Adam Owen: Wales fitness coach on eight months as a Polish top-flight boss

Adam Owen
Adam Owen has been with Wales since 2009

"I've got more grey hairs than I had before."

Wales fitness coach Adam Owen is reflecting on his eight months as manager of Polish top-flight team Lechia Gdansk.

"A difficult job," the 37-year-old says. "It is a challenge to manage in eastern Europe. Not many do it and there is a reason for it."

Owen has been a part of Wales' backroom team since 2009, and kept his role when former winger and Manchester United great Ryan Giggs was appointed as the national coach in January.

As he helps prepare the team for the China Cup, Owen tells BBC Sport about his experiences in Poland, games that rival Glasgow's Old Firm derby, and his thoughts on Giggs and the new-look Wales team.

'No regrets'

Adam Owen
Adam Owen (second left) with Wales players Ashley Williams, Gareth Bale and Joe Allen

Owen joined Lechia last June as assistant manager, but had been given the top job by September after Piotr Nowak was sacked.

It was the former Wrexham defender's first full-time managerial job, having previously held backroom and coaching roles at Rangers and Celtic in Scotland, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United in England, and Swiss club Servette.

"I came over as assistant manager and director of performance, and after 10 games the president asked me to take over," says Owen.

Six months on, his time in northern Poland is over, with Owen having left the club earlier in March by mutual agreement. When he departed the club were 12th in the table - the same position as when he took over - though they have now dropped to 14th.

"I have no regrets," says Owen, who has a PhD in sports science and a Uefa pro licence coaching qualification. "It has been a great experience, which I thought would not come at such an early age.

"A lot of managers have come and not had as long as I did in the job.

"It was a difficult job, a club in a transition period. They were in disarray when I took over. I made a lot of positive changes behind the scenes which influenced the club in a positive way."

Owen says he developed the club's tactical strategy and Lechia's B team structure, forged closer links with the academy, developed younger players, dropped the average age of the squad and reduced the squad size.

He added: "To go into the club at a young age, in a foreign environment, and stabilise and leave the club in a better place than I found it is important for me.

"There are only positives to take away from this. It has been an incredible learning curve."

Adam Owen's CV
Lechia Gdansk: Manager, 2017-18Rangers: Head of sports science, 2007-13
Servette FC: Head of performance/assistant manager, 2014-17Sheffield Wednesday: Head of sports science, 2006-07
Sheffield United: Head of performance/assistant manager 2013-14Celtic: Sports science coach 2003-06

Local derbies and managing international players

Adam Owen
Owen worked with a squad full of international players at Lechia

As far as first jobs in management go, Lechia was an attractive proposition for Owen.

Their home ground - the 41,000-seater Stadion Energa Gdansk - was built for Euro 2012, and the team is full of international players, including Serbia's former Juventus winger Milos Krasic.

The Ekstraklasa offered games against established Champions League teams such as Legia Warsaw, and a derby against fierce rivals Arka Gdynia.

"To manage such a big club, with international-level players desperately trying to go to the World Cup, in such a big league in Europe was a big thing for me," he says.

His first experience of the Gdansk derby - just his fourth match in charge - ended with Flavio Paixao scoring a 95th-minute winner.

"There were 2,500 of our fans with flares at our training ground when we returned from the match," he says. "I have never experienced anything like that.

"Their rivalry is as fierce as Celtic and Rangers."

He added: "We also played away at champions Legia Warsaw in front of 40,000. Amazing experiences. The fans are so passionate. The relationship between fans and players is closer than I have seen before in other countries. The competiveness of the league is incredible and the standard really surprised."

Owen says the media pressure is just as great as in the UK, adding: "Every decision I made was scrutinised live on television. I was under the spotlight a lot more."

stadium
Lechia Gdansk play at the 41,000-seater Stadion Energa Gdansk

On Wales and Giggs

Giggs, 44, succeeded Chris Coleman as Wales boss in January and is now preparing for his first match in charge - Thursday's China Cup match against the tournament hosts.

Owen was Rangers' head of sports science when the club played Giggs' Manchester United in the Champions League in 2010 and the Ibrox club also reached the Europa League final during his time there.

"It will be an exciting challenge for him to come in and try to take on the previous good work," says Owen.

"His profile speaks for itself as a player and I am sure the experience he has had working under some really successful managers and his knowledge of international football are a good fit.

"There is a freshness about it and excitement about the new management team and structure. I'm looking forward to going away and see how it differs and the new ideas.

"With Chris leaving, there is a transition period with new faces in the squad. Hopefully it will go well for Ryan."

China Cup: China v Wales
Venue: Guangxi Sports Center, Nanning Date: Thursday, 22 March Kick-off: 11:35 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

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