Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

McAllister is booked again

Despite his retirement from the playing side of the game at the end of last season Pat McAllister is still one of the most recognised names in the local game. Chris Holt finds out what his plans for the future are ...

Pat McAllister is not someone who many would expect to be the studious type.

As a player at Cliftonville, Dunfermline, Coleraine, Newry City and Donegal Celtic, the tough-tackling midfielder garnered a reputation over a 15-year spell as one of the hardest men in Irish League football.

Now though he is putting together everything he learned from various managers and coaches on the training ground in an attempt to help take Donegal Celtic further forward.

McAllister, as he put it, is "officially and definitely" retired from playing, having threatened to do so for various reasons throughout his career, and is now assistant manager at the west Belfast club.

He has, over the past number of weeks, been piecing together numerous bits of paper that he has collected over the years to pass on his own and his various mentors' experience.

It's a scrapbook that any young coach would love to get their hands on and unsurprisingly Linfield's Alfie Wylie, regarded by many in the game as one of the best in the business here, features heavily.

"I think that training is so important in the game and I always gave my all when I turned up on a Tuesday or Thursday night," said McAllister - a statement that few would be surprised by.

"A good night's training really sets you up for the weekend and I think the way of judging that is when there are times when the players just don't want to leave the training pitch.

"When I was a player and we had nights like that I used to go home and write notes on it.

"I'd scribble down what we done, maybe write down something else that I thought might add to it. It has all added up over the years and now I want to use all of that at DC.

"I think I really started adding to it the most when Alfie Wylie was the coach at Coleraine.

"Every training session under Alfie was brilliant and I certainly wrote down a lot of the things that he had us doing.

"Alfie is one of the best, if not the best coach in the country. He taught me a great deal and I took a lot on board.

"I always wanted to stay in the game as long as I possibly could, so while I was playing I was thinking ahead to what I would do. I thought about coaching and it made sense to look forward and make plans for that.

"That's why I decided to write stuff down and hopefully what I have learned will be taken on board by the players at DC."

It's not just experience on the training ground that McAllister, who had a two year spell in full-time football with Dunfermline in the early nineties, can bring to the Celtic party.

The Belfast man has been through a lot during his time as a player. Ups and downs - though no regrets, as he is at pains to point out - have appeared in equal measures.

The high point, unsurprisingly, arrived at Windsor Park in 2003 when he led out Coleraine in the Irish Cup final and beat a highly-fancied Glentoran side, thanks to Jody Tolan's solitary goal.

The Bannsiders were big underdogs - the Glens having already won the other three domestic trophies that season.



"That was an amazing day and I have never been so proud," he said. "To win the cup with Coleraine was just amazing because I had so many good times there and the people behind the scenes at the club deserved to have success.

"When I went there from Cliftonville I didn't know what to expect or how they would take to me with me coming from west Belfast. They were brilliant though and I enjoyed every minute of my 10 years there.

"People always said about how much travelling I had to do, coming and going from Belfast, but that never, ever bothered me because I was enjoying it so much."

The low point in McAllister's career arrived a year after that memorable cup-winning moment.

During the quarter-final of the same competition he become involved in a nasty altercation with then Newry boss Roy McCreadie with McAllister being accused of headbutting the manager.

He received a 15-match ban, having gone past the 50 disciplinary point mark for the season - even after an appeal where he claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity.

Even McCreadie stood up for him in front of the IFA bosses.

Coleraine went on to make it to the final again - again against the Glens. Though this time, without their leader, who was forced to watch from the stands, the north-west outfit lost 1-0 with Michael Halliday scoring the only goal in a scrappy affair.

"They (the IFA) already had their mind made up and I was probably wasting my time in appealing it," said McAllister, whose career was littered with long-term suspensions throughout the years. "I wasn't given a chance and I still feel aggrieved at that.

"I really felt down but it didn't hit me until I saw how gutted the players were after the match. It was just the complete opposite to what it was like the year before."

That's all in the past now and at Donegal Celtic, McAllister is hoping to be part of something big. He feels there is a lot of potential that if realised could make DC a real force.

And he looks across to one of his old clubs, who incidentally the Hoops play tomorrow, as an example of what they hope to achieve.

"There is a lot of rivalry between us and Cliftonville but they are where we want to be," he admitted. "As far as I am concerned they are a top three club now and while people talk about how they play good football, it is their work-rate that impresses me most.

"They work so hard for each other and I want us to be like that. And they have a winning mentality now as well. Football is about habits and there isn't a better one to have than winning.

"We, myself and Paddy Kelly want to move the club forward and build on last season and I would love it if we could get to where Cliftonville are now."

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