MARK McChrystal is a man who ‘demands respect’ and who has a major role to play for Derry City next season, according to Candy Stripes boss, Declan Devine.
The former Bristol Rovers captain who returned to his hometown club last July for a fourth spell at the sprightly age of 34, extended his stay last week when signing a new one year contract ahead of the 2020 campaign.
He’s made a total of 124 appearances for the club since making his debut in 2003 during his first spell and was brought in by Devine last summer to act as cover for Eoin Toal and Ally Gilchrist following the departure of Josh Kerr.
And while he played just twice last season in games against Wexford in the FAI Cup first round and against Finn Harps on the final day of the season, Devine expects the experienced centre half to be much more than a role model for the younger members of his squad.
He will continue to ‘double job’ as a coach for the club’s U17 team next term but Devine has been so impressed with his fitness levels during the close season, he expects McChrystal to push Toal and Gilchrist on to another level next year.
“If I was a young player now and looking for a figure who would inspire me to have a good career in the game, then you don’t have to look past Mark McChrystal,” said Devine.
“He has probably one of the best attitudes I’ve ever worked with, both here, in Scotland and in England when I was there and working in international football.
“McChrystal probably has the best attitude I’ve ever seen. Let’s not forget some of the best players in this league are still in their 30s and Mark McChrystal still has a lot to offer, both on the pitch and off it.
“What a fantastic servant to football he’s been and I think he’s got a lot to offer us moving forward. His experience is hugely important,” he added.
“He’s been there at the top level. He’s played in England for a long time and been around this club for a long time.
“Not only that, he is a brilliant person, a person I would trust with my life. He’s coming in and there’s competition for places and when you look at the career he has had, I think he demands respect.
“He’s fitter now than I’ve seen him in a long time and that’s a testament to the person he is.”
Given his long association with the club, McChrystal is delighted to be involved in the playing side of things for another season as he looks to prolong a distinguished career.
“I’m delighted to get another year,” he said. “Since I’ve come in during the summer I’ve enjoyed every minute of it so I’m looking forward to next year again.
“That’s part of my role here. Obviously I bring a bit of experience and can help the lads along and if there’s anything the young lads need or any questions they’ve got I’m always here to help. I’m more than happy to do that. I’ll be in training every day pushing them on.
“I came here last season with the intention of training every day and trying to get a place in the team. To be fair to the two lads (Toal and Gilchrist), they did really well. Whether that was down to me being there to push them on, they produced good form and that’s what you want. But I was always there and ready if I was needed and hopefully I provided that.”
His role with the underage set-up will be crucial once again next season. It’s where he sees his future and he’s looking forward to passing on his vast knowledge of the game.
“I did it last year and I’ll be doing it again this year. I’ll be working with the underage teams and taking the reserves. That’s part of my role as well. I love doing it and look forward to doing it again this year.
“Hopefully I can pass on my knowledge and experience to make the younger guys better and help give them a career in the game. That’s part of my role and I enjoy doing that.”
McChrystal is excited about the upcoming campaign and reckons the club can push on from last season’s success.
“The lads came in last year and it was a rebuilding job. Based on that, and where the team was before last season and how the season has finished, it’s been a real positive, we have European football.
“And obviously they’re going again, trying to strengthen the squad again and push on again. Things don’t happen overnight. It’s a building process. Now that you see the squad is coming together again, things are looking good.
“At the start of every season, every club wants to do well. You have your ambitions. We will be aiming to improve on last season. The top two clubs have big budgets and that’s where they’re at. We will just focus on what we’re doing and see where we can go.”