A group of Crewe youngsters with athletic potential are being taught by a track and field legend - and they possibly don't even know it! Robbie Brightwell, an Olympic medallist and former Britain team captain, is coaching three times a week at Crewe's Cumberland Arena. PETER MORSE spoke to the modest role model.
ROBBIE Brightwell is a former European champion and won silver medals at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo and the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia in 1962.
He enjoyed a long and illustrious career as one of the country's best ever 400m runners - setting four national records - married Olympic gold medal winner Ann Packer and had two Premiership football-playing sons, David and Ian.
Now retired and living in Congleton, Robbie is volunteering his time to coach a small group of Crewe and Nantwich AC members three times a week.
Based at the Cumberland Arena, the regular group of five or six range in age from 14 to 27 - and the younger members in the squad may be unaware of the calibre of their mentor.
Robbie, 65, said: 'I am not sure whether they know much about me but it isn't important anyway. I don't go around shouting about it because it doesn't really matter. The main thing is that they enjoy themselves and try to progress.
'In my experience it comes down to respect, and that comes from whether you are a good teacher and are able to help them on their journey.'
Since the end of his sporting career, Robbie has worked as a PE teacher, a lecturer and a football coach at Manchester City. He was managing director at adidas and Le Coq Sportif until his retirement three years ago.
He enjoyed a spell as a member of Vale Royal AC before taking on a role with Crewe and Nantwich around five months ago.
He is still in the early stages of developing his talented group but is impressed with the ability he has seen in South Cheshire.
'There is a hell of a lot of talent within a 15-mile radius of Crewe. But I don't believe that whatever expertise I can pass on would be most beneficial to a large group of people.
'Although everyone who is enthusiastic must be given the chance to learn, I feel that in a large group, the best ones can get held up by the others. I prefer a one-to-one situation and I have a group of just five or six. There is some real potential. I like to think they are progressing.'
Robbie says he gets as much satisfaction from helping others improve as he did from competing at the highest level. 'If you are competing at an international standard, it is very intense. Winning and losing is life or death.
'Now I get my pleasure from seeing people improve and I hope to help them move on to higher things. I am really enjoying it.'
Keith Hancock, the club's coaching co-ordinator, is delighted about Robbie's involvement. He said: 'His experience and wealth of knowledge can only be of benefit.
'We are trying to nurture talent and Robbie only has a small squad of runners with potential and the desire to listen and work hard.
'I think that, possibly, some of the younger ones don't even know about Robbie and just how good he was. They might not know just who they are working with. But either way, they are learning lots and that's the main thing.'