A YOUNG Northumberland man is taking his place alongside two football internationals on the coaching staff of one of Iceland’s top soccer teams.
Gregg Ryder is the 25-year-old assistant coach at Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja – better known as IBV – who recently signed former Premiership star Herman Hreidarsson and one-time England goalkeeper David James.
The team, based in Vestmannaeyjar, an island off Iceland’s south coast, played in this year’s Europa League and number former Newcastle United trainee Aaron Spear in their squad.
But the signing of David James, who played with Hreidarsson at Portsmouth as well as winning 53 England caps, has shone a media spotlight on the country where the official national sport is Glíma, a form of wrestling.
“It is quite surreal,” Gregg said. “He was one of the biggest names in football when I was growing up so it is going to be great to work alongside him.”
Gregg, a former pupil of Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham, who played football for Hexham Tigers and Stocksfield, left the North East aged 18 when he won a football scholarship to study at university in America.
When he returned home, he met a friend who knew of a coaching job in Iceland and decided to give it a go. After starting out coaching the under 19s, two-and-a-half years later he is now assistant coach to the senior team.
Gregg, whose parents Robin and Sheila live in Bingfield near Hexham, said: “I am getting so much more coaching experience than if I had stayed in the UK and am one of the youngest coaches in the country. One of the big differences is getting used to the weather as well as the long dark winters and light summers.
“It is not as cold as you would think, but it can make playing conditions difficult and you have to respect the weather. The season also runs from May to September, because of the hours of daylight. The long dark winters can be depressing, but in summer there is nearly 24 hours of daylight and so you can be playing a round of golf at 1am.”
The team, who are based on an island with a population of just 4,500 people, are used to playing in front of crowds of 500-1,000. So they were thrilled during a recent pre-season tour of the UK when 7,000 turned out for a charity game in Portsmouth to help raise funds for the cash-strapped club at Fratton Park on April 16.
Gregg added: “It’s hard sometimes being away from your family. But I’m getting fantastic experience and I am really looking forward to the new season.”