RICHIE Wellens believes an extended playing career moulded the Swindon Town manager into the tactician that he is today.

The 39-year-old made 566 professional appearances throughout his 20-year career and played for nine different clubs in that time.

Wellens never moved away from central midfield, though he did occasionally shift further up the pitch during his younger days before operating from a deeper position as his body began to tire.

A transition into management was a natural one for the former Oldham Athletic boss, who has ac-cumulated 1.55 points per game and one manager of the month award since arriving in Wiltshire a little over a year ago.

And with his side top of League Two and seemingly on a path to promotion, many have credited Wellens as one of the most tactically astute managers in the division.

Asked where he would rate himself in terms of best coaches in the division, the 39-year-old was modest in his reply.

Wellens said: “I don’t think that’s for me to answer – I think you’d have to ask the players.

“When you’re a young manager, people might question whether you’ve got the experience to be successful.

“Well I played the game for over 20 years, and the last few years that I played my legs had gone, so I couldn’t really get around the pitch like I used to.

“For me to carry on playing, I had to change my mindset.”

Near the end of 2015, during his second of three spells at Doncaster Rovers, Wellens moved out on loan on to Oldham before making a permanent move to Shrewsbury a couple of months later.

Swindon’s boss pinpointed that move as the beginning of a chapter that changed the way he viewed the game as a player, and therefore the way he would operate tactically as a manager.

Wellens said: “I still loved the game, I still loved playing, but I couldn’t physically do 11-12km.

“I was maybe at 9km, so for me to still affect the game I had to find different solutions to get time on the ball because that was what my game was about.

“Then when I got on the ball, I could see different spaces and different runs the strikers needed to make.

“So I think the last three years that I carried on playing, even though I couldn’t run anymore, helped me massively because it made me think about the tactical side of the game a lot more.”