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English coach hits the heights in Russia
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Paul Ashworth, picture courtesy of
Paul has plenty more adventures in Russia
Paul Ashworth is a name you may not have heard before, but the former Norwich City schoolboy has just become the first Briton to work in Russia's Premier League.

He's just been appointed sporting director of FC Rostov after four years working as a football coach in Latvia.

But he's not the first Englishman to have enjoyed success in the Baltic state - Gary Johnson used to coach the national team before becoming manager of Yeovil Town.

"I find it very interesting living a different way of life in a different culture, I really enjoy it," Paul told the Academy.

Before arriving in Latvia with his first club FK Ventspils, Paul had gained valuable coaching experience with Cambridge United and Peterborough United.

But he admitted there was plenty of expectation when he arrived in Latvia.

He said: "In some ways there was more pressure on me because I was coach and had more responsibilities. In my previous job I was assistant manager at Peterborough.

"But there was also less pressure because there are only eight professional teams in the Latvian league and less fans than in England, so there's not as much expectation.

Former Peterborough manager Barry Fry
Paul was number two to Barry Fry at Peterborough

"It was a good learning curve to develop as a manager for four years."

The first major obstacle for Paul had to overcome was the language barrier.

"All the footballers in Latvia are Russian speakers," he said.

"My number two at Ventspils spoke English so I coached through him while learning Russian once a week.

"By the end of my third year I was speaking better Russian. But then I moved to FK Riga, where my number two didn't speak English.

"So I had to coach totally in Russian, which was a real challenge."

But as with most people learning a new language, there was the odd mistake here and there.

"When I first started I used to say "let's go" a lot in Russian," said Paul. "But unlike in English, there's a masculine and feminine form for a lot of words.

"Unfortunately I kept saying "let's go" in the feminine form to a bunch of men! The players had a habit of hiding their smiles!"

So how did Paul's new job at Rostov come about?

The Kremlin in Moscow
Sightseeing for Paul next time he's in Moscow

He said: "After two years in Latvia I got an agent called Andrei Baharev, who also represents Alex Kolinko, the former Crystal Palace and Latvian international goalkeeper.

"Kolinko was signed by Rostov so Andrei had dealings with the club. I was interviewed for the manager's job and got down to the last three.

"Unfortunately I didn't get the job but a year later their president got in contact with me and asked if I wanted to join the club as sporting director, what we would call director of football in England.

"My overview of things is different from what I've been doing as a coach.

"My role is to develop the infrastructure of the club, from youth development to scouting for talent."

So can we expect to see a few British players signing for Rostov in the near future?

"It's a little bit early to say, first we need to get the scouting system organised and then start looking for talent," said Paul.

"Although the Russian league is a good standard, it's not quite up to the Premier League - yet.

"But within a few years we may well see English players in Russia."

After four years away from England, would Paul consider a move back to England if the chance ever came about?

"Yes, but I would also be prepared to go to Germany, Italy or any other country," he said.

"It's interesting living in a different country, so I'm looking forward to a new culture and living in a new city in Rostov."

Paul's five top Russian footy phrases
Na Galava sin - On me head son
Stenichka - Play a 1-2
Bolna kak popuguy - Sick as a parrot
Konsar bien - At the end of the day
Spabedo - For victory! (A very Russian footy phrase)

Paul's football CV
Schoolboy with Norwich City
Development officer at Cambridge United
Assistant manager with Peterborough United
Manager of FK Ventspils in Latvia
Manager of FK Riga in Latvia

Did you know?
Paul used to work with Gary Johnson at Cambridge United. While Johnson was manager of the Latvian national team, he recommended Paul for the FK Ventspils job

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