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Family man James Shan has emotional attachment to West Brom

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

James Shan is sleeping in the spare room at the moment because life has changed quite dramatically over the past few weeks.

James Shan. (AMA)

The Shan clan has a new member. Baby Riley was born just days before daddy was asked to hold the reins following Darren Moore’s sacking.

Three-and-a-half weeks later and Shan is still in charge of the Baggies, and following three wins on the spin he could very well see out the season.

As well as three boys to take care of at home, he now has 28 men to look after at work.

But the 40-year-old has taken his change of employment in his stride – the biggest difference is at home.

“(Things have changed) immensely because I had a baby born three weeks ago!” he said. “I’ve got a newborn, life’s very different at home.

"Everything else has remained the same and as normal as possible. In terms of the role the only big difference would be the volume of the squad.”

Managing a football club, even on a temporary basis, is a demanding prospect, but it’s one Shan has taken to.

An analytical coach known for his clear and concise instructions, his pragmatic methods have gone down well with the players.

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He didn’t expect to be in charge beyond the international break, but is more than happy to continue for as long as necessary. And the whole family are mucking in.

“We’ve had some good support,” he said. “Evening time is obviously difficult, but we’ve had support from my mother-in-law and my mother has been great.

“I’m managing to sleep in the spare room and get some sleep so maybe it’s been beneficial for me not having to get up three or four times in the night.

“The eldest is eight and the middle one is five. The eldest is into his football and plays Sunday league locally.

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“He has a slight understanding that daddy is taking Albion on a caretaker role – that daddy has to work hard and might not be able to spend as much time in the garden and things like that.

"He proudly wears an Albion top. He has got a couple of mates at school that I am trying to get him to move away from because they want to get him in a Villa top!"

Shan also has an emotional attachment to the Baggies, having been at the club for 13 years, working his way up to the first team from under-7s coach.

It was Dan Ashworth, former FA technical director, who first brought Shan to the club back in 2006, plucking him from Birmingham City.

“A new academy manager came to Birmingham – Terry Westley – and I was being moved back down from assistant academy manager to working with the seven to 11s,” said Shan.

“Dan Ashworth heard about that here. I can remember driving across to The Hawthorns, meeting Dan and going across to the dome. The dome had just been built.

“Dan has played a big, big part in my development and my career – he just sold me a vision.

"I can remember that first day, there were portacabins on the grass. The canteen was outside.

“I remember my first coaching session. I was actually still at Birmingham City and I probably shouldn’t have done it!

“But I came on a Friday night to work with this crop of players that Steve Hopcroft said I needed to work with.

“One of them was Tyler Roberts (now at Leeds) which was way back when he was an under-seven.

"Yan Dhanda (now at Swansea) was another and Jack Hickman who is still at Coventry.”

Shan is ingrained in Albion – he’s one of the academy’s success stories. He’s had offers to leave, but never has.

“I could have left and moved five or six times,” he says. “But the power of the people at the football club has retained me.

“It’s been my decision to stay at the football club for so long.

“If somebody comes in from the outside, and it’s inevitable that will happen one day, then the people appointed will be professional.

“Maybe they will have less emotion. But the feeling of this football club is that it is a very friendly football club.

"I think anyone who walks through the door and spends time at the club – you gain that attachment very quickly.

“If somebody comes in from a fresh environment I’m sure they will gain that, the history of the club and what it means to the staff that work here.”

Shan wasn’t expecting to keep the hot-seat for so long, he wasn’t really expecting to be in it at all, but he did make sure he was prepared, just in case.

“I never expected to be thrust into this position,” he says. “What I have done is make sure that I have got every qualification I need.

“I have had a pro-licence for the past two years now. And I’ve worked to gain as much experience as I can.

“You see it all the time, a manager gets sacked and the under-23s coach steps in and takes over the caretaker role.

“I knew that when I took the 23s here could be a possibility at some stage that a manager would be moved on and I would have to take it for a short period of time.

“Somewhere in the back of my mind I have been gearing towards it and making sure I am prepared as best I can.”

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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