Ask anyone who knows Alan Yates what sets him apart from others in football and chances are they’ll mention the word ‘enthusiasm’.
Friends and football colleagues say his hallmark is grabbing an idea or challenge and then throwing all his energy into making the right things happen.
Sure, there are others with the same Energiser bunny gene. But over five decades? And in roles as varied as player, coach, administrator, media pundit and events manager?
No, Yatesy is a one-off.
We salute the five decades of Alan Yates’ contributions to football in New Zealand:
1970s – player
Main photo: Yates (centre, with arms folded and complete with sideburns) attends his first New Zealand training session, run by North Shore United’s coach Bruno Boeckli (left, with ball).
“IN 1970, my playing career was at a crossroads. I’d played youth football with Liverpool but I wasn’t going to get a professional contract. I saw an ad in the paper, for a club in New Zealand that was looking for players.
“Within a few weeks I was arriving in Auckland, on my own, and wondering what I’d let myself in for. North Shore United’s chairman picked me up and drove me to Devonport Domain and I wondered why we were stopping there – it didn’t look like a football club and people were playing cricket.
“I went into the clubrooms for a look around and all of a sudden this guy sees me and says hello. It turns out he had been my cricket coach when I played youth cricket for Worcestershire! Small world. He then told the cricket coach (Rob Arblaster) to sign me up.”
1970s – coach
“IN THE MID-1970s, I became the youngest Level 3 coach in New Zealand. I wrote to Liverpool FC and asked if I could attend their training sessions as an observer. (Liverpool manager) Bob Paisley and his backroom staff were very helpful and said the best way to observe was for me to train with the squad – it was a wonderful opportunity and I was able to train with players such as Emlyn Hughes, John Toshack, Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence, Steve Heighway and Jimmy Case. At the end of the week,
“I always remember was Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan told me – ‘Alan, football is simple and only coaches complicate it.'”
1980s – coach
In the1980s, Yates was part of the club coaching scene on Auckland’s North Shore, either as a first team coach or assistant coach at clubs including East Coast Bays, Glenfield Rovers, Takapuna and North Shore United. In 1981, he was named Northern Provincial Football’s Coach of the Year.
“WHEN I WAS coaching Fencibles, we went on a three-match tour to the Gold Coast. The third game was against Broadbeach and was going to be the toughest. I was determined the players would put everything into it. I started my team talk and really gave it plenty, telling the players they had to give it everything.
“There was silence – no reaction at all. I kept going … still silence. I then looked behind me and realised what the players could see. The coach of Broadbeach, my old mate Keith Garland, was sitting in the corner, inside a hooded tracksuit he’d borrowed, and listening to every word of my team talk.”
1990s – media
From the late 1980s and through the 1990s, Yates was better known to the footballing public as a radio broadcaster, with weekly spots on Newstalk ZB, on 89FM and as half of the Miles & Yatesy Football Show.
“ONE YEAR, we decided to do the Chatham Cup draw live on the Miles & Yatesy show. I would pull the marbles out of the bag and Miles (co-host Miles Davis) would then read out the name of the team. Straight off, I pulled out number 7. Miles named the team. I then pulled out another marble … and it too was number 7. I’d put the marble back … not one of my best moves. We had to start again.’
2000s – governance
In the new millennium, Yates stepped back from coaching and began helping clubs behind the scenes, and working as a sponsor through his management role at Giltrap Motors.
He was elected the president of the Northern Football Federation, the regional body that oversaw the sport in the region from Auckland’s North Shore to Cape Reinga. He spent five years as NFF’s president and was made a Life Member of the federation in 2019. In 2015, he was a Kia Ambassador for the men’s U-20 World Cup hosted in New Zealand.
Yates now devotes his time to helping Friends of Football with events and projects that benefit the game he loves.
These include helping organise social and fundraising events, and getting the Friends of Football All Stars teams up and running.
And his greatest achievement?
“MY FAMILY. I’ve had the support of my wife Joy from day one and this year we celebrated 50 years of marriage. I owe so much to her.”