Scott McTominay hails former Manchester United academy coach as ‘the best person for any young player’
'He transformed my brain and how I thought about things.'
Manchester United star Scott McTominay has hailed the club’s former youth academy coach Warren Joyce as one of the key driving forces behind his breakthrough at Old Trafford, labelling him as the man who “transformed” him as a player.
In what is probably one of the longest interviews McTominay has ever given in his time as a professional footballer, the Man United central midfielder and Scotland international recently sat down with Jake Humphrey’s High Performance Podcast to shed light on his career so far.
Clarifying that it was his podcast debut, the 26-year-old spoke candidly about his physical struggles with growing as a young player, dealing with the pressure from fans, his relationship with ex-manager Jose Mourinho and more — including the people who helped him become a Premier League footballer.
While he noted several names in United‘s youth academy that he “couldn’t speak highly enough of”, McTominay singled out long-serving coach Warren Joyce who changed everything for him.
As he goes on to detail in the episode, the now first-team starter says that he remembers playing in the youth team for Paul McGuiness (former pro and fellow academy coach) and getting “roasted” by Joyce in front of “everyone” at half-time.
“I wasn’t even playing that bad” — and his teammates agreed, says Scott — “[but] he just roasted me, he ridiculed me, he said: ‘You play like you won’t ever get nowhere’, something along those lines. A little bit too forceful but at the time it was just a test.”
Once you “move up to Warren Joyce”, McTominay says, “he does that every week. That’s the norm, so he was just preparing you for what’s to come and at the time I didn’t realise that.”
McTominay went on to describe the Oldham-born academy drill sergeant as just that: “ruthless… running; all the games he would be on the sidelines screaming”. However, he reiterated that the treatment simply gets players ready for men’s football, stressing that “it’s never going to be all sunshine and rainbows when you go out on loan because that’s not football; people are playing for their lives, the mortgages, the kids, their family”.
Put simply, the number 39 said that once it became clear what he was trying to teach he just “bought into every single thing he ever told [him]” from that moment onwards and, even though he was only 16-18 years old, remained at the mercy of his gaffer, no matter the position or the words he used.
When asked if he thought such a constant and brutal approach was necessary or if there are other ways to go about steering a youth prospect in the right direction, he did concede that it isn’t one size fits all and it sometimes depends on the characters of those people, but he always knew he was trying to help.
But it wasn’t just grillings and critique that the ex-Bolton centre-mid served up, McTominay revealed that he was a taskmaster in a different way, often telling him to go and target a senior player to “show him who’s the man” — something helped instil an extra level of confidence as he moved up the youth setup.
He even discussed how Joyce would come and drag a player out of the team jacuzzi if he thought they were getting too big for their boots or didn’t train hard enough to have earned the relaxation, adding: “He was brilliant with stuff like that, he would never let anyone get too comfortable.
“He would always say that the thing about the ‘Billionaire’s Club’: those players are in there because they’ve earned it and they’ve grafted their whole life to be like that”.
McTominay went on to declare Joyce “the best person that any young player could go and see in terms of being coached by”, crediting him with “transforming [his] brain” and how he thought about football as a whole.
Strong words indeed and by no means the first to echo them. Club legend Gary Neville told United writer Andy Mitten back in 2017, a few months after he was appointed the first-team manager of Wigan Athletic: “Warren was absolutely brilliant in the very difficult role of reserve-team coach.
“He was excellent at man-managing individuals who were hovering and drifting between the ages of 19 and 21. They’d be going out on loan, they’d have had a taste of the first team and the buzz of playing for the reserves will have worn off because they want to be playing in front of big crowds for a first team.
“It can be an uncertain time for a player but he motivated them mentally and physically. He maximised the players’ talents, he’d push them like crazy; he’d do extra gym work and join in with the players as if to say, ‘We’re in this together’.
“He had a very good way of dealing with footballers who he knew were not going to make it at United… but he also knew that they needed a higher level of toughness.”
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McTominay concluded the section on the youth ranks by stating, “The coaches at United are the best in the world at making young footballers feel like they can do anything and also not getting them too much on their high horse, because they’ll bring you straight back down to Earth and level you straight away”.
He reeled off the likes of former U23 coach, Neil Ryan, fellow academy stalwart, Dave Bushell, and Paul McGuiness as other figures who helped not only nurture talents and keep egos in check around the club, and it’s clear that the discipline trickled down from Joyce and Sir Alex Ferguson above him.
Joyce remained at the club for another three years after Fergie retired but it’s clear that the same rigorous philosophy he ensured was maintained throughout the academy is still felt by many of the players and staff.
Now in charge of the Nottingham Forest B-team and helping hand academy graduates first-team minutes, we’re sure there’s a whole new generation of players getting the trademark Warren Joyce treatment and hopefully many more Scott McTominays who’ll thank him for it down the line.
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Featured Images — High Performance Podcast/Nottingham Forest (via YouTube)