Ipswich Town: Remarkable Journey from Martyn Pert to Portman Road

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New Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna has appointed Martyn Pert as deputy manager. Andy Warren is a portrait of a coach who traveled the world to find his way into the game.

playing career

Whisper it softly, but Ipswich Town’s new assistant manager grew up in Norfolk and started his playing career as a youngster at Carrow Road.

He’s been through the youth system alongside Craig Bellamy and Danny Mills and describes himself as a “decent full-back”. But he was unsuccessful and was released at age 20.

His next stop was Cambridge but there was no spark. That’s when his playing career ended and he started to take a different path.

He is a highly qualified trainer with an excellent reputation, having obtained his B license at only 23 and his A license a year later.

But, now 44, he’s taken an unusual path to get there.

Uni days

The end (at least he thought) of his football career saw Pert head to Loughborough University to pursue a degree in management accounting.

But the football bug was still there at the bottom. Pert had received his first tactics book at age 13 as a gift from his grandfather, and it was his advice that prompted him to turn his back on numbers and books in order to follow his true calling. He returned however and completed his degree.

“Whatever you do, do it with enthusiasm,” his grandfather had said.

Despite laughter from his friends, many of whom were destined to work for big companies like Goldman Sachs and Price Waterhouse Coopers, he would go on to become a soccer coach.


Kieran McKenna and his assistant Martyn Pert take to the Playford Road training ground
– Credit: ITFC

Travel by car

One of his college tutors told a young Pert that he needed a ‘unique selling point’ in a marketing course, so he decided to give it a try. to find while he was taking his first steps towards coaching.

“I saved some money, got in my Ford Fiesta and drove for 16 weeks through Europe, staying in a tent,” he said, addressing the podcast Sideline Stories. “I went to Brondby and Copenhagen in Denmark, to Dutch teams like Ajax, PSV and Heerenveen, then to Germany with Dortmund and Bayern Munich, spending a week in each of them. Then I went to Italy and came back through France to England.

“I wrote letter after letter before they said I can come watch practice and maybe have a conversation.”

Pert wrote up reports on each of his visits to the training ground and sent them all over the place, with one of those reports ending up on the desk of Aidy Boothroyd, who was then coaching the Peterborough youth teams. .

The working relationship that then developed between the two would prove to be very important to Pert.

A false start

Returning to England, a young Pert begins coaching Cambridge United’s Under-14s – a job given to him by Dan Ashworth, who would go on to go on to major roles at the FA and is currently technical director at Brighton. He is expected to become Newcastle’s new sporting director in the coming days.

Pert spent a season at Cambridge, combining the coaching role with jobs delivering potatoes to fish and chip shops and also as a university lecturer. He had also created his own football school.

He returned to Norwich at that time, eventually teaming up with Boothroyd as the couple worked together in the Canaries Youth Organization. When the latter moved to West Brom to run his youth system, Pert was thrilled to have the opportunity to follow and work in football full time.

It was his big chance, at least that’s what he thought. Pert quickly found himself out of work as the Baggies slashed their youth budget and Boothroyd quickly left to coach at Leeds.

He was back to square one.


Shaquille O'Neal sits with Laticia Rolle in the Royal Box on Center Court on day one of the Wimb

Pert followed a Miami Heat squad that included legendary player Shaquille O’Neal
– Credit: PA

Road Trip: the sequel

Without work, Pert did what he knew best. Get back on the road.

This time it was the Americas, flying to Montreal in 2004 with the goal of finally flying from Rio de Janeiro to Brazil at the end of its trip 12 months later.

He traveled to Miami, where he spent several weeks collecting bottled water and watching the NBA Miami Heat franchise at work, where icons Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade worked under the direction of legendary President Pat. Riley.

Then it left for clubs in Honduras, a time to learn Spanish in Guatemala, then football homes in Argentina and Brazil before heading to the airport to return from Rio.

The phone rang as he waited to board the plane. It was … Aidy Boothroyd.


Watford Director Aidy Boothroyd

Aidy Boothroyd had a great influence on Martyn Pert
– Credit: PA

The Boothroyd years

Boothroyd called to ask Pert, then 27, to join his coaching staff after being named Watford boss in 2005. Coincidentally, the appointment was made by town CEO Mark Ashton.

