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Watch: Ards stars must believe we can survive, says new boss Feeney

 

New challenge: Warren Feeney is unveiled as Ards manager at the Strangford Arms Hotel
New challenge: Warren Feeney is unveiled as Ards manager at the Strangford Arms Hotel

By Graham Luney

Warren Feeney says he's fired up for the challenge of keeping Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership and he wants his players to show the fight and passion needed to avoid a financially damaging drop into the Championship.

The north Down club have turned to the former Linfield manager in their hour of need and hope his enthusiasm can breathe fresh life into the basement side.

Colin Nixon was sacked as manager minutes after a sixth straight Premiership defeat on Friday night and a dismal run of three wins in 29 league matches has left Ards perilously close to relegation.

Saturday's clash against Newry City at the Bangor Fuels Arena is of huge importance as Darren Mullen's men are three points ahead and boast a game in hand.

Former Northern Ireland striker Feeney, who took his first training session last night, is assisted by David Elebert, who retired during the season and has his coaching badges, and Johnny Clapham, who is head of the club's academy.

But the former Newport County manager plans to add to his backroom staff, saying: "I will be bringing in someone else to help out who knows football and has an affiliation with the club but it's important that I have that support from people within the club."

The 38-year-old wants to bring his family home to Northern Ireland and he will be based here for the rest of the season.

Feeney has also indicated to Ards chiefs that he is willing to stay on as manager even if the club drop into the Championship.

His father Warren snr - a former Ards player - watched on at the Strangford Arms Hotel in Ards yesterday as the former Bournemouth and Luton Town ace looked forward to the next big challenge of his career.

Feeney, whose cousins Lee and Cullen also donned the Blue and Red shirt, knows he faces a massive test but his attitude is 'bring it on'.

"I've been with managers who will put you against the wall and others who will make you feel like you're among the best players in the world," said Feeney, who won 46 caps for Northern Ireland.

"You've got to get that balance right. It's a different challenge with part-time players but some of them train better than full-time players. I like intensity in my training and I'll only accept 100% effort, nothing else. I've got to get across the points I want but I won't lie, it will be hard work for everyone. All I can ask for is that commitment.

"It's horrible for any person to lose their job, I've been there myself but there's no hiding the fact that I want to get back into football. It's been my life and when the chance came up it was a yes from me and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

"Football is the attraction for me. A lot of people might shy away from this challenge but I don't. I'm very excited to be working with the players and getting ready for a massive game on Saturday.

"I've done my homework and I believe in my own ability. I was in a similar position with Newport County and I kept them up. I can't guarantee I will do that at Ards but we will be targeting the points. The bottom line is we need to win football matches and I want to see the boys playing with a smile on their face.

"Over the nine games we have to have the right structure in place and give ourselves every chance."

Feeney, who knows Callum Byers and Sam Johnstone from his time at Linfield, admits only a strong work ethic will give his side a fighting chance of survival and he believes the experienced players can lead by example.

"I looked at some of the experienced players and some of them have won league winner's medals," he added.

"You have to lean on them but it's a new challenge for the players and they have to believe they can do it. I won't lie to the players, it will be hard work.

"We have nine games to stay in this league and the players must understand what needs to happen. There will be ups and downs but we have to stop the rot. I will have a points target and we will go for it."

Nixon ruled himself out of the running to become Glentoran manager last April and then signed a new three-year contract at Ards.

When asked if he was now owed compensation by the north Down club, Ards chairman Brian Adams stated: "We will deal with that as it transpires."

Feeney and Kenny Shiels were interviewed for the Cliftonville job before Paddy McLaughlin's appointment and Adams admitted he spoke to Reds chairman Gerard Lawlor and Shiels before turning to the Belfast man.

Belfast Telegraph

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