Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine aiming to introduce full-time model as chairman backs summer football

 

In family: Colin McKendry with his brother Trevor who is part of Coleraine's backroom staff
In family: Colin McKendry with his brother Trevor who is part of Coleraine's backroom staff

By Graham Luney

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry has confirmed the club's desire to adopt a full-time model and compete in a season incorporating the summer months.

The Bannsiders chief, who hasn't ruled out an internal appointment as their search for a new manager gathers pace, is hungry to see big changes at the Showgrounds.

Irish League football could be set for dramatic and historic change if clubs agree to switch to more of a summer season.

A domestic campaign from May to February has been suggested, and Northern Ireland's shocking Uefa coefficient of 52 out of 55 nations means only three European places will be up for grabs from next season.

Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) chiefs have accepted that scenario while they await official confirmation from Uefa, and a Premiership management committee will now likely conclude that the end-of-season play-offs will be scrapped, leaving the Irish Cup winners and top two league finishers qualifying for Europe.

A steering group established by the Premiership management committee is consulting with clubs and working towards an agreement on the best way forward.

The Irish FA are keen to change the timing of the domestic season and Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill recently argued in favour of a switch in a meeting with clubs.

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Coleraine are one of the clubs who want to play over the summer months and McKendry is also keen to see a more full-time environment.

"We're a part-time club looking at becoming more professional," he said. "We're looking at establishing more contact time with players and better facilities.

"We have a business plan but want to get things moving and there's got to be a bit of caution in terms of who you introduce.

"I would love to say we are a full-time, professional outfit. Glentoran, Crusaders, Larne and Linfield are looking at full-time models and we've got to go down that route. It doesn't happen overnight but you need the facilities and financial resources.

"NIFL and the IFA are forward thinking in looking at the change of season and have my support.

"We are very much behind the move to summer football for a number of reasons. As well as the European performances improving, we can also create a more attractive, family orientated environment for the fans. There's a genuine belief that the change can work and benefit the league. The teams can make it work for the benefit of everyone.

"The IFA will have a vital role in coming up with the right scheduling that suits everyone.

"The loss of a European place makes our league much more intense. The play-offs brought excitement towards the end of the season but I do not believe that we can have that any more."

Oran Kearney, who left for St Mirren, is unlikely to make a comeback and the club may not need to cast their net far for a successor to Rodney McAree.

"There is the possibility," said McKendry when asked if there could be an internal appointment. "The backroom staff have been working hard.

"There are people at the football club who can do the job if they are enrolled on Pro Licence courses. They will not be overlooked as they know the club, its structures and its history.

"They are capable of dealing with individuals in a football club with the help of others.

"William Murphy has started his A Licence, my brother Trevor has completed his A Licence, Paul Owens is enrolling for a Pro Licence and John Gregg has his Pro Licence, so we have options."

Coleraine fans have waited patiently for news since McAree left the club over a month ago.

"The board is drawing up a shortlist of candidates and then we will conduct interviews next week, with an appointment to follow," said McKendry, who insists the club's key players are not for sale.

"Oran is not in anyone's picture. The reports from Scotland and from Oran are that he's not coming home.

"We have always tried to do things the right way. It's not right to just approach someone else's manager unless there's a willingness on their part to leave."

The draw for the first round of the Europa League and Champions League, of interest to Crusaders and Linfield, takes place on Tuesday.

The draw for the second round of the Europa League takes place on Wednesday and that will affect Linfield if they get knocked out, as they will then go into the Europa League second round, champions path.

• Carrick Rangers have signed former Ballymena United and Ballyclare Comrades striker Mark Kelly.

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