Former Shrewsbury Town man Eric Ramsay won’t forget where he cut his teeth
Chelsea's elite academy may be a long way from the training pitches at Sundorne Castle, but Shrewsbury's prodigious former coach Eric Ramsay is grateful for his learning experience with Town.
Ramsay left Shrewsbury, where he had played junior football before his studies and later returned as academy manager, last July and has enjoyed a successful first 12 months helping develop the Premier League club's young talents.
It has also been a memorable time on a personal front for the coach, 28, who last September because the youngest Brit to gain his UEFA Pro Licence badge, the top coaching qualification.
Ramsay, who was born in Shrewsbury and was based in the Montgomeryshire village of Llanfyllin, explains that there are similarities in the coaching he led in Town's academy, in the first team at Sundorne, and Chelsea stars of tomorrow.
"From my perspective as a coach the role and my purpose doesn't change – it's only the context that does," said Ramsay.
"As with any other coach, my role is about helping an individual player or a group of players to progress from one point to the next and the principles by which that is achieved don't change all too much in my eyes.
"There's certainly a lot of crossover in terms of how I approached my work in my roles at Shrewsbury and how I do now at Chelsea. The pressures are slightly different.
"At Shrewsbury, particularly with the first team, the pressure surrounded the preparation for game-day and the games themselves – fighting for three points in the Football League.
"At Chelsea you feel the pressure to help squeeze the most out of some of the country's top young players and help contribute to a really successful production line of professional players. There are lots of eyes on the sessions every day – many club legends working in mentoring roles within the academy and loan department – and you feel the need to be at your best. "
Ramsay, who is assistant in the Blues under-23s set-up, worked with midfielder Billy Gilmour and full-back Tariq Lamptey earlier in the season before the duo made big impressions in Premier League with Chelsea and Brighton, respectively.
Frank Lampard has handed senior debuts to eight young players this season and Ramsay believes the integration between academy and first team at Cobham is of 'gold standard'.
Three years ago Ramsay had just switched from the academy at Swansea to oversee the department at Shrewsbury. A little over a year later he was moved into joint-caretaker duties with Danny Coyne at Montgomery Waters Meadow after John Askey was sacked.
Welsh duo Ramsay and Coyne lifted the mood and results, winning five from six games in all competitions and re-invigorating training.
Ramsay, who was kept on as first-team coach by new boss Sam Ricketts for six months before Chelsea came calling, maintains that the period with Town's senior squad developed him as a coach.
"Shrewsbury is my local club and the club I supported and was involved in as a youngster," added Loughborough University-educated Ramsay.
"Having the opportunity to manage the academy and help develop the programme for the best young players in Shropshire was a real privilege. It's an academy that I know the club's supporters are proud of and rightly so.
"I loved the intensity of working at first team level – it was different to anything I'd experienced with the under-18s and development teams at Swansea and Shrewsbury – and it really brought me on as a coach.
"There were some tremendous highs and some more difficult periods but unquestionably I am better for the experience.
"I had really good relationships with everyone throughout the club, from the chairman, Brian (Caldwell), Jayne (Bebb) and Sam to the part-time coaches working in the academy and I'll always look back on my time at the club fondly and be thankful for the opportunities I was given."
Ramsay explained that, so long as coaches equip themselves with important basic tools, the transition of coaching different squads should be achievable.
"Without doubt the experience of working at first team level sharpened me as a coach," continued Ramsay, whose brother Alex is lead youth development phase coach at Town.
"I've always felt that, irrespective of your age or background as a player, if a player or group of players feel as though you can help them improve then these things become irrelevant.
"This is where there is less difference between working with young players and first team players than people might think. I think the battle as a young coach is to equip yourself with as many tools as possible so that you can be of value to any group of players – tactical knowledge, skill on the grass, communication skills, foreign languages, leadership capability – whether it's at first team or academy level.
"It's difficult to predict career pathways in football and I try not to think too far ahead but I loved the intensity of working at first team level, the relentlessness of competitive games, so I certainly wouldn't rule it out."