Why assistant Aaron is an exception in more ways than one!

Gary Johnson Manager of Torquay United and Aaron Downes Assistant Manager of Torquay United show app

I trust Aaron - and the players do too - Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

Whenever I watch Premier League or even Championship games on TV, I can’t help spotting how managers are surrounded by rows of coaching staff.

Of course, I know that running a big club these days is a major operation, and it would be too much for a couple of blokes with a few mates as scouts and talent spotters.

The world has changed and moved on since I first came into management.

I like to think I’ve moved with the times. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I’d have survived this long.

But for quite a while now, when clubs appoint new managers, they also seem to ship out a bunch of staff and add in a load of guys who the new boss brings with him.

In more than 35 years in management, with 11 different jobs in that time, I’ve never done that. Or, when I think about it, had the luxury of doing it.

Gary Johnson, Manager of Torquay United and Peter Johnson, Head of First Team Recruitment at Torquay

I have often kept my brother Pete with me for scouting and recruitment - Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

I have often kept my brother Pete with me for scouting and recruitment, but that’s because his record in that field is so good. If it hadn’t been, I’m the one who carries the can.

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In fact, my current assistant Aaron Downes is an exception, in more ways than one, because I did persuade him to leave Cheltenham Town and follow me to Plainmoor.

When I first came back from Latvia (2001) to Yeovil Town, I inherited a coach in Steve Thompson and got on brilliantly with him.

First time round at Yeovil, Terry Skiverton and Darren Way were players at Huish Park and did brilliantly for me.

Terry was actually in charge when I went back there, and I think I was probably the only one he was happy or prepared to step down for.

Darren had become a coach, so we ended up working as a great ‘team’ twice.

When I moved to Bristol City, Keith Millen was already there as caretaker. I worked well with him, and we were successful.

At Northampton Town and Peterborough United, I worked with Tim Flowers and Mark Robson and got on well with them too.

By the way, somebody I did bring in at Northampton, not as a coach but as a senior player to help run the dressing room there, was Bayo Akinfenwa.

I know our Yellow Army remember Bayo from his time here, and it’s fantastic what he’s gone on to achieve, and is still doing under another of my old players, Gareth Ainsworth, at Wycombe Wanderers.

When I went to Cheltenham, I inherited Russell Milton. I think Russell thought he might get the job, but he stayed, we worked together well and won the ‘Conference’ there.

I’ve not had anyone I’ve taken round with me.

All of those people had different qualities, and if I thought they could do the job and believed in me and the way I wanted to play and do things, I was happy to work with them.

I’ve never wanted ‘yes’ men. I want my coaches to feel confident to put their views forward.

Thankfully, most often they’ve been ‘our’ views.

But their biggest quality, and it’s always top of the list, is loyalty.

And so we come to Aaron. He is a class act. I know that sounds over the top, but he is.

As you get older, you need somebody who’s got Aaron’s energy, his organisational skills, his attention to detail, his willingness to do anything, any time, to keep improving us.

He takes so much off me, that allows me to enjoy my job, because I trust him.

As the players trust him as well. If Liverpool came calling tomorrow – and I don’t think that’s going to happen! – Aaron is one I definitely would take with me.

He is a good coach, and I have no doubt that he will be a good manager one day...