Paddy McLaughlin thrilled to accept Ruaidhrí Higgins' assistant manager offer

Derry City’s exciting future and teaming up with good friend Ruaidhrí Higgins were the big reasons why Paddy McLaughlin has decided to become assistant manager.
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And McLaughlin, who travelled to Cork City with the squad on Thursday, admitted seeing the club up close and personal once again has impressed him.

"The magnitude of how big Derry City is and how big they are going to be, is frightening,” he insisted, "I was brought up a Derry City fan and was fortunate enough to play for them but when you get close to actually see what's happening now, it's unreal.

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"There are massive things on the horizon so to get the opp ortunity to be part of that, and hopefully add to it alongside Ruaidhrí and all the staff, is exciting.

Paddy McLaughlin admits working with good friend Ruaidhrí Higgins played a major role in returning to Derry City.Paddy McLaughlin admits working with good friend Ruaidhrí Higgins played a major role in returning to Derry City.
Paddy McLaughlin admits working with good friend Ruaidhrí Higgins played a major role in returning to Derry City.

"Ruaidhrí has great staff. I met them all this week but a few of them I know through my time in football. Ruaidhrí has got everything in place that he needs and the club has everything in place that we'll need as a group to be successful.

"Look, there's going to be a lot of work involved. There's no doubt there's going to be a lot of hard work along with blood, sweat and tears along the way and we're not thinking it's a foregone conclusion that we're going to be successful.

"We're going to have to work our socks off. That seems to be the noise coming out of the place anyway and that's the good thing about it, everyone at the club knows they need to work hard to get anything.

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"Everyone is on board. Everyone is pulling their weight and everyone knows how difficult it's going to be to become the top side in the division, but the opportunity is there and that's the big thing for me.

"The ambition and the opportunity they have to become the top side in the league was another reason why I can’t wait to get started."

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The 43-year-old was in the thick of training this week and admitted he was impressed by the talent in the squad so he’s excited to be on the touchline at Turner’s Cross tonight.

"I met up with the players and saw them at training and you can just see the class and the talent oozing out of each and every one of them,” he added. "I'm looking forward to getting in and I'm looking forward to Friday night's game at Cork City. It's going to be back on the line again and great being involved with such a top class team.”

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The Creggan man acknowledged stepping down as Cliftonville boss was “tough” but said getting the chance to work and build something special at Derry meant that decision was a lot easier.

"It was a big decision and it was a tough decision, but it was also an easy decision to make in the same breath," he insisted.

"It was tough leaving Cliftonville because they were good to me for the last four and half years. The supporters up there were fantastic. I was really close to the players and what they did for me on the pitch and in every session over the last couple of years was great. It was hard for me to tell them on Monday night that I was leaving and I was no longer their manager.

"That was the difficult part of it but once that was done, the easy part then was accepting the offer that Ruaidhrí had made for me.

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"I was grateful for that offer. I'm sure Ruaidhrí was spoiled for choice so for him to make me an offer, I was delighted to have accepted the position.

"As I said, the magnitude of Derry City is unreal. You have to be close to the club to understand how big it is and working alongside Ruaidhrí was a big pull for me as well.

"How successful he has been over the last couple of years as a manager himself, and his experience of working at Dundalk and then working for the Republic of Ireland, is incredible.

"Having worked for the Republic of Ireland at senior men's level is incredible to have on a CV at such a young age. Tapping into that kind of experience and knowledge is something that will help me as well. Also I'll be able to help Ruaidhrí with my experience as well.

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"A big factor through it all though is we're close friends and we've been close for a number of years. We've been really close since I first met him after he came back from Coventry City. That relationship and friendship has grown through the years.

"To be honest that was the single biggest factor, being able to work alongside Ruaidhrí personally, so it was an easy call agreeing to come, but it was a difficult call leaving Cliftonville."

Having started managerial career with Institute in 2017, McLaughlin guided the Drumahoe club to the title that season and it was his easy on the eye style of play which meant he replaced Barry Gray at Solitude two years later.

During his time with the Belfast men, that free flowing style moved the Reds up the table and brought them success when winning the League Cup last season.

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McLaughlin concedes the way he wants his teams to play is very similar to Higgins’ approach at the Brandywell. Indeed he jokes that down the years the only time they ever disagree is when it comes to Manchester United and Liverpool.

"We love picking each other's brains when we talk about football. There's obviously plenty of rows along the way because he's a Manchester United fan and I'm a big Liverpool fan so there's a bit of rivalry, disagreements and fall outs along the way! Jokes aside though, the good thing about me and Ruaidhrí is we're definitely on the same wavelength in terms of how we like our teams to play,” he explained.

"To be fair Ruaidhrí has Derry playing lovely football and my way of playing when I was at Institute and Cliftonville is very similar to the way Derry are playing at the minute.

"Having two minds should provide a good mix and a good blend, so hopefully we can be as successful as I believe it will be."

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The ex-Reds boss turned Higgins down two years ago, before Reynolds was appointed. So what changed McLaughlin’s mind this time around?

"A lot was made about the last time I spoke to Ruaidhrí but it was only a brief conversion we had. There was no real turning the offer down or anything like that. It was an idea that was brought up but at the time I just wasn't sure it was right time for me,” he confirmed.

"It was a good time for Ruaidhrí as he wanted people in alongside him and he was right in what he was saying but there was more made of it than what it actually was. It was just an idea which was fired on the table but I felt at the time I didn't think it was right for me. I didn't think it was fair for me to accept something I wasn't going to be committed 100 per cent to because my heart and commitment was with Cliftonville then.

"This time around and obviously seeing the plans and what they've done over those two years, it was something that I wanted to be part of and especially with it being Derry City.

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"It's my home town club. The ambition they have as a club was something that I also have and you want to be apart of something successful. You want to be challenging for leagues and cups on a regular basis and we feel we've got the tools to achieve that.

"Myself, Ruaidhrí and all his staff, whom I’ve said are top notch, his players and everyone associated with the club want to be a part of trying to bring success to the club.”

McLaughlin got the boots back on this week at training and said he enjoyed being back out on the training pitch.

"I loved being back on the training pitch,” he said. “I had good coaches at Clifto nville and I let them oversee a lot of what we did. I just kept an eye from a distance but being back on the pitch and getting the boots back on was great to back.

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"I know it was only a brief sighting but the talent, the sharpness and the ability in the group is frightening. It's so scary and hopefully they fulfil what they're about. Everything that I can see in them already means there are exciting times ahead at the club and I'm delighted to be part of it.”