HIGHLY regarded for his ability to bring young players through to senior level, Derry City’s new boss, Kenny Shiels, agreed that he faces a tough challenge in his first managerial sojourn into League of Ireland football.
A lengthy career in the Irish League with clubs such as Coleraine and Ballymena, Shiels moved to Scotland to take up a post with Kilmarnock before arriving at the Brandywell a few months ago.
However, having lost the services of four key Derry players to other clubs during the close season - Patrick McEleney, Philip Lowry, Mark Timlin and Stephen Dooley - Shiels is acutely aware that he doesn’t have his sorrows to seek.
“Brandywell Stadium will experience a rebuilding process during this season and so will the team, given that we’ve lost, in an attacking sense, four of our best players from last year,” noted Shiels.
“Obviously those departures have left a massive hole in the squad. My job is to attempt to fill that hole with players of similar quality or, indeed, deploy the services of others who will be prepared to work harder and put the effort in,” he added.
“Players will come and players will leave every club, that’s the nature of football, but I’ve been very impressed with the workrate and effort put in by the players over the close season and I’ve been so well supported by my backroom staff who have been so professional in their work.
“In my experience as a manager, you only get out of it what you put in and I expect honesty and hard graft from every player in every match and, hopefully, that will help carry us through.”
Boasting a much smaller budget than the previous season, Shiels refused to be down-beat and pointed to Derry’s success when bringing young players through the ranks.
“We’re a young squad and we have a decent string of young players coming through. We have quite a few local lads who I want integrated into the first team squad. I had seven such players training with the first team this week and that will continue throughout the season,” maintained the new boss.
He believed it would be “very foolish” to set targets and preferred to feel his way into the new campaign and see where the hard work he will demand will take him.
“There can be so many pitfalls when setting targets before any campaign. Prolonged injuries and even suspensions can set you back, so it would be a pointless exercise.
“Rory Patterson has returned and it’s great to have a striker of his quality back in the squad. We’ve also added another few lads who will be unknown quantities to the Derry City support, so we’ll not make predictions, just take each game as it comes.”
Shiels is also aware of the quality of the league, pointing to the success of Dundalk in Europe last season.
“What an effort that was,” he noted. “They went so close to getting to the group stages, so that’s the yardstick every team in the league must aspire to. It was a great effort.
“We’ve got to find ways of getting results.
“We’ve got to develop and improve as the weeks progress and get a winning mentality into the squad. “
Thankfully we have a few experienced players at the club and they must play their part in helping the youngsters progress.”