Eric Odhiambo's dream of becoming a professional football coach has been achieved and the ex-Leicester City player says being part of the Professional Player to Coach Scheme played a big part in him getting the role.
When he completes his 23-month intensive work placement at Coventry City at the end of the season as part of the scheme, Odhiambo will take up a permanent role at the Championship club.
As a lead foundation phase coach, Odhiambo will look after the recruitment and wellbeing of players from Under-8s through to Under-12s. He says the scheme, which was launched last summer to increase the number of black and Asian players moving into full-time coaching roles in the professional game, was what gave him the opportunity.
Eric Odhiambo has recommended ex-players to apply for the Professional Player to Coach Scheme after he achieved his dream of becoming a professional football coach.#EFL | @Coventry_City pic.twitter.com/Y9Prs1wOeo— EFL (@EFL) December 20, 2021
“I don't think I would have been able to get in front of the academy manager to present myself and have the opportunity to show them that I'm capable of doing the role," the 32-year-old said.
"The highlight of my time here has to have been applying for the role and getting it. I don't think it would have been possible without the scheme."
Odhiambo got the permanent role after impressing during his placement, says Dan Bolas, Coventry's Academy manager.
"Straightaway from early days, some of the younger players, the nine and 10-year-olds really gravitated towards him," Bolas said. "His energy, his enthusiasm, his personality, but also his empathy and the fact he's actually been through the scheme and been through the process as a player, as a young player... gives him that empathy... that really helps him develop good links with the players.
"The parents can see that as well and appreciate that."
The Premier League's Director of Coaching, Marc Canham, believes a more diverse set of graduates from the scheme are vital to the benefit of the national game.
"He's a massive inspiration to those ex-players, but also the wider, diverse community that we're trying to increase within the professional game," Canham said.
Odhiambo has encouraged those aiming to forge a career in coaching to consider the scheme.
“If anyone was thinking about applying for this, I'd definitely say 100 per cent go for it," he says. "Mainly because you've got a lot of people behind the scenes who are working hard to help you.
"There's a lot of support, a lot of resources and people with their hearts in the right place and what they're trying to achieve."
The Professional Player to Coach Scheme is a joint programme from the Premier League, the Professional Footballers Association Charity (PFAC) and the EFL and its objectives for a more diverse coaching workforce underpin the Premier League's No Room For Racism Action Plan.
"It's really important the Premier League take the initiative," says Iffy Onuora, the League's Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. "We've got our No Room For Racism initiative. We don't want that to just sit on the shelf. It's a live action plan and this is a massive part of it, the coaching pathway."
Odhiambo feels his experience for playing clubs throughout England, Scotland, Turkey and Ireland makes him ideally placed to share what he has learned with the next generation.
"I got into coaching in the first place ... because it's what I know," he says. "I played football since before I can remember.
"My best experiences in life, maybe, have come through football, probably my worst ones as well.
"But it's something that I know really well, and it's something that I feel I can add value to other people's experiences."