In the second part of our interview with new IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson, Stuart McKinley gets his thoughts on the Irish League
Stuart McKinley: What do you think about the Irish League?
Patrick Nelson: We’ve got a domestic game that is looking shinier and sharper than it has done for a while and we need to maintain that and make it even better than it is.
SM: How do you then go about making it better?
PN: From talking to clubs and helping make sure they make the right decisions. None of it is rocket science. Club development is something that we can help clubs with and we do that already in the marketing side.
We do seminars two or three times a year where the Premier League clubs are pulled together and we encourage them to share best practices because if Newry City have a great idea that is working there they might as well share it with Ballymena United, because the same person isn’t going to have £10 in his hand and having to choose to go to one or the other. If they can make it work in Newry then Ballymena and Coleraine and everyone else should be able to as well and then it’s good for everyone.
We want to encourage clubs to be positive in their marketing, realistic with their wages, but that happens in every country where players’ wages is always an issue, and we’ve got to make sure our clubs understand that.
We want them to get deeper into their community too. We had to work really hard in my time at Macclesfield to persuade the nine and ten-year-olds that Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton weren’t the only shows in town and the way to do that was to bring them in, take them behind the scenes, give them the ‘Priceless Tour’ as it might be put. You bring them around the ground at 2pm and at 2.55pm they are doing a guard of honour for the players. You wouldn’t get that at Manchester United if you’re the local primary school and we need to help encourage clubs that the next level of supporters is coming from that area and often it doesn’t cost you any money to do these things.
SM: Have you been to many local matches?
PN: I’ve started to lose count of how many games I’ve been to and that’s a good thing. I’ve seen 11 of the Premier League teams and I’ve been to more than half of the grounds now as well.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve been particularly taken with Crusaders, I saw them on day one and I thought it was a great game against Portadown. It was a good view of what was to come really. I’ve seen some good stuff and I’ve also seen the great nature of football, I saw Ballymena United beat Glentoran and then a week or two later get battered at home by Glenavon, but that’s football.
There’s probably been a few ropey games, but that happens in every league.
There is some good football out there, some good players and they are all trying to do the right thing.
I always know that I can go out to a game that is going to be interesting and exciting and as long as the competition is good it doesn’t matter to me who wins, whereas when you are involved with a club it’s either a big high or a huge low.
I’m a Derby County supporter and I’m used to a few disappointments by now.
SM: What players have stood out for you on the domestic front?
PN: The obvious one, and I’ve only seen him once so far, I thought Colin Coates at Crusaders was excellent. He didn’t miss a thing. I’d known he was in the international squads and I was looking out for him. I thought Gary Hamilton was good for Glentoran, Andy Smith for Ballymena was pretty good against Glentoran and he gave them a pretty tough time. One other would be the Dungannon Swifts goalkeeper, Alvin Rouse, I thought he was good in the one game I saw him and he kept a clean sheet.