| 8.3°C Belfast

Why special Oran Kearney will succeed at St Mirren, explains Coleraine keeper Johns



Oran Kearney is considering whether to leave Coleraine behind and his goalkeeper Chris Johns (inset) is confident he could succeed in Scotland.

Oran Kearney is considering whether to leave Coleraine behind and his goalkeeper Chris Johns (inset) is confident he could succeed in Scotland.

Pics: Pacemaker

Oran Kearney is considering whether to leave Coleraine behind and his goalkeeper Chris Johns (inset) is confident he could succeed in Scotland.

Coleraine's players didn't know it at the time, but the 10th minute of their 3-0 victory over Crusaders on Monday evening could prove the most significant moment in their season.

There was nothing particularly exciting happening on the pitch - it was two minutes before Josh Carson would open the scoring - but across the Irish Sea, St Mirren were making public a parting of ways with manager Alan Stubbs.

Fast forward a few days and Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney has moved to join the Paisley side - perhaps the club are feeling they made the wrong choice during the summer when Kearney had so impressed at an interview for the post.

He was understood to be keen back then and now he has made the big choice to move.

He had assembled an Irish Cup-winning side with huge designs on a league title that has stayed away from the Ballycastle Road since 1974.

On the other hand, opportunities to move into full-time management don't come along all too often. And it's that feeling that has won the battle in his mind.

Coleraine stopper Chris Johns, who was handed his senior football debut by Kearney after arriving home from Southampton, is confident his boss will make a success of life in Scotland.

"I know he had a very positive experience with the interview in the summer but this will be a big decision," he told the Belfast Telegraph before Kearney's move was announced.

"I don't know what sort of money there is for managers in Scottish football and there are just so many other variables with these things. He's back to work, his kids are back at school - there's a lot to weigh up. I'd love to be in his shoes but at the same time, it's a head-wrecker.

"For me personally and for the team, obviously I don't want him to go but for him, if he can go and make a living over there in a job like that," he pauses for a thought - everything Johns says is deeply considered, giving every word the feeling of significance.

"It's high risk, high reward and I guess that's the kind of life that everyone wants to live, really. He has that right now along with a normal job but if he could give everything to a job like that, well I think that would be so cool for him."

The Coleraine squad haven't yet met up since their Seaview victory, a result that will have made the league take notice again of last season's runners-up.

That means the players haven't yet had the chance for a good chin-wag about the ongoing speculation, but Johns already has his own mind made up about why Kearney has made such a big impact on his own career.

"In my short time in the game, he's the best man manager that I've worked with, and that includes my time in England," he said.

"If you look at our team before last season, we had no big name players, we didn't have the budget of the likes of Linfield or the pull of the Belfast clubs but he still got us to third that year. I don't know how he does it.

"I'd love people to come and be able to sit in on one of his team-talks just to see what it's like. Sometimes you have managers who try and bullsh*t their way through a team-talk but with him it's different. Everyone is listening to every word, and that doesn't always happen - honestly.

"He's not afraid to single people out either but he doesn't do it in a way that would destroy them, it's about making them better and making the team better.

"I feel that when some people are trying to motivate you, it can be like they're doing it from a manual. It's like A, B and C but it's never like that with Oran. He's so individual in the way he does things. He just has that leadership in him.

"He is by the far the most enjoyable manager that I've played under as well. He gets more out of the players. I really can't say much more than that because I actually don't know how he does it."

And what of Coleraine? Can the young squad who have earned admirers across the Irish League in the last 12 months continue their upward trend?

"I guess these things come in cycles and if he goes, that's not the end of this cycle at Coleraine. Look at our squad, we have a good group of young players and there are still exciting things to come for us," assured Johns.

Comforting words for the Coleraine fans, for Kearney's departure will leave a bitter-sweet taste in the squad and on the terraces on the north coast.

Belfast Telegraph