Shaun Wane had a rough start in life and is proud to be England’s coach striving for World Cup glory
To really understand how much it will mean for Shaun Wane to lead his country out at a World Cup at home, you first need to know where he’s from and what he’s been through.
“It was a very, very unhappy childhood,” admits the English rugby league coach, who grew up on the municipal estate of Worsley Hall in Wigan. ‘My father was a cheeky man and I was a shocking child. I broke into places, squeezed cars, went all night fighting with men.
But the way my father handled it beat me to pieces every week. And I mean locked in a room for 20 minutes, couldn’t get out and he was a big guy.
Shaun Wane has come a long way to where he is today – aiming for World Cup glory this year
The ex-Wigan Warriors head coach with the Super League trophy after their 2018 win
‘I just remember being scared. I don’t have any fond memories at all. It was grief. I just wanted it to end. I didn’t go to school for months and one day, when I was 15, I called a bomb threat to the police and the school was evacuated. I was caught and arrested.
‘The police took me home and then my father almost killed me. Then I ran and never went back home. ‘
It turned out to be the turning point in Wane’s life. He moved in with his girlfriend Lorraine’s family – now his 30-year-old wife and mother of his two daughters. And within a year, he had signed a professional rugby league contract with Wigan, while most of his friends from the estate were and are still in prison.
“I had nowhere to go and went to Lorraine’s house. I walked in and her house was warm and I had my own bed, while my house was freezing and I was sharing a bed with my two brothers, ” recalls the 56-year-old, whose father and two brothers have now all passed away.
‘There was a meal on the table every day and I thought,’ What the hell is this? ‘ We never had food in the house.
‘I thought she was weird. I thought everyone looked like me and was destroyed by their fathers. I didn’t know everyone looked like her.
‘It was a rough old start to my life so it’s incredibly special to coach my country while being just as patriotic as I am.
“I’m not one to pat myself on the back, but when I came home last year after meeting the RFL board, I said to my wife,” I can’t believe it, I’m head coach of England, my country “. I’ve given my family something to be proud of. ‘
Wane admitted he could hardly believe it when he was named England head coach last year
Wane has the Japanese word ‘Kaizen’ tattooed on his right forearm. “I went on a trip to America and got drunk and woke up with it – my wife went crazy!” he smiles.
Kaizen means ‘to change for the better’. It is his coaching philosophy and he has lived his life towards it, not least in the 10-year period from his retirement as a player to a full-time coach.
“I did 120 hours a week every week for ten years,” he says. ‘I was the key account manager for Tarmac in Greater Manchester and also coached children.
My family life was suffering. It was heavy. But I wanted to be the best at Tarmac and sell more concrete than anyone else. I was obsessed with it. And I wanted to be recognized as a good coach. I did both. ‘
Wane was eventually named Wigan Under 18 coach in 2003, then worked his way up to the first team and became head coach in 2011. In his seven years in the top job, he won three Super League Grand Finals, a Challenge Cup and a World Cup. Club Challenge.
Wane was given one task when he took the job in England last year – to win the 2021 World Cup
When he took over England’s boss last year, Wane was given one task: to win the 2021 World Cup. “That was it, simple, and that’s why I took the job,” he admits. ‘If they had said to me, just give a good picture of ourselves, I’m not sure I would have taken the job. I like the stress, the pressure, the need to perform. ‘
Despite serving for 14 months, Wane has yet to meet his squad, let alone take charge of a match, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he has held weekly Zoom meetings with players and has just had a video chat with his Australian stars while speaking with Sportsmail
On Tuesday, with 200 days to go before England starts the World Cup against Samoa at St James’ Park, Wane will appoint a training squad for his first session with the players next week.
“It was difficult because I am happiest on the field, coaching the players and letting them know the details of what it takes to play for England,” he says.
On Tuesday, Wane designates a training team for his first session with the players next week
But the longer we make these Zoom calls, I feel that the players need to understand me much better.
‘It’s not easy for me to play. I make the environment very challenging. I feel comfortable telling someone if I am happy or not. I think people want to know where they stand. I don’t intend to bewilder people with bulls ***. ‘
That last line is one of Wane’s main messages when invited to speak with aspiring football coaches on UEFA Pro License courses. But he’s also learned from leaders in other sports himself and hopes to date Gareth Southgate, another English boss who wants to win a home-grown tournament this year.
“I’d really like to meet him and have a chat,” says Wane. ‘I like to have conversations with people from different sports.
Wane has also learned from leaders in other sports and hopes to talk to Gareth Southgate
“I spoke to John Terry a few weeks ago and met Lee Westwood. When I was in Wigan we had a lot of people – Gary Neville, Ricky Hatton, Jonny Wilkinson, Owen Farrell.
Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to the boys in 2011. I could spend hours talking to you guys about what I’ve learned. He was so impressive. He just knew everything about everything. ‘
And it’s Ferguson’s stomping grounds at Old Trafford where Wane wants to be on Nov. 27 for the World Cup final for what could be a sold-out home crowd.
“It could be very special,” he adds. “We have a very, very good chance. We have some great players in our country and we just need to make sure our preparation is fantastic.
Wane was hired on a two-year deal last year after years of success at Wigan Warriors
‘If we won it in our country, it would be a huge shot in the arm for the English rugby league. It would give our great game some recognition that it is missing at the moment.
“We last won the World Cup in 1972. That’s my message to the players – it’s been half a century. There are only a few of those players left alive and I have a video of them to play for my players.
‘They’re in the history books forever and this is our chance to be in the history books forever. It’s in our hands, it’s in our country, this is our chance and I don’t want to miss it. ‘
All remaining tickets for the Rugby League World Cup 2021 will go on sale on Tuesday tickets.rlwc2021.com