The Derry City boss experienced significant success at the club as a player during his eight-and-a-half years on Foyleside and he’s all too aware of the potential of the Brandywell club which, he reckons, remains ‘one of the biggest clubs in this country’.
The 36 year-old Limavady native has won it all domestically, including two FAI Cup victories and five League Cup titles during his two spells and 289 appearances with the Candy Stripes.
He added a Setanta Cup with Bohemians (2010) and a league title with Dundalk (2014) to complete the trophy haul during a glittering playing career in the League of Ireland.
Higgins, who succeeded Declan Devine at the end of April, has overseen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes with just one defeat in eight games in charge to lift the club off the foot of the table. That run included an impressive unbeaten streak on the road with wins at Sligo Rovers, Bohemians, Waterford and Drogheda!
Commenting on popular League of Ireland podcast ‘LOI Central’ this week, Higgins stated his desire to reinstate City as genuine title contenders during his three-and-a-half year tenure as manager.
“During my career when I was at Derry we were always used to competing for trophies, winning trophies and at the right end of the league table so it just sort of gradually went away from that for whatever reason,” said Higgins. “But I think Derry is one of the biggest clubs in this country, north or south, and if things are going well then I believe Derry can start winning trophies again or I wouldn’t have taken the job. It’s as simple as that. It’s too big of a club not to be competing.”
Prior to taking the job Higgins explained he had watched the ‘spine-tingling’ ‘Different League: The Derry City Story’ documentary which reinforced his view the club has huge potential. With the backing of the chairman, Mr Philip O’Doherty, he hopes to achieve similar success to what he enjoyed as a player and is looking forward to the challenge.
“Listen, there’s huge potential at this club. If you’re winning and doing well you can get 4,000 or 5,000 people in the Brandywell every week.
“We had that for a period in 2006 and that has to be the ambition, to get back to those heights. Don’t get me wrong, there’s going to be a lot of hard work involved. Given the size of the club, the chairman and everyone behind the scenes and I think there’s some really good players and great staff here. You have to be ambitious in life so my ambition and the staff and players’ ambition is to try and get back to those heights.
“I’m not saying for one minute we’re going to challenge to win the league next year, but what’s the point if you don’t have ambition? My ambition is to try and compete for a league title within the period of my contract. And if I don’t then I probably won’t be managing the football club after the period of my contract. I know how the game works. Philip has offered me a long term deal along with the Board and they see me as the right person to take it forward but things can change very quickly. If I don’t produce the goods then someone else will take my position.”
Despite a hugely positive start to his reign, Higgins is keen to temper expectations although Derry went in at the mid-season break just five points behind fourth place Drogheda and a potential European slot. However, consolidation is the target for 2021 according to the former midfielder.
“We were bottom of the league about six weeks ago and we’ve now accumulated a decent amount of points and have slightly broken away from the bottom two.
“There’s nothing to say we can’t creep back in there but this year was always about trying to consolidate and stay in the league. We’ll just treat every game in isolation and try and pick up as many wins as possible and see where it takes us. But I wouldn’t be getting too greedy this year to be honest.”