Belfast Telegraph

Meet the Fermanagh man who Neville, Scholes and Giggs have entrusted to take Salford City into the big league

By Steven Beacom

A Fermanagh man has spoken of his pride at being headhunted by Manchester United legends to help make their football dream come true.

Gareth McClelland from Maguiresbridge has become the head of recruitment at non-league English side Salford City, which is part-owned by Old Trafford greats Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt.

The famous five want to take the Northern Premier League Premier Division side into the Football League, which would involve several promotions, and believe 33-year-old McClelland can play a key role by scouting for and attracting talent to the club.

Gareth will combine the role with his day job, which is head of PE at a school in Stockport.

He played for Lisnaskea Rovers at youth level, leaving Northern Ireland aged 18 to study for a degree in PE teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Always interested in football, he decided to go into coaching when a knee injury halted his playing career.

From the age of 22 he has managed and been head of recruitment at a number of non-league clubs and at 27 became the youngest ever boss in the Unibond League when he took charge of Stockport-based outfit Woodley Sports.

He has been with Halifax for the past four years in recruitment and coaching, but when the opportunity came to join ambitious Salford and the United heroes last month, Gareth couldn't turn it down.

The big Northern Ireland fan explained: "I spoke to Bernard Morley, the joint manager of Salford, and he told me Gary Neville wanted a head of recruitment at the club and Bernard thought it would be good to work with myself.

"He talked about the potential of the club and what the owners wanted, which is to get into the Football League as soon as possible, and I thought it was something I would like to be part of.

"When you look at the owners, they are all Manchester United greats and winners: Gary Neville has just become manager of Valencia; Ryan Giggs is assistant manager of United; Phil Neville is coaching at Valencia; Paul Scholes is one of the best players ever, and Nicky Butt is coaching at United, so it is a great place to be and I'm proud to be involved.

"I met up with Gary and Paul and we had a good conversation about what they want from me. I have experience at Conference level and they want Conference players coming to the club along with League Two players to try and develop the team."

While hoping to return to coaching in the future, the head of recruitment job at Salford is ideal for Gareth and his fiancée Lydia at present as it allows them to help their two-year-old son Theo overcome the challenges he faces in life.

Theo suffers from retinal dystrophy, nystagmus and high myopia, which affects vision and development. Twice a year, at a cost of £4,000 each time, specialists from the Family Hope Centre in the US come to the visit the family. Gareth said: "They devise a programme for Theo and their input has been superb. He is slowly progressing but the key thing is he is progressing. My partner, who was a teacher, now looks after Theo every day and does the programme with him.

"The recruitment job works nicely for us as a family. I would perhaps like to get back to management in the future, but maybe when Theo is older. My priority is Theo. Family comes first."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph