Belfast Telegraph

New Sirocco Works boss Crooks relishing the challenge ahead

By Martin Mawhinney

On the face of it, new Sirocco Works manager Alan Crooks appears to have taken on a massive task in taking charge of the east Belfast club. But if anyone is qualified to turn their dipping fortunes around, it is him.

It has been quite an eventful week for the IFA Development manager, who only two days after announcing his appointment to his new playing staff, picked up the certificate for his UEFA Pro Licence.

Sirocco are in a precarious position, having picked up a mere four points from their opening seven league fixtures prior to Crooks’ appointment. But the new boss sees no reason to panic at this stage, and that will come as music to the ears of all involved with the club.

For this is a man with plenty of know-how when it comes to the local game. A wealth of experience in a wide range of remits, from disability to youth football and the women’s game, Crooks knows what it takes to improve talent, often in the face of adversity.

But mainly, this is a man who already knows Sirocco inside out, both historically and in more recent times, having served as a member of departing manager Darren Lockhart’s backroom team this season.

Therefore, when he says that his mind isn’t even contemplating a potential relegation battle, it’s clear he is well-placed to deliver such a verdict.

He told The Park: “Originally, I was going to continue coaching until a replacement was made for Darren, but I got such a good response from the players at the club that I have decided to take it on.

“It is something I am very much looking forward to, and I am confident that we can start moving up the table soon. My first objective is to settle the club, and in Johnny Jameson and Darren Frame, I have a great backroom which will be a big help in this.

“At the minute, it’s all about getting a balance in the squad. In Curtis Hannah, Gareth Clegg, Aaron Atcheson and Fergus Forsythe, I think we have a great Amateur League attack, but we need to strengthen elsewhere.”

Crooks concedes it is a difficult point in the season to be seeking further personnel, especially in a part of the city with so many other clubs competing for that talent.

But if there is one thing the new Sirocco boss certainly isn’t short on, it’s contacts. And that could come in very handy, not only in sourcing players, but in helping him progress as a club manager.

He admitted: “You don’t work with guys like Nigel Best and Alfie Wylie without learning something or asking them for advice. I have a good working relationship with Mal Donaghy too.

“I’d like to think I have a fair idea what it entails to manage at this level too. Sirocco are a club that means a lot for me… I first played for them when I was 15. I have won the 1B title as a player with Knockbreda and as a coach with Willy Walker at Sirocco.”

With Newcastle tearing away at the top of the current table, it would be more than a little premature to be asking a title tilt of the new gaffer, but this is something he feels can definitely happen sooner rather than later.

In the short term, he will have to address the obvious gap left by influential former captain Frame, who was forced to hang up his boots after just the second game of the season.

His absence at centre back has been keenly felt in the weeks and months that have followed, but the first team’s loss will be sideline’s gain as Crook looks to make the best of Frame’s clear coaching potential.

The next few years are sure to be a learning experience all round, but one that all at Sirocco can doubtless look forward to.        

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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