NEW: TIM BRYETT INTERVIEW
Tim Bryett on Kenyan television after leaving Nairobi City Stars
The board went up, the game stopped, and the Kenyan Premier League side, Nairobi City Stars, made their substitution. The problem was, Tim Bryett knew nothing about it – and he was the City Stars’ manager.
“I was on the touchline, shouting instructions, when I looked to my right,” he says. “There was my assistant on the halfway line, making a change behind my back. I couldn’t believe it.”
The assistant was Robinson Ofwoko, a Nigerian who managed the City Stars before Bryett. The club’s chairman had brought him back to work underneath the Englishman.
Safe to say, the decision wasn’t mutual.
“I told the chairman it was like Manchester United bringing back David Moyes to become Louis van Gaal’s assistant,” says Bryett. “It wasn’t going to work.”
The City Stars had other problems, too. A sponsor pulling out meant Bryett went four months without his wages, and players were also unpaid. One striker lost four kilograms because he couldn’t eat properly. Others were locked out of their apartments, because the club hadn’t paid the rent.
“I went to the chairman and said we couldn’t both stay – it was me or the assistant,” he says. “He wanted us to work together. I decided to leave.”
And so, in August last year, a coaching career that began in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and detoured to Santos in Brazil, reached a crossroads in Nairobi, Kenya.
Tim Bryett lied to get his first qualification. To complete the FA Junior Team Manager’s Award, you had to be 16. He was 15, did the course anyway, and was on his way. He now has his CAF A Licence, and has just finished the UEFA A preparatory course.
“As a young player in the lower tiers of English football, I didn’t have quality coaching,” he says. “I always wanted to be at the top level of the game, but I couldn’t do that as a player. So I decided to become a coach.”
He began working for Wycombe Wanderers’ community scheme, and, after four months, moved to their academy. In 2002, he enrolled on a sports management course at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University (now Bucks New University). But beforehand, he spent three months in Brazil, to learn more about his two passions – football, and the Brazilian martial art, capoeira.
“I had arranged to live with an English-speaking family,” he says. “The plan was to spend a month there, teach English at a school, then go off and spend two months on my own. Two weeks before, I decided I didn’t want to waste any time. So I cancelled my plans, and decided to do it on my own.
“I arrived at the airport with nothing but an address in Santos (of a football coach). No one spoke English, and I thought to myself: ‘Jeez, what am I doing here.’ I eventually found someone who spoke English, and was directed to a bus stop. I was forced to learn Portuguese very quickly.”
After returning to England, and while studying at university, Bryett began working for Reading’s academy (while Brendan Rodgers was the manager of their Under-19s). He saved his money – also working in a bowling alley on an evening – and, the day after his final exam in 2005, returned to Brazil. “I was very impatient,” he says. “I didn’t want to wait for graduation.”
Bryett sent letters and emails to several Brazilian clubs, but, more often than not, was ignored. He did some work for the Corinthians and Santos academies, but it was unpaid and irregular. “It could be difficult to pay the bills, but I always worked hard to save money before I went,” he says.
After more than two years in Brazil, Bryett’s career continued with jobs in England, punctuated by study trips to – among others – Real Madrid and Barcelona. On holiday to Kenya, he met his future wife, and moved to the country in 2013, hoping to land a job at a professional club.
He set up an academy – “I wanted to showcase what I could do” – before taking the City Stars job. When he left the club in August, Bryett had options in Gambia and the UK, but was also in demand in Kenya. “Three or four clubs” were interested, and from having no job, he soon had two.
Bryett coaches at Ligi Ndogo, in the Kenyan second tier, and is also manager of Premier League side Thika United, who are based just outside Nairobi.
“I train Ligi Ndogo from 7am to 9am,” he says. “I then rush over to Thika and do a session from 11 to 1pm. We break for lunch, then train in the afternoon, or have a recovery session.”
According to the club’s website, the town of Thika is “known as the Birmingham of Kenya, due to the conflagration of industries that dot the town”. The club was formed in 1999 “as a local estate team, with the aim of getting the local youth occupied and away from criminal activities”. Back then, they were called Beirut FC.
Things are more professional now – Thika finished ninth in the KPL last year, and are one of the country’s more stable clubs. They have been sponsored by East Africa’s biggest dairy, Brookside, for the past 13 years, and the players are paid on time.
“I feel I’ve landed on my feet,” he says. “There’s a supportive chairman, a good CEO, and they believe in my vision for the club. At the moment, we’re a mid-table team, but I want to win the league, and I want to leave a legacy.”
Things are on the right track: Thika beat the Kenyan champions Gor Mahia – managed by Scotsman Frank Nuttall – 2-1 in a friendly last weekend. Best of all: Bryett made all the substitutions himself.