- Pep Clotet took his Oxford players on a break to stay in the Gibraltar barracks
- Clotet believes there are similarities in principles of the army and football teams
- The Catalan boss turned to coaching after suffering a major injury in his twenties
- He got his big break after he was recommended to Michael Laudrup at Swansea
By Adam Crafton for MailOnline
Published: 05:35 EST, 16 December 2017 | Updated: 06:58 EST, 16 December 2017
As a Catalan coach called Pep, it may be a little surprising to learn where Pep Clotet decided to take his Oxford United players for a mini-break earlier this season.
The Gibraltar Barracks in Surrey is not the usual destination. The site had previously hosted the England women's rugby team before the World Cup.
'It was a good experience for all of us,' says the Oxford coach Clotet. 'Oxford has a lot of army links and have done things like this for years. I did a lot of digging. I went to visit and meet them. The army in this country is based on service to people, teamwork and duty. We stayed in the barracks.
Oxford's Pep Clotet talks staying in barracks with his players and blending into British culture
'We used their fantastic facilities. We used their recovery techniques and their pool is excellent. They organised team leadership exercises, little groups of problem solving issues and then players had a shooting competition. The soldiers gave talks about their experiences. All of them served in Afghanistan and shared their experiences. It was about teamwork and coping in stressful situations and managing new situations in adversity and adapting. There is difference in terms of the gravity but there are similarities in principles to football.'
Since arriving at Oxford last summer, Clotet has blended his principles with traditional British values. He was respectful of a club on an upwards curve, deciding to come alone and inherit backroom staff from previous coach Michael Appleton, who oversaw promotion to League One and twice reached the Football League Trophy final.
Season at a glance
- League One
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
Clotet may be a progressive and a former director of the Catalan school of coaching but he is also appreciative of British culture. He has been on walking tours of Oxford's university town and has dined at St. John's College, founded in 1955.
He says: 'I blend myself completely into the culture. It is fine-tuning. We brought a lot of new players and we tried to gel them. We made a presentation on a Powerpoint, talking them through situations in training.
'I like to show them in the room what it is we are looking for. The values for me are a team that plays to the maximum to its ability, sacrifices for each other and togetherness is shown in the good and especially bad times.'
It appears to be working. Oxford are 8th in League One ahead of Saturday's visit to Rochdale and threatening a push for the play-offs in the second-half of the season.
Clotet, 40, is at the heart of their progress. He suffered a major injury in his early twenties and headed for a life in coaching. He had his UEFA Pro-License by 26 and coached the Espanyol youth teams in the days Mauricio Pochettino was the manager.
His thirst for knowledge took him around Europe. In Barcelona, he secretly watched almost 200 of Louis van Gaal's coaching sessions after finding a small fence he could peak through. He drove through Europe, stopping by to observe Claudio Ranieri and Rafa Benitez at Valencia, Jupp Heynckes at Bayern and Marcelo Bielsa as coach of Argentina.
Clotet's break came at Swansea where he was an academy role before Garry Monk's No 2
He moved to Scandinavia and was Roland Nilsson's assistant as Malmo won the title in 2010 and managed for himself at Halmstad, where he rented the same house that Roy Hodgson lived in many years earlier.
His break in England came after a mutual friend personally recommended Clotet to Michael Laudrup at Swansea.
'The Chairman Huw Jenkins said they were looking for someone with a knowledge of a Spanish style and that I had been recommended. I jumped on a plane to London and had a meeting at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel.
'I'm told that Laudrup put in a very big word for me. He had been speaking with people in Barcelona but I'm not sure who – it came as a surprise. We spent nearly two hours talking football with Huw Jenkins, a vision for the academy and the future. Huw put huge trust in me and gave me an opportunity in English football.'
When Laudrup resigned, Clotet was promoted from his academy role and became Garry Monk's assistant at Swansea. The pair's contrasting career experiences made for a smart balance. They oversaw Swansea's highest league finish and nearly led Leeds United into the play-offs last season. Clotet turned down approaches from Championship clubs previously but following the departure from Leeds, he decided the time was right to go it alone.
Clotet says: 'I spoke to Garry, he played here and he was really supportive. I am one piece of the project in a teamwork environment. The club has achieved promotion to League One and spent a season here. We want to repeat that. I want to help them and they want to help me.'
The 40-year-old is now the manager at Oxford and is leading a play-off charge in League One
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