Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Willie McFaul no stranger to leading the underdogs

Well travelled: Willie McFaul managed Guam for five years

Willie McFaul played for his country, won trophies with Linfield and Newcastle and was in goal for the Magpies when Ronnie Radford scored that famous and stunning FA Cup strike for Hereford, creating one of the biggest shocks in the competition's history.

McFaul also managed his beloved Newcastle and his home town club Coleraine.

And then there was Guam.

He was only supposed to be in charge for 12 months of this new affiliated nation to Fifa, but they liked him so much on the tiny Pacific island that he stayed for FIVE years, eventually leaving in 2003.

Without question it was the most surreal experience of the 70-year-old's eventful football career, yet strangely rewarding, and this even though playing under McFaul in World Cup qualifiers for the first time Guam suffered a 19-0 defeat in Iran and a few days later lost 16-0 to Tajikistan!

"It wasn't easy. Guam was a very, very small island," says McFaul of the U.S territory with a population of 180,000.

"I remember my first training session and just seven players turned up, but we worked hard and as time went by the numbers increased and the boys responded.

"We were involved in World Cup groups against far bigger nations which we just weren't geared up for. I said it over there at the time because we were not at that level and there were heavy defeats.

"The team did improve though. They weren't top notch or anything like that, but were a lot better by the time I'd left which was really pleasing.

"Now Guam are in the regionalised qualifying and not taking on much bigger nations. They are playing teams around their own level which is good for them. They also have a new stadium which helps and I hope they continue to move forward.

"The local people were very good to me and my wife. It is an American territory and there were big air force and naval bases there. It was an interesting time in my life."

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