Belfast Telegraph

I was homesick for 30 years but learnt to live with it to be a hit in English football, reveals Jim Magilton

By Steven Beacom

Jim Magilton is the type of the person who lights up a room whenever he walks into it. He's a larger than life character, never short of a joke or good natured jibe.

Renowned for his quick wit, the 46-year-old was also a classy footballer who liked to dictate play from midfield with 20/20 vision and an excellent passing range.

He enjoyed a fine career in England, spanning almost two decades, starting out as an apprentice at Liverpool before starring for Oxford United, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, winning 52 caps for Northern Ireland in the process.

More: Dreams can come true for our best Northern Ireland kids: Jim Magilton

That's Magilton ... football combined with fun.

What few will know about the Belfast native is that when he left his home city for Anfield as a teenager, he suffered from homesickness. It's a common problem for kids from this part of the world when they travel across to England or Scotland to begin what they hope will be a long and successful spell in the professional game.

Some get over it. Magilton never did. He just learnt to live with it.

"I always wanted to come home," admitted the Irish FA's elite performance director.

"I always say to kids moving across that they will be homesick. That's being honest with them.

"To be honest with you I was homesick for 30 years. I always had an ache to come home. When I was a player I loved coming home to Northern Ireland and Belfast in particular where I'm from. I've always loved the people and the banter you get here.

"Feeling homesick was really tough at times, but I learnt to live with it and loved my time in England and embraced it.

"I made sure I had fun. I knew when to draw a line and was focused on games but I had fun. A sense of humour and enjoyment is important in the football environment."

As well as being the IFA's elite performance director, Magilton is the Northern Ireland under-21 coach.

He enjoys the role, which begs the question if he would wish to return to full-time management in the future having been in charge of Ipswich and QPR in the past.

"It has not crossed my mind because I'm really happy doing what I'm doing right now. If someone came to me with a plan and allowed that plan to develop, offered me a job and I felt I could add to what is there and I could create something then I would think about it," he says.

"I enjoy working with the under-21 team and love preparing for a game so sitting on a touchline still appeals to me.

"I'm constantly looking at new training methods and what makes players tick and I have a structure I think I could take into a football club tomorrow.

"That's through my own individual experiences, watching other coaches and watching our current manager Michael O'Neill and how he prepares teams which I think he does really well.

"But my full focus is on the job I'm doing with the IFA. It's a great challenge and I want to make it work."

Belfast Telegraph


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