Derry City’s new Technical Director, Paddy McCourt, was only half joking when he admitted he’s been doing the job for the last 12 months.
The Derry Pele’s new title was officially confirmed on Monday but anyone close to the club and aware of McCourt’s influence will tell you the 36-year-old has been in the role from the minute Declan Devine was appointed Candy Stripes boss.
“It’s probably not a new role as it’s a role I’ve been doing for a while, there’s just been a new title put on it. It’s a role I sort of inherited after Declan (Devine) came in,” explained McCourt.
“When I came in under Kenny Shiels, I wasn’t ‘in’ as such. I was looking at things and having the odd meeting but I was very much focused on only the Academy.
“When Decky came in, as everyone knows, we didn’t have a lot of players and we all needed to lend a hand and we seemed to get a lot of players on board in a short space of time. I handled a lot of that for Decky because he was getting pre-season going so I was doing all the phone calls.
“But I really enjoyed it and, in the end, combined it with my Academy role, which I’ll continue to do. I’m enjoying the role.
“In the summer I met Sean (Barrett) and Philip (O’Doherty) and they asked me to take the role on in a more official basis. They said they were going to title it and wanted it out there in terms of my new role and I was more than happy to do it.”
The former Celtic winger, who returned to his home town club a few years ago as Head of Academy, says he’s hopeful his hard work behind the scenes will see the club announce their latest new signing in the next 24 hours.
“I suppose my new job is to try and take a bit of work away from Declan in terms of contracts, recruiting players and scouting players, which leaves him free to focus on the Friday night match,” he added.
“My four main roles will be to oversee the recruitment, the academy, contract negotiations and re-negotiations, along with Dodie McGuinness and Sean.
“If the modern day manager tried to do everything which is involved in modern football, you wouldn’t have enough hours in the day, so we all rally round.
“In fact we hope to sign a player in the next few days that I first made a call to last January.
“Declan can’t be doing that where as I can keep in touch with him and keep building that relationship with him. If we can get this player over the line then it will have been a full year’s work gone into it but hopefully it will be worth it.”
Having played at the highest level with Northern Ireland, and worked and played alongside a host of top managers and players, McCourt admits he has had to use his extensive contacts list in a bid to strengthen the Brandywell men’s squad ahead of the 2020 campaign.
“It definitely helps. People tend to take your calls and you probably get that bit of respect when your name comes up on the phone but we try and use every advantage we have and we have to do that,” he added.
“As Philip has mentioned, we have got a few quid extra on the budget which everyone has seen by the names we have attracted to the club already but we still have to use every weapon in our arsenal. If that is meaning I make the odd phone call that Decky doesn’t get involved with until a few weeks into the negotiations, then so be it.
“For now it seems to work quite well but we have to keep driving it on.”
McCourt believes the work he did alongside Declan, Kevin Deery and Martin McCann did last year to assemble their squad has meant this year’s recruiting process hasn’t been as hectic.
“We have signed three players now and we’ll probably sign another four before the window shuts, potentially five, but we aren’t in a rush,” insists McCourt.
“We had 23 players training on Sunday. Seven of them are through the academy and pushing into the first team but we have 16 first team players. We have Darren Cole out injury and he’ll comeback in June so we are now in a position because of the hard work that we did last year. We can be patient and hopefully wait for the right players to come up.
“We have got specific targets for areas we are missing. It’s not like last year when we had to go ‘bang’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’ as we needed to get a squad together in six weeks. We now have a nucleus of a good squad, of good people and good players. Now it’s about filling the important parts in terms of your attacking or defensive side.
“There are people we have been working on for a long time and hopefully we’ll get some answers from those players over the next two or three weeks.
“Decky said last year he didn’t feel we had a strong enough squad. We had maybe a nucleus of 13 or 14 players that, at times, the management team felt they had ran into the ground because they didn’t feel that they had the squad to make enough rotations.
“When we sat down at the end of the season and the start of this season, our debrief was to improve the depth of the squad and having that extra few pound will allow us to do that.
“We did a lot of the hard work last year but the one thing myself and Declan are really focusing on when we draw up lists in terms of recruiting players is that we get the right type of characters.
“We go with a squad of 20 or 21 players so you are going to have to have boys who will go to through the mill for you and play 30 or 40 games a season. Also Derry is an unique place and you have to be the right type of character who gets that buy in from the fans. If you are the wrong type of character it tends to go the wrong way, we know that through history.
“In terms of a player ID, there’s so much more we look at than whether they are just a good football player.”
McCourt will complete his UEFA Pro Licence alongside Deery this summer so does that signal the Shantallow man may one day sit in the manager’s hot-seat?
“It depends where you go because there probably isn’t going to be this role at every club in Ireland. As I said, I came in as Academy manager and then grew into this role but I’m really enjoying both sides,” he explained.
“We have an excellent manager so my job, and everyone’s job, is to support him as best we can.
“Further down the line, if management is something I fancy, then I’ll have a look at it but, for now, my main role is to support the manager.”