Wally Downes

Walter 'Wally' Downes is an English football coach and former player who was born in Hammersmith, London on 9th June 1961. He plied his trade as a midfielder and spent the vast majority of his career at Wimbledon. When he scored on his debut as a 17 year old he was the first part-time apprentice in the Football League, earning £5 per week. Downes helped the Dons climb through the leagues all the way to the 1st Division. He was also said to be one of the main instigators of the 'crazy gang' culture at Plough Lane, pulling pranks at every given opportunity. He once dangled club physio Derek French by his ankles from a fishing boat. In 1988 he linked up with his old Wimbledon manager Dave Bassett at Sheffield United for a short lived spell that was cut short by injury. He also briefly played for Newport and Hayes before hanging up his boots. Downes was forced to quit the game after suffering four broken legs.

Not long after retiring Downes took up a coaching role at Crystal Palace under manager Steve Coppell. He remained in that position for over a decade before following Coppell to Brentford. Downes took over as first team manager in June 2002 when Coppell left the club. He guided Brentford to a 16th place Division 2 finish in 2002/03, but was sacked late into the following campaign with The Bees struggling at the wrong end of the table.

As well as managing Brentford, Downes also had coaching stints at Bury and Millwall. He was reunited with Coppell once more in 2005 when he joined Reading. Downes helped the Royals to a record breaking 106 point Championship winning season. He specialised in defensive work and earned a good reputation within the game. He helped Reading to a top 10 Premier League finish in 2006/07. Downes left the club in 2009 with the club back in the Championship.

In August 2009 Downes joined Alan Pardew's new coaching staff at Southampton. He helped the club to a 7th place League One finish for 2009/10 and also picked up a Football League Trophy winners medal. On 30th August 2010 he was sacked by Saints Chairman Nicola Cortese, along with Pardew and goalkeeping coach Stuart Murdoch. He later filed for unfair dismissal before reaching a settlement with the club out of court.

In Ocotber 2010 Downes worked for Gillingham in a temporary spell. A month later he became defensive coach at struggling West Ham, assisting Avram Grant. Although Downes made a slight improvement at first he could do nothing to stop the Hammers from being relegated to the Championship. He remained at the club when Grant was sacked and replaced by Sam Allardyce. Downes helped West Ham regain their Premier League place by winning promotion through the play-offs in 2011/12.