Ruaidhri Higgins tackles Derry City's online criticism: "I'm not on social media! - Thank God!"

​RUAIDHRI HIGGINS isn't one to shy away from adversity but in the age of social media the Derry City boss makes a conscious decision to avoid online scrutiny and negativity aimed at his team.
A young fan poses for a picture with Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins at the Brandywell on Friday evening. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2322GS – 118A young fan poses for a picture with Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins at the Brandywell on Friday evening. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2322GS – 118
A young fan poses for a picture with Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins at the Brandywell on Friday evening. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2322GS – 118

​The Candy Stripes have registered just one win in their last six league fixtures and that dip in form has been met by no shortage of criticism and catastrophising on Derry City fan forums and other social networking sites.

Social media can be a positive influence and drive fan engagement but it certainly exposes players and managers to more abuse and criticism than ever before. Higgins, however, won't let any outside noise derail his team's ambitions this season, particularly given the horrendous hand they've been dealt with injuries.

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The thick-skinned Limavady man admits he doesn't have an Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account and for good reason given the volatile nature of football and polarising opinions.

"We're in a world at the minute where everyone has a platform," said the City boss when asked if some of the online criticism of late got under his skin.

"I'm not on social media - thank God! Everyone has a platform now to comment on anything they want to.

"Football, I've never seen an industry like it that divides opinion like no other sport, like no other profession and it is what it is. But I know how hard we work here.

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" I know what we put in and I know where this club can get to and that's my driver."

Drifting seven points behind Shamrock Rovers on Monday night paved the way for further debate about the direction of the club but this is familiar territory for Higgins who understands how fickle football fans can be.

And bearing in mind his team has been decimated by long term injuries to key personnel, it's been quite an achievement to still be in the title mix.

"It was similar to last year, midseason, where we got absolutely butchered from pillar to post and then you end up winning the cup and finishing second in the league.

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"It's amazing how quickly opinions change. They change (opinions) on a result and that's the world that we live in.

"I know our real supporters; I know the people that really matter know we're going in the right direction. I don't feel like I have to sit here and defend what's gone on over the last couple of years, that's for sure."

Perhaps he's a victim of his own success but expectations have certainly risen ten-fold among the City support.

As Higgins prepares to mark his 100th game as manager of the Brandywell club this Friday night in Tolka Park the Limavady man said he is 'pretty satisfied' with the job he's done since taking the reins.

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His first objective was to lift Derry off the foot of the table when he took his first managerial job in April 2021 and he somewhat overachieved when remarkably qualifying for Europe with a team he inherited.

The financial backing of Higgins in the transfer market was spent shrewdly and quickly repaid as he brought home a first FAI Cup triumph in 10 years and a highest finish in the league since 2006.

Despite losing ground in the title race, there's still 39 points to be played for and Derry remain in second place with European football and the defence of the FAI Cup on the horizon.

Asked to reflect on how he would judge his 100 games in charge of the Foylesiders, Higgins was quite happy with how his two-and-a-half-year tenure had unfolded.

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"We're having this conversation when we're not in a brilliant moment so the 100th game is not really a priority for me at all," he stressed.

"But if you look at it from a birds eye view and analyse it from start to finish, the club were in an extremely difficult moment 100 games ago, under pressure to stay in the league.

"We managed to get into Europe. Last year we finished second and won a cup. This year we're sitting in second at the minute, and going into a European campaign and have the cup to defend.

"So I know things are a wee bit off track slightly at the minute but over the course of those 100 games you have to be pretty satisfied with where it's at.

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"Obviously we're in the business of winning and we know that will turn, hopefully sooner rather than later. We're capable of putting a real run together.

"We really enjoyed the cup final win last year because we came through a bit of adversity and overcame it and finished strong and ended up winning the cup.

"When you have an overview of last year it was a successful season and there's no reason why we can't finish the season really strong this year as well.

"I know because of the rate of development of the squad and the club, people expect you to win every game. That's because it's been a success over the last year or so. That comes with the territory and we need to accept that and embrace it and enjoy it and deal with that."