From cleaner to cup winner: Celtic coach's remarkable rise in football

By John McGinley

May 29, 2022

Fran Alonso has masterminded a superb Celtic FC Women cup double after a stunning 3-2 victory over Glasgow City at Tynecastle today.

Alonso’s team played with the heart and grit we’ve come to expect from his outfit over the last couple of years.

Down to ten and battling all sorts of issues, Izzy Atkinson, Charlie Wellings and Shen Mengyu managed to find the goals that made history.

Alonso’s story is remarkable. He left life as a gardener in Spain to live in England and pursue his dream of football coaching, explaining to The Scottish Mail on Sunday this weekend how his humble start was a world away from what he’s enjoying now.

He told the paper [29/05 print edition, page 137]: “I began by doing a cleaning job because I couldn’t speak the language. It was actually quite funny because I was working with some foreigners like me and they didn’t speak good English either so it was the only job they could get. There were also some English people working alongside me and I loved it as I was learning English every day. I honestly was so happy!

“They’d say things like, “Why are you so happy, you’re just a cleaner?” And, “Why did you come here just to clean?” I told them: “I didn’t come here just to be a cleaner. That’s only a step for me. I want to be a manager in the Premier League.”

Alonso began refereeing voluntarily in grassroots football before coaching at the underage level. Then he got his big break as Gaston Ramirez’s interpreter, working under Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton, where he was eventually added to the technical staff. That’s where his coaching philosophy started coming together.

He continued to The Mail on Sunday: “The most important thing for me is the person and not the player. I manage people, not players. That way, you get the best out of them as a player. I like helping people to achieve. That’s the number one thing I learned from Pochettino’s presence.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The organisation, the level of detail, the preparation. I’m lucky to have been in the same team as him as he was a football encyclopaedia.”

Now, after 15 years abroad, he’s making history at Celtic and still harbours that ambition of one-day managing in the Premier League.

Alonso concluded: “Two things will happen. It will happen or I will die trying. That’s it.”

What a story, what a man and what a win today! The journey of Alonso’s Celtic continues!

In other news, Celtic help break attendance record.