WATERFORD boss, Alan Reynolds is relishing the chance to test himself against the best managers in the country this season as he prepares to lock horns with Kenny Shiels in tonight’s Premier Division opener against Derry City at the RSC.
The 43 year-old has learned from the top coaches in Ireland during spells as trusted assistant to Stephen Kenny at Derry City in 2008 and John Caulfield in 2016 before returning to his hometown to guide Waterford to the top flight after a 10 year absence.
After clinching the First Division title last season, he quickly signalled his intent by swooping for two of the Premier Division’s top talents in ex-Bohs striker, Ismahil Akinade and former Limerick midfielder, Bastien Hery which has raised expectations at the Suirside club.
Derry boss, Shiels even suggested the Munster men could potentially challenge Cork City and Dundalk for the 2018 title but Reynolds isn’t even entertaining those predictions, claiming staying up is his first priority.
He believes there’s plenty of similarities between Derry and Waterford given the numerous new additions at both clubs and he’s excited to go head-to-head at the RSC tonight.
In fact the ex-City No. 2 claims he couldn’t have picked a better team to play in his first fixture as a Premier Division boss as the red and white Candy Stripes roll into town.
They’re coming into the unknown on Friday and so are we a little bit regards their team. We’ve watched clips of them and they’re a good team. McEneff and Low, you don’t get too much better than that.Alan Reynolds
“I have a lot of time for the Derry folk I really enjoyed my time up there,” said the Waterford boss. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to have Derry City down here for the first game.
“It’s a fantastic club and they’ve done really well over the last couple of years. It’s a club I really like and have a lot of affection for from my brief time up there.
“I like the club and the city and I’m delighted to have them first game of the season. But hopefully we can get one over them,” he laughed.
Many pundits have predicted a top half of the table finish for the league’s newcomers who boast the services of former Cork City midfielder, Gavan Holohan, ex- St Pat’s and Cork defender, Kenny Browne and former Kenny Shiels target and ex-Drogheda man, Paul Keegan who captains the club in 2018.
However, Reynolds is quick to temper those expectations and drew similarities with what Shiels is attempting to achieve on Foyleside.
“We need to be careful with the expectations. I suppose it’s a bit like Kenny where there’s a lot of new players in and it’s about how quick they can gel and settle.
“I find we’re in the same situation. They’re coming into the unknown on Friday and so are we a little bit regards their team. We’ve watched clips of them and they’re a good team. McEneff and Low, you don’t get too much better than that. But it’s exciting.”
So what about Shiels’ suggestion they could challenge for the title? “We’re taking it one game at a time and will give it everything we’ve got. Whatever people say they say. I haven’t time to listen to what other managers say about my time. I have to look at getting my team right.
“I know pre-season has been up and down for both of us. But nothing prepares you for Friday night when there’s something at stake. You need that edge and it will definitely be a lively affair because there will be a decent crowd here. The atmosphere will be good and I’m looking forward to it.”
So after several years as an assistant coach, how does he feel about now having to make the big decisions?
“The buck stops with me now. When I think back at being a No. 2 you just get into your car and go home. That’s it. You’re work is done on the training pitch and the manager is thinking 24/7 about how to improve. It’s definitely a change but why wouldn’t I want to do it. Managing a team in a 10 team Premier Division excites me. To play agianst Kenny Shiels and Derry City excites me. We just have to win a few games.”