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I'm off to Ireland and the Champions League

By Sussex Courier  |  Posted: January 19, 2013

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I HAVE coached in various countries from Norway to the USA, Gibraltar to Malta and this week I joined Sligo Rovers FC in Ireland.

When you've been involved in football for more than 40 years as boy, man, player and coach, it's hard to say no when a good opportunity presents itself.

Having come back from Azerbaijan more than nine months ago, I've not had too many offers thrown my way, so when Ian Baraclough, manager of League of Ireland champions Sligo Rovers wanted a full-time assistant, I was interested.

Ian played for several clubs, most notably QPR, before hanging up his boots at Scunthorpe, where he started his coaching career. In a little over two years, he became their manager in September 2010, when his boss, Nigel Adkins, moved to Southampton FC.

After only six months, the club had lost faith with the first-time manager and he was axed. With only 50 per cent of debut managers ever getting a second chance, he gladly accepted the Sligo Rovers job on the eve of the 2012 Airtricity Premier League season.

It was a great decision, as nine months later he was celebrating a league title – the first for the club in 35 years.

The League of Ireland runs annually from March to October inclusive. Effectively, it's a summer sport, and another reason I'm keen to experience football in the Emerald Isle.

Also, as league champions, the team will compete in the Champions League 2013/14, starting in the second qualifying round in July. Most European leagues are barely back in training, but at Sligo we will be halfway through our season.

The excitement for me is to be involved on a day-to-day basis with players, coaching, training and games. I also believe Ian Baraclough is in the early stages of a promising managerial career.

Ian and I completed the same 12-month UEFA Pro Licence course and I spent a lot of time in discussion with him regarding football methods and our beliefs.

Without doubt, the secret of getting a job in football, particularly in the ever more competitive market of football employment, is not what you know, but who you know, if you want to secure a good position.

My role will be exactly what it says on the tin, to assist the manager, with the first team as the priority. However, I will be involved in establishing a coaching structure flowing down through the club from top to bottom, including the U21s, youth, schools and the local community.

If you are not familiar with the standard of football in the League of Ireland, you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality and style on offer; take a look.

I'll keep you posted on developments and hope to gain some followers of Sligo Rovers in Kent and the south east of England.

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