From Bolton-le-Sands to Qatar.
It’s not a journey many can say they have taken but for one football coach, it is a reality, as he helps develop players for when the desert nation hosts the World Cup in 2022.
Jonathan Hill, from Bolton-le-Sands, was a performance analyst with Blackburn Rovers before making the move to the Middle East to take up the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Towards the end of the season I had a couple of options with other clubs but the best and most exciting opportunity was out in Qatar,” said the 24-year-old former Ripley St Thomas student said.
“I was approached by a member of the national team staff and asked if I’d be interested in interviewing with the director of football.
“They had done their research and knew that Blackburn has one of the best performance analysis departments in the country.
“I believe the job is an exciting yet challenging one and it’s something that will progress my career and development but also be something that I could look back on and be proud of later in life.”
The desert World Cup may be nearly a decade away but it is rarely out of the news with some senior football figures questioning whether the tournament can be held in the extreme summer heat.
But Jonathan can see why it was awarded to Qatar.
“From seeing everything first hand there is no doubt that the World Cup will be amazing in Qatar,” said the former Morecambe FC season ticket holder.
“The place is incredible and the stadiums and architecture currently being built are stunning.
“Obviously there are issues with the temperature, 45 degrees and 35 at night in summer, and culture, which will all have to be addressed, but when you see the passion and financial commitment to not only do it justice, but make it the best along side the football development aims it’s easy to understand why they were awarded the tournament.”
Jonathan studied coaching and sports development at the University of Cumbria before being recommended for the role at Blackburn by one of his lecturers, where he enjoyed working with the Premier League players and coaches despite a rocky few years for the club.
“Despite all the negativity and the relegation from the Premier League I had an amazing time and learnt an incredible amount,” said Jonathan.
As for Qatar, he believes the standard can be equated to League 1 in England, the league above Morecambe, but he sees the opportunity for the quality to improve quickly.
“The best way to describe football out here is developing,” he said.
“It is very new to them and there isn’t the culture for football over here, as of yet.
“Players aren’t idolised like in western society, but thing are progressing fast with the World Cup the ultimate aim.”
Jonathan’s role within that, as a performance analyst for the Al-Khor team in the Qatar Stars League, sees his reports on the team ultimately fed back to the national team.
“I am responsible for the scouting of opposition teams, analysing Al-Khor’s performance and collecting a range of fitness data,” he said.
“From this I then feedback all the data back to the national team coaches and staff to help them monitor the players and ultimately select the best players.”
As for how long he will spend in Qatar, Jonathan isn’t sure, but he knows what his ultimate aim is.
“The culture over here is very different and it is a challenge to adapt,” he said.
“Unlike other gulf nations it isn’t westernised or liberal and nor does it plan to be.
“This means there is a strict dress code and laws in conjunction the religious beliefs.
“This is in great contrast to the UK and very enlightening, but does mean social activities are extremely limited.
“I don’t know how long I plan on being here but I want to analyse and work with the best players, managers and coaches which for me is back in the Premier League.”