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Playing the Hampton way: Mr Mills on his coaching career

By Jago Doherty

In April 2019, Mr Carlos Mills guided the Hampton School 1st XI to their first ever ESFA cup victory, and in so doing cemented his place in the Hampton history books as one of the most decorated coaches the school has had.

Carlos Mills joined Hampton School in September 1999. For years he coached the prestigious Hampton 1st XI, with whom he won two ISFA cups and of course the ESFA cup. 

When asked about his favourite of the trio, Mr Mills said, “I can’t really name one but they are all really memorable”. 

In April 2019, twenty coachloads of eager Hamptonians made the 170 mile journey to Shrewsbury Town FC’s ground, to witness Mr Mills’ 1st XI take on Repton School in the 2018/19 ESFA cup final. 

When asked how the support helped the team, their coach said “I know the boys thrived on it a great deal, and it was appreciated.” 

Hampton’s travelling supporters buoyed the team

Even though winning trophies is a great experience for a manager and his players, Mr Mills’ highlight of the ESFA campaign was the team itself and how they developed. 

“It started the season before where they struggled a bit, and it was in the new year where they really came on leaps and bounds,” says Mr Mills when asked about how his final 1st XI developed. 

Despite coaching many winning sides in national competitions, when asked what his favourite team to coach was, Mr Mills told HSC: “I would certainly say the season before; we won ESFA last year, but the second half of the season before that. 

“I would certainly say this winning ESFA side was one of the most rewarding. The team’s journey started in the second half of the season before.

“I remember having many discussions with Mr Ritchie about how we can get the best out of the team and we felt we wanted to strip back to our basic principles, hard work, teamwork, concentrating on being the best passing side and keeping possession – and above all play with high energy, focus and enjoyment. 

“Credit must go to Will Davis the previous captain and then handing over to George Maxwell.  Both were very different in their characters but both were completely committed, proud and passionate and were outstanding in training and on the pitch.  

“I think it was 2018, all the way through to the end of that season, going on the USA tour and then carrying it through all the way to the national final.”

At the start of the 2019/20 school year, Carlos Mills stepped down an age group to coach the Hampton U16As, leaving his beloved 1st XI. 

Many coaches might have tried to rethink their tactics and coaching style had they dropped down an age group, but the new U16A coach decided not to do that.  

When asked how coaching the 1st XI differs from the U16s he said, “The message I gave to them at the start of the year was that I wasn’t going to treat them any different. 

Mills’ U16A team have thrived this season, reaching the ESFA final

“I was the 1st XI coach for many years and I was going to follow that same process.” 

One of the many things that Mr Mills brought to the U16As was his obvious experience in the ESFA cup.  When speaking to HSC he said, “It is difficult to be consistent for long spells in sport but that is our aim really for any coach, any player in the A teams and 1st XI. That’s what the experience of doing well in national competitions gives me.”

As well as being the coach of the Hampton U16As, Carlos Mills is also the school’s director of sport. 

“It is really to promote sport at the top level and also to support and promote sport all the way down to grassroots and make the most of our facilities, to get the most out of our boys,” he says when asked what his role entails. 

During Mr Mills’ time at Hampton there have been many new facilities added, a key one being the 3G pitch that hosts many crucial games as well as acting as a great playground for pupils.

When asked why it was built, Mr Mills said “To help to play more football and more sport and to support football and rugby.” 

The director of sport believes that we are very lucky at Hampton to have the facilities we have, but if he had a wish list, he told HSC “I would love to have another sports hall, indoor space to support all of our indoor sports. And yes, a swimming pool would be on that list as well.” 

Hampton footballers will have heard about the mysterious ‘Hampton way’, but to many of them the meaning is unknown.  “There was a certain Mr McLean,” says Mr Mills, “who ran the 1st XI for many years and he was very adamant that we needed to play the passing style of football. 

“That was the most challenging way we believe that any footballer or any boy should be playing the game, keeping it on the floor – and then it evolved from there.”

“The Hampton way is keeping the ball and playing possession football – and at times it might be easier to be more direct and play long passes, but we are fast in attack and keep the ball for long spells.  And hopefully, with patience and quality, we will overcome the opposition.”

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