Irish League Lives: Linfield Swifts manager Alan Dornan
Alan Dornan occasionally shakes his head in disbelief!
After 10 years on the football scrapheap, the former Irish League hard man is again dining at the top table.
An out-of-the-blue telephone call has dramatically changed the 52-year-old’s lifestyle — for the better.
The stigma of being the first — and only — manager to be sacked by Crusaders is now well and truly off his radar. A blot on the landscape.
Dornan is currently totally smothered, even obsessed, in his new challenge as manager of Linfield Swifts which, in his own words, is his ‘dream job’.
“Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming, it’s a bit surreal,” admits an excited Dornan, whose tigerish defending and crunch tackling made him a big favourite with the Blues fans in his playing days.
“My telephone rang about seven weeks back. Warren Feeney was on the other end.
“He offered me the job of managing the Swifts. I couldn’t answer him quickly enough. I managed to blurt ‘yes’ while he was still talking and, to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less about the terms.
“My remit is to focus on the development of the many good kids that are coming through the academy. It’s not only what happens on the pitch, but how they conduct themselves off it. It’s a dream job for me.”
Enduring such a horrible end to a senior management spell would perhaps have been enough to sicken the most dedicated of professionals. Not Dornan.
“It left a bad taste in my mouth, but that’s a part of my life that has now gone,” he adds.
“In all honesty, I never wanted to manage at senior level. I took on the job to help the club. On the positive side, I can take pleasure in being in at the start of the soccer careers of Colin Coates, Chris Morrow and Stephen McBride (now with Ballymena). I also signed Davy Magowan from Bangor.
“But I’m back at the club I supported as a boy and a club I love. I’ve already told Warren there’s no way I’ll ever be interested in his job,” he quipped. “This is the place to be. The new Windsor Park has really blown me away. It will be a fantastic venue when it’s finished.
“Yes, I may have been away from the game, but I’ve still got a real hunger and desire in my belly. The passion and commitment has never left me.
“When I left the Crues, I dabbled in junior football, helping out Ridgeway. I did a bit of scouting, while I had the chance of watching the development of my two sons Mark and Scott.
“Mark is now 24 had plays just for the fun of it. But Scott (19) is doing really well with Crusaders’ second team. He’s a wee bit like myself — he can’t wait to get to training just to get playing. It also proves there are no hard feelings between the club and myself.
“He really loves it at Seaview. Gavin Arthur is doing a good job down there with the boys. In fact, we (the Swifts) are due to play the Crues next month, so there should be a good bit of banter over the breakfast table. That’s if I don’t pack him off to his grandmother’s house before that!”
Even though he was out of the game for over 10 years, Dornan ensured he kept working on his IFA Coaching Licence.
“In my opinion, it’s important to maintain your coaching badges,” he adds. “Some cynics may say it’s a money-making racket, but football has changed from my playing days, so it’s crucial to keep on top of the latest coaching methods.
“It’s all about developing the lads we have at the club, both mentally and physically — teaching them good habits.
“Warren will always give youth a chance. His motto is, ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. He really is so enthusiastic and that rubs off on the players.
“I don’t mind admitting I’m learning every day under Warren, Andy Todd and Alfie Wylie. I’m just so grateful for this opportunity. I’m working along with two great lads at the Swifts, Ian Crothers and Stuart Boyd, along with Mark Alexander, who was already at the club.
“The aim of everyone, from the chairman right down to the fans, is to bring the league title back to where it belongs. It will not be through lack of effort if we don’t succeed.”