  Even the people that I have met during that time and also coaches that are speaking to me now about opportunities for the 2021/ 2022 season…my time at S.C. Olhanense was definitely my best experience here in Portugal.’'

JR  ‘’Nilton, thanks for chatting to me today, let me finish by asking you about some of those opportunities, what doe stew future look like for Nilton Terroso?

NT  ''Without question this last year with Covid and all the restrictions and the way in which clubs and seasons have been impacted both on and off the pitch has made things a little bit more difficult for me.  I am a father of two young children and I spend most of my time on the road, it was a conscious decision to play it safe for lack of a better term and wait a little bit to see how things would develop.

It was important to see how things would turn out not only around us locally but also the rest of the world, where football would go in terms of possible changes for example?  I am definitely looking to expand and develop on a few invitations I have already received from people that I know from June 2021 onwards, but of course objectives and in terms of the goals that I want to attain they always stay the same.

I definitely want to get back onto the pitch which is where I feel the most comfortable and it’s what I enjoy doing the most, that is my only priority and of course Europe is always somewhere you would like to be.  The dream I guess now is to hear a Champions League anthem before a game on the pitch and the Premier League is also a goal too.

I have been there already but I just want to develop and I want to grow and get to work in different countries and get to know different cultures which I have been lucky enough to do working in Europe, North America and Africa, and meeting different people and experiencing different views and methodologies.  I can then take the best bits for myself and integrate it within how I look at football and how I work on a day to day basis.

It is important to always surround myself with people that I trust and people that you know you can work with.  I honestly feel that once you have that and you have the motivation and a good work ethic I think what you can achieve is limitless in terms of where you want to go. At times you need a little bit of luck or the right decision at the right time but if you put in the work I think you always get what you want out of it and that is the way I look at it now.

My ultimate goal in the short term is to get back into football for next season and after that I see myself growing and I see myself continuing to work to get the the highest level that I can. Most importantly I want to be able to do what I love the most. It's all about being on the pitch and working in professional football with professional footballers.’'

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.