Published on Tuesday 02 October 2018 in Vanarama National League News
It's not a given that any top-level professional footballer will seamlessly transition into a career as an equally proficient coach or manager. Indeed, football history is littered with examples to the contrary, where once-world-class stars – Marco van Basten, John Barnes, Sir Bobby Charlton – struggle to get their message across to a group of players at their command.
But a top-level playing career can be an asset to a coach. Provided said individual displays many of the other qualities necessary to succeed on the training field, the wealth of experience gained over a long and storied playing career can command respect, help problem-solve and imbue confidence.
Such experience and know how has given Jussi Jaaskelainen a quiet authority in his new life as Wrexham's goalkeeping coach.
The 42-year-old Finn hung up his gloves earlier this year and began working under former Bolton Wanderers team-mate Sam Ricketts, who became manager of the Dragons in May.
Jaaskelainen spent 25 years between the sticks, including 13 seasons in the Premier League through spells with Bolton and West Ham United. At his best, he was considered one of the finest shot-stoppers in the English top flight.
Wrexham goalkeeper Christian Dibble has discussed how he feels Jaaskelainen's vast experience we be valued at the Racecourse Ground. "Jussi has had a fantastic career and is an excellent coach and is going to get the best out of us," the 24-year-old keeper told The Post.
But the key to Jaaskelainen's influence at Wrexham, to his ability to be understood and transmit his instructions to the goalkeepers he is working with, is the fact the Finn has experienced football in less cushy mileau's than the Premier League.
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Jaaskelainen worked his way up through the domestic game in his homeland before being spotted by Bolton in 1997. And after leaving West Ham in 2015, he joined Wigan Athletic in League One, English football's third tier.
Such experiences help Jaaskelainen relate to Wrexham's goalkeepers. In Jaaskelainen, the players will see a coach who not only lived the Premier League dream but fought to get there, and then moved down the ladder, to less glamorous climes, when his time in the top flight expired.
Jaaskelainen also has a son, William, following in his footsteps, currently keeping goal for Crewe Alexandra, so you have to imagine the 56-cap Finland international is used to passing on pearls of wisdom and moulding young keepers in his image.
Manager Ricketts has earned widespread acclaim for the job he has done thus far at Wrexham. It's still early days for the 36-year-old's Racecourse reign, but he has injected enthusiasm and produced results already in his first foray into management, helping Wrexham climb to fourth place in the Vanarama National League.
The former Hull City and Wolverhampton Wanderers defender, though, has been quick to share the praise with his staff, insisting that any success Wrexham achieve this season will be a team effort.
"An awful lot of work goes into every game," Ricketts told the Non-League Newspaper recently, "not just the players but myself and all the backroom staff put hours and hours into watching footage, getting reports, putting stuff together.
"There is so much detail that goes into the performance which you probably don't see. We know what goes on behind the scenes so the players and staff deserve huge credit."
Jaaskelainen, it seems, is playing no small part in that process. Studious and intelligent in his approach to his work throughout his playing career, the same virtues are now applied to his coaching efforts.
And while many think of the 42-year-old as being as quiet and unassuming, as it's possible for a goalkeeper to be, he can now be seen – and heard – shouting instructions in his distinctive accent from the Wrexham dugout each week.
With a bright young manager backed by a hungry team of coaches and players, Wrexham appear to be building something genuinely exciting. Jaaskelainen has chosen his first coaching post well; likewise Wrexham have been savvy in their selection of a goalkeeping coach.
This article was written by Ryan Baldi from Football Whispers.