Meet the English coach working miracles in China

When you mention foreign football coaches in China, the name Gary White would probably not appear on any list. But this determined Englishman is about to change all that.

It takes some kind of audacity as a young coach to quite literally reach out to every national association on the planet, urging them to hand a 24-year-old with no prior experience a chance.

From that moment a decade and a half ago, Gary White has been on a mystery tour across the Caribbean, North America, and various posts in the Asia-Pacific region to now land as the saviour of a fallen Chinese club and become one of the most in-demand English coaches outside his homeland.

After a promising playing career, which included a stint at his hometown club Southampton, finished in the state leagues of Australia, White made the conscious decision to pursue in earnest a life in coaching and after undertaking his initial badges he sent out a fax to all 200-plus FIFA members with the end result being an appointment on the technical staff and later at the helm of the British Virgin Islands.

One of the youngest ever coaches to compete in a FIFA World Cup qualification tournament at the age of just 25, White improved the nation’s rankings by almost 30 slots before working similar wonders at his next appointment at the Bahamas where he stayed for almost a decade, including seeing the country awarded as FIFA’s ‘highest movers’ in 2006.

After taking charge of almost 70 matches he had a spell in the MLS working with the Seattle Sounders before taking charge of the tiny Pacific territory of Guam where he worked more wonders.

With a shallow player pool and an inexperienced squad, White masterminded victories over the world’s second largest nation, India, as well as further impressive showings against Asian powers in Iran and Oman to help guide Guam into the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

It was then that China came calling and in his first club job, in a period of just six months, he’s once again worked his magic.

Taking over at Shanghai Shenxin in late May with the fallen Super League club struggling near the relegation spots in League One he oversaw a complete turnaround of the club to guide them to mid-table safety whilst playing some electric attacking football.

Indeed, since his mid-season arrival Shanghai reeled off 45 goals to finish as the second most prolific scorers in the division, they knocked off five of the teams that finished in the top six and chalked up both the biggest ever home and away victories in the club’s history.

An Englishman abroad.

All of this whilst not bringing in a single player to the existing squad and promoting five players from the youth team who finished as first-team regulars by season’s end.

It’s little wonder then that bigger clubs are starting to sit up and take notice of the 42-year-old who holds a UEFA Pro Licence and is set to shortly also be just the fourth foreigner to ever complete the Japanese FA’s ‘S-Licence,’ regarded as the highest qualification in Asia.

Already linked with vacancies at English clubs Wigan and Wolves it seems only a matter of time before White is handed a chance at a club in his homeland – that is if one of Asia’s bigger clubs doesn’t come calling first of all.

It’s rare for English coaches to look to move abroad and even rarer still for them to have tasted the kind of success that White has in often challenging environments.

With a contract at Shanghai that expires at the end of year there’s an air of expectation from the club’s supporters that White is the man to guide them back to the elite level of Chinese football after masterminding the dramatic turnaround this season.

There are though a host of leading clubs from across Asia and beyond now also looking to enquire about the services of the ‘magician’ but it seems that wherever he goes White is on the track to bigger and better things.

Remember the name because one day, if he keeps working his magic, he may just be headed for the very top back in his homeland.

Scott McIntyre