Pert had two weeks to impress in a first-team environment, but was given the full-time coaching role within four days, with the Hornets winning promotion to the Premier League in their debut season.

“I was working alone with the players on Sunday, it was important to me,” said Pert.

“Malky Mackay, who was 33 and had played for Scotland, is now one of my best friends. But you gain players with good training. You learn by traveling around Europe and see what the big clubs are doing.

“I wouldn’t train them too much or talk too much, because I’m 27, but it’s my job to do some really good exercises and sessions so that they can learn as much as possible.

“Over time, quite quickly in fact, they were happy with it. The manager wouldn’t have let the whole season spend with me training on Sunday if that was good. I got so much confidence out of it. ”


Watford's Jobi McAnuff and Lee Williamson with head conditioning coach Martyn Pert before the kick

Pert (right) puts Watford’s Jobi McAnuff and Lee Williamson to the test while with the Hornets
– Credit: PA

Boothroyd was sacked in 2008 and replaced by Brendan Rodgers, with Pert also starting and spending six months helping rehabilitate injured Fulham players under Roy Hodgson.

But he was soon back at Watford, coaching under Mackay, before another big break saw him named Boothroyd’s assistant as the pair moved to Coventry. They were fired six months later. Now what?

The answer to that question was to become Deputy Director of Bahrain under Peter Taylor.

The bands of Bielsa

Before Bahrain’s opportunity arose, Pert took advantage of a job shortage to analyze Marcelo Bielsa’s innovative Chilean side at the 2010 World Cup, before sending his findings to the current boss. from Leeds, who was at Athletic Bilbao at the time.

“I wasn’t expecting much, but he answered me and said ‘brilliant’. It’s all about relationships, ”said Pert.

“A few years later when I was attending the Vancouver Whitecaps (2014-18) I was in Buenos Aires with Robbo (manager Carl Robinson) and got up at 5am and drove until in Rosario, three and a half hours away, to meet Marcelo Bielsa in his house.

“He talked to me about football for three or four hours and was really humble and interested. I had come all this way to meet him and listen to him talk about football.”


Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa gestures on the sideline during Premier League game at Ell

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa was another big influence on Pert
– Credit: PA

False start: the sequel

When Pert scribbled in his tactics book at 13, he dreamed of going it alone as a manager one day.

That chance came in 2012 when, after a period of preparation for a career in South America, Pert handed over the reins to Ecuador’s biggest club, El Nacional.

Only he was never in charge. Less than three weeks after the club’s military owners gave him the job, El Nacional was sold to a hedge fund that wanted to employ a Spanish boss. Pert had gone out without managing a single game.

“They decided to get rid of me before I even had a chance to properly meet the players, which is a bit of a disaster,” Pert told The Guardian.

“The truth is, training in South America can be unstable at the best of times – clubs change managers regularly, often after just a year, so maybe I didn’t last that long anyway.”

Solid earth

Finally, a certain stability.

After a brief stint under Mackay and briefly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Cardiff, Pert moved on to MLS to spend four years in Canada with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

He assisted former Wolves, Sunderland and Norwich midfielder Carl Robinson with their team which has made the playoffs three times and also won a Canadian Championship at a time when the team included the current star of Bayern Munich Alphonso Davies.


Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) and Martyn Pert during the training session at

Martyn Pert (right) alongside former Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
– Credit: PA

Dream theater

And so to Manchester United, where Pert formed a relationship with Kieran McKenna which ultimately brought him to Portman Road.

Pert focused on strength and conditioning at Old Trafford, but his language skills received the most praise from the public, with Solskjaer attributing his ability to speak Portuguese to improving the form of Brazilian native Fred. It also means that Pert was able to communicate with Cristiano Ronaldo in his native language.

“He’s someone I’ve only gotten to know well over the last three years or so and he’s someone I really trust as a person,” McKenna said of the comment. from Pert.

“He’s good with the staff and the players and had a good relationship with everyone at United. He knows how I work so it’s really helpful for me because he can help me get things through quickly on the training ground.

“I’m really happy to have him here.


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