UEFA A Certified: How Timbers assistant coach Liam Ridgewell balanced coaching while pursuing his UEFA coaching certifications

From Timbers trainings to Zoom calls to working alongside coaching candidates in England, Ridgewell has been taking it all in

It’s another early morning in Portland when Liam Ridgewell sits down and loads up Zoom. Glimpses of afternoon sun are already visible in individual backgrounds as his classmates’ faces pop up on his screen. Granit Xhaxa in Germany, Colin Kazim-Richards in Turkey, Jermain Defoe in England. It’s already the middle of the day for many of his peers on the other side of the Atlantic.

Soon, Ridgewell will have to leave for the Timbers Training Facility in Beaverton, if he isn’t there already. For now, the former professional centerback-turned-student opens his notebook and prepares to jot down notes. The day is set to begin with a film session before the group of former players and some of the brightest minds in global soccer branch off into a deeper conversation about everything from youth development and tactical ideas to professional player management.

This has been Ridgewell’s life since he retired in February 2020. He’s either coaching, or learning about it, balancing his work within a soccer club alongside taking courses as he pursues his next UEFA coaching license. In May, Ridgewell finally received his UEFA A license, the second-highest coaching qualification in global soccer.

Ridgewell A License GroupHZ
Liam Ridgewell alongside his fellow A License coaching classmates

Timbers fans could likely pick up on the centerback’s coaching tendencies back when he donned the Green and Gold between 2014-2018. Often wearing the captain's armband, Ridgewell was one of the team’s loudest vocal leaders, constantly barking orders from the backline to ensure his teammates were in the right place at the right time.

“I didn’t think too much about (coaching) early in my career, but by the time I got to Portland my thought process was coaching and looking to be a manager one day,” Ridgewell said.

As soon as he retired, Ridgewell dove into coaching. He found a job with the Aston Villa Academy in his native England and it wasn’t long until he was juggling his day-to-day responsibilities at the club with the weekly Zoom calls of a six-week UEFA C license course. Shortly after, he began to work with Dover Athletic FC as he spent months pursuing his UEFA B license.

“(Those experiences in England) gave me a sense of working with an academy and younger kids as well as with senior pros and making big decisions on team selections and formations,” Ridgewell said. “It helped a lot before I got back to the Timbers.”

By the time he joined Portland’s coaching staff ahead of the 2023 MLS season, Ridgewell held his UEFA B license –– allowing him to become an assistant coach at a professional club –– but his sights were already set on achieving his UEFA A license, which meant another long, demanding course.

With 180 hours required, including 40 hours in person, Ridgewell is grateful for the support he has received from the Timbers organization since he began the course in May 2023. While taking the course, the club has given Ridgewell the freedom to record himself coaching and interacting with players, miss occasional coaching meetings to be on early morning Zoom calls and return to England when needed.

Ridgewell taking notes

A large portion of today’s UEFA coaching license courses take place over Zoom. The weekly group sessions allows those taking the course to watch coaching film together, discuss different coaching and tactical styles, reflect on personal experiences and even engage in heated debates.

“Zoom calls are always difficult because everyone’s trying to talk at once and you need to try and hold back a bit,” Ridgewell said. “They’re meant to be an hour, but always go on longer because there are so many different and big personalities and everyone wants to hear from someone.”

Luckily, the course also involved time spent in-person at St. George’s Park National Football Center in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, the home of England’s Football Association. Between sessions built around on-field tactics, Ridgewell had the opportunity to pick the brains of his peers in person.

He talked with Carlos Cuesta, a current Arsenal assistant coach under Mikel Arteta, about how the London club’s defense has changed year-over-year and its defensive recruitment strategy. On another day, he spent time with current Tottenham Hotspur U18s coach –– and former Premier League and England forward –– Jermain Defoe gaining a fresh perspective about the mindset of attackers in today’s game.

“When I become a manager one day I want to coach an exciting team to watch, but also defensively strong, so you have to try and let go of some of my thoughts to be able to allow these attacking thoughts to come in,” Ridgewell said. “Listening to Jermain was massive and really good for me. I’ll be texting him every now and again trying to bounce ideas off people.”

Wherever he went, Ridgewell often had his red notebook, with “England Football Learning” printed on the cover below the nation’s famous “Three Lions” crest, in hand.

“You’re jotting stuff down just trying to take it all in,” Ridgewell said. “By the time you finish a session you can’t remember what you’ve done most of the time.”

When Ridgewell arrived in England to complete his UEFA A license course, he brought the same notebook full of questions and thoughts he scribbled down while working with the Timbers. One of his biggest questions turned out to be something that never crossed his mind as a player.

“The big thing for me was understanding where you set up your (training) session,” Ridgewell said. “What does that session look like and who is it for? That’s why I say I watch other coaches when they go and set a certain drill up and ask myself why they are doing it there.”


Not only did Ridgewell leave Portland full of questions, but he returned with dozens of new ones after his short trip back to England. From different ways to run training sessions to what leadership looks like as a coach, Ridgewell has been given the freedom to approach Head Coach Phil Neville with new ideas and questions alike.

“Just all the ideas that are floating around in my head and how I want to do stuff… you’re just trying to give opinions to Phil (Neville),” Ridgewell said. “Sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t, but (being receptive) is what Phil has been so good at since he has been with the club.”

Now Ridgewell can relax, or at least not have to worry about juggling his coaching duties with a demanding UEFA course. It will be roughly ten months before he can start classes for his UEFA Pro license, which will take him two years to complete. For now, he will continue to learn, reflect and work off what he took away from achieving his UEFA A license as the Timbers enter the second half of their 2024 MLS season.

“It’s nice to get a bit of a breather from Zoom calls and thinking about a lot of different things,” Ridgewel said, “but it’s always enjoyable when the season is a little hectic to switch off and look at something different and reflect.”