As Gazza takes first coaching steps, an old team-mate is learning the hard way

Click to follow
The Independent Football

It remains to be seen whether the star pupil from the Toon class of '85 will make it to the management game, let alone make a successful name for himself in it. For Paul Gascoigne, the qualification process is only just beginning, with the coaching and management course he is about to undertake at Lilleshall. For Brian Tinnion, left-back in the Newcastle United FA Youth Cup-winning side inspired by the teenage Gascoigne 19 years ago, the graduation has already been completed.

At 36, Tinnion has his feet on the managerial ladder at Bristol City. Not that he jumped directly on to the first rung. Far from it. Tinnion's elevation into the Ashton Gate hot-seat in June came after five years of patiently learning his craft, as a part-time coach and manager with the club's academy, while simultaneously plying his trade as a first-team player. "I learned about coaching, ran the Under-15s team, and took all of my coaching badges at the same time," he reflected.

"I used to coach the Under- 15s during the week and run the team on a Sunday. They play in the Academy League, against the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, so it was an invaluable experience for someone in my position, looking to go into the management side."

Perhaps Gascoigne will find a shorter cut to management, having been frustrated with the lack of coaching opportunities he encountered in his brief spell with Boston United. "I see that Paul's ready to take all of his qualifications now and get in a position to become a manager," his former youth-team colleague said. "I'm sure he'll be getting his head round it. He's certainly got the knowledge - having been in the game as long as he has, at the level he has - to be a very good coach, a very good manager."

Tinnion has been in the football game almost as long as Gascoigne. He joined Newcastle as an apprentice in 1984, a year after his fellow Geordie. In 1985 they played in the Newcastle team who beat Watford 4-1 on aggregate to win the FA Youth Cup. Gascoigne scored two of the goals in a 4-1 second-leg win at Vicarage Road.

Tinnion followed him into the first team at St James' Park but moved to Bradford City in 1989, and on to Bristol City in March 1993. After 11 years and seven months at Ashton Gate, he is still playing in the first team, as a central midfielder. In the wake of Danny Wilson's departure, following the Second Division play-off final defeat against Brighton at the end of last season, he is also finding his feet as City's fledgling manager.

"I'm learning very quickly," Tinnion said. "I think that's the key. You've got to make sure you don't make the same mistake twice. We had a tough start to the season. We had a few injuries and a few players away at the Olympics, and it was difficult for us.

"When you've only got two points from your first five matches you have to learn quickly, and I was lucky enough to win the next three, just to take a bit of pressure off the team and myself.

"You just get your head down and never stop believing in what you're doing, in believing that you're the man for the job and that you're going to be successful.

"From the point of view of the players, I was just one of them last season, and maybe it's taken a little time for them to settle down to the fact that I am the manager now. It was a little bit difficult for them at first, and probably for me. But it's settled down now. I've got a squad of players who really want to be successful and want to win. I've got some good players here who want to play at a higher level.

"And we've improved as the season's gone on. We've lost one of the last eight and we took Everton to penalties in the Carling Cup. We gave them a real scare."

Not as big a scare as Tinnion inflicted on Liverpool with the long-range left-footer that knocked them out of the FA Cup at Anfield in 1994. Graeme Souness resigned the next day. "I always think differently now when I see press speculation that managers are under pressure - the Gary Megson situation and the Bobby Robson situation," Tinnion mused. "After five games in the job it was written in a few places that Paul Sturrock was being lined up to take over from me. I know now what these people are feeling."

If Paul Gascoigne ever gets to suffer the same feeling, he could always seek support from his former team-mate of many talents. Tinnion hails from Burnopfield - the same County Durham village as Colin Milburn, "The Burnopfield Basher", the big-hitting Northamptonshire and England batsman of the late 1960s - and played for Lintz Cricket Club as an all-rounder in the Tyneside Senior League. Frank Clark, vice-chairman of the League Managers' Association, happens to be another Lintz old boy.

"Yes, there is that link," Tinnion pondered. "Actually, my mum and dad used to go to the same school as Frank [Hookergate Grammar, as it was at the time]. They used to be in the same class.

"You can always speak to experienced people like Frank and get help from them. They've been there and done it. The trouble is, you're too bloody busy in this job to ring anybody."