Ambitious McGuinness relishing Rhyl project as he earns UEFA A Licence
When Niall McGuinness took the reins at Rhyl FC in February last year it’s safe to say he turned plenty of heads in both Wales and further afield.
At the relatively tender age of 24, Rhyl’s local lad became the youngest coach to manage in the top flight of a European league, a status that arguably brought about enough pressure without the addition of a relegation dog fight.
But, never one to shy away from a challenge, McGuinness showed little hesitation in leaping into the task at hand, although a tumultuous season meant his beloved local club failed to haul themselves out of the bottom two, and were only saved by Port Talbot’s failure to gain an FAW licence.
It’s subsequently been the steepest of learning curves for McGuinness, but wallowing in self-pity doesn’t appear to be an option. In fact, there is arguably a level of excitement about the upcoming assault on the Huws Gray Alliance.
He explains: “I’ve learned a lot in my first 12 months as a manager and so hopefully there will be some new aspects put into place for the new season for us and we can hope for a good start.
“We can’t offer players the sort of money that other clubs can, but those that have stayed have done so because they want to play for Rhyl FC and they want to be a part of what we’re trying to achieve.
“It’s going to be a tough league but no tougher than what we competed in last year when I think the Welsh Premier was the most competitive it’s been for a few years.
“We can’t change what happened last season. It was always going to be an uphill task when you remember we only had two players and we had to build a team in just a year.”
As well as facing up to the task of building a team capable of challenging for promotion, this summer has also been an important period on a personal level for McGuinness, who recently completed his UEFA A Licence course, which he hopes will allow him to gain an upper hand in what is sure to be a competitive league.
He adds: “It’s been a really enjoyable course. The tutors and the guys who run it are very are very knowledgeable.
“It’s just been a case of bettering myself and improving my knowledge to help the football club and the players within it.”
It’s been an experience that has seen McGuinness rub shoulders with some of the most established figures in the game, including Leon Britton, Kevin Nolan and Lee Trundle.
But anyone thinking that this relatively young managerial upstart would be daunted by the prospect of being tested in front of such names would be mistaken.
Oozing with the sort of youthful exuberance that may well prove vital in galvanising his team’s promotion push next season, he confidently adds: “I have nothing but trust in my own knowledge and I know what I’m talking about when it comes to football.
“It’s quite surprising sometimes because some of those guys haven’t coached before, so they’re very often learning as much as I am.”
Nevertheless, the significance of being able to take the course alongside such names is not lost on McGuinness, who believes it speaks volumes about the state of the game in Wales.
“I think it’s a huge credit to everyone in Welsh football from top to bottom that works with the FAW Trust and I think it’s just really professionally thought out. It’s a fantastic course.”
While richer for the experience, McGuinness is still focused on the main objective, which is ensuring that Rhyl once again pull up a chair at Welsh football’s top table.
He continues: “You always have new ideas in pre-season and I think it would be daft for any coach to say otherwise.
“You’ve always got to think about year on year because the game changes.
“I think everyone has come together [since relegation]. The new signings wouldn’t have come here if they hadn’t have bought into the ideas so it’s important they understand what we want as a football club. It’s the same for those that have stayed on.”
Ideas can be powerful tools in football, but McGuinness will be all too aware that they will count for little without results. A big season awaits.