After being appointed as the Under-18s coach during the season, Hassan Sulaiman reflects on what he has learnt so far about his new role and he gives an insight into his targets for the upcoming season…
Hassan Sulaiman has settled into his role as the Under-18s head coach, taking charge of the games towards the back end of the season. In that time, he has been able to learn so much about his team and he shares his excitement ahead of the pre-season for the 2023/24 campaign.
‘There is so much to look forward to, the way we ended this season shows what this group is capable of,’ he begins. ‘We are littered with talented and intelligent footballers. Honing their individual skill sets to ensure the general progression of the team will be my biggest responsibility.’
Sulaiman’s coaching philosophy centres around trust, as he values the faith placed in him by the club’s leadership team to oversee his part of the development process. Within the framework of Chelsea’s core values and philosophies, he will make decisions on what best fits the situation.
‘There has been a lot of trust and faith placed in me by the Academy’s leadership team and I cannot thank them enough for their belief in my ability,’ he says. ‘Coaching within the parameters of the club’s values is something that will never change and is very important to all of us here at the Academy.
‘Nonetheless, within that framework, there are a number of ways for me to add my own input which will aid the development and winning process that we have already cultivated.’
Stepping into the role midway through the season, Sulaiman adopted a meticulous approach. Despite working with most of the group at Under-16 level, he wanted time to fully immerse himself into the role as it is his belief that this method will help him greatly.
‘I recognise and appreciate the significant contributions of former head coach, Ed Brand,’ he notes. ‘During his tenure as the Under-18s head coach he laid solid foundations for the players to succeed. It is not about undoing the work that he has done but it is more about adding onto it in a unique manner and that is my job.’
Promoting togetherness and squad harmony is a common theme that runs through the Academy. This is a coaching philosophy identical to the approach of the Under-21s head coach Mark Robinson. The Under-18s coach underlines that a united and tight-knit team is at the base of anything successful.
‘I cannot stress enough the importance of fostering a strong team bond. It is the very backbone of any success we want to have. We must strive for synergy within the team, a shared understanding, and unwavering trust in each other’s abilities. Together, we want to build a formidable unit that will handle and overcome the challenges brought our way on the pitch.’
Furthermore, Sulaiman, whose new role was confirmed in March, stressed the importance of individual action plans for players, encouraging them to take responsibility for their own growth. By empowering players to contribute actively to their development, he believes that it will ultimately come as a benefit to the team as a whole.
‘We want our players to be proactive in their improvement, as it will have a positive impact on the entire team,’ he explains.
In the final eight games of the league season, our young Blues scored 20 goals and won five of those outings. Sulaiman aims to build upon this positive momentum and unlock the team’s full potential in the upcoming season.
‘We want to dominate games and stay on top. We have a lot of pace and power, and we want to utilise these strengths going forward. In the last few games, we started to see what myself, Jimmy Smith, Andy Ross and the rest of the coaching staff had been communicating to the players. This togetherness and trust in each other will ensure that we see growth in this group.’
Acknowledging his position as one of the few black managers in the English game, both at the senior and youth levels, the Academy coach understands the significance of being a role model. However, he emphasised that he will be judged on his abilities as a coach. He remains confident in his coaching acumen and believes that success is within his reach.
‘We have seen Darren Moore get promoted at Sheffield Wednesday, and Andy Myers succeed as the development squad head coach here at Chelsea. There is no reason why I cannot succeed and achieve great things in this role.’
‘The focus is on the players and putting them in the best position to succeed at the club. It is an honour to be in this role and I will do everything in my power to see our players realise their potential.’
Through his emphasis on togetherness, individual growth and effective communication, Sulaiman is poised to guide this talented group of players to new heights in the upcoming season and beyond.