Belfast Telegraph

Warren Feeney has passion to succeed at Linfield

By Stuart McKinley

The waiting is almost over. For six weeks now many names have been mentioned as potential successors to David Jeffrey as Linfield manager.

From Pat Fenlon – who was very much in the running until he apparently made vastly unrealistic wage demands – to David Healy – he was never interested and wouldn't have stood a chance anyway due to a lack of coaching qualifications – the list has been lengthy.

Now it seems the list is so short that it bears only one name; that of Warren Feeney.

The former Northern Ireland striker is only 33-years-old and has no managerial experience, bar eight months as player-assistant manager of Salisbury City in the Conference. Having never managed, he has no track record of success either.

If that is a concern for the ever-demanding Windsor Park faithful then maybe they should look back into history.

Roy Coyle took charge of the Blues back in 1975, in similar circumstances to Feeney.

He had just finished his full-time career in England and jumped at the opportunity to become player-manager of Linfield.

Despite his tender years – Coyle was just 29 at the time – and inexperience, it was a match made in heaven. During his 15 years in charge the Blues dominated the Irish League scene as he won 31 trophies, including 10 league titles.

Jeffrey equalled Coyle's 31-trophy tally last month and is still fighting to win the league for the 10th time.

Not bad for someone who took charge at the age of 34, again with no experience other than a brief spell at player-coach at Larne and as assistant manager at Windsor.

Jeffrey took over after Trevor Anderson's shock switch to Newry Town in January 1997. Even he had only ever been in charge of the club's youth team before being handed the big job, going on to win two league titles and two Irish Cups, with a double included in that.

The Blues have only had four managers in the last 39 years. In an era where clubs change the manager as often as their kit, that is an astounding record and it's unlikely there is another club in the world who can match it.

And to think that the three who won major silverware – Eric Bowyer failed to lift either the league or the cup in between the Coyle and Anderson eras – were all thrown in at the deep end.

What brought them success was commitment and deep-rooted passion.

Coyle is as passionate a football man as you'll find and wherever he went he left no stone unturned in his pursuit of being the best.

Anderson had been a successful player at Linfield and carried the hunger and desire for success into the manager's job. He was also helped by probably the biggest budget any Linfield boss has enjoyed.

I haven't met anyone with as strong a passion for Linfield as Jeffrey, but Feeney will come close.

He's a massive Blueman.

For example, a few years ago his club was playing in a Saturday evening kick-off on the same day as Linfield were in a cup final. Knowing the match was live on BBC Northern Ireland, Feeney persuaded the staff in the team hotel to put the match on the television for him to watch before going to play.

His love for the club goes right back to when he was born. Feeney's father, Warren snr, was playing for the Blues at the time in January 1981. Ironically, it was Coyle who signed him from Glentoran.

The younger Feeney has played for Linfield before too. He was in the Linfield Rangers team that won the IFA Youth Cup in the 1996-97, season, aged just 15-years-old, before he joined Leeds United.

Since then he has played for 11 clubs and even more managers.

Jovial and bubbly, Feeney possesses a raw Belfast sense of humour. Get involved in a touch of sledging with Feeno and you'll have to go some to come out on top.

He's great with the one-liners too.

The one line that he will want to hear now though is: 'the job is yours.'

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