Jim McGuinness armed ready for the ‘unknown’ at Charlotte Independence


The words of Brendan Rodgers chimed in Jim McGuinness’s mind as he mulled over the various offers that came and went.

Six years ago, McGuinness – after leading Donegal to an All-Ireland title – was hired by Celtic as a Performance Consultant. Ever the eager improver, McGuinness’s role at Celtic evolved and he began to go down the coaching tunnels at Parkhead.

A job with Roger Schmidt at Beijing Sinobo Guoan came up and McGuinness was off to the Chinese Super League.

Since leaving Donegal in 2014, having taken the county to three Ulster titles, one Sam Maguire and an appearance in another All-Ireland final, there has always been intrigue around McGuinness’s journey.

After parting ways with Beijing in the summer, McGuinness has repeatedly stated his ambition to move into soccer management. Talk of a blueprint and a philosophy raised the eyebrows – and last week it emerged that he was off to Charlotte Independence in the USL, the second tier of the American soccer pyramid.

Offers were made from a couple of clubs in the League of Ireland, but McGuinness will tomorrow be officially unveiled as Charlotte Independence’s new head coach.

Rodgers had told him: ‘It’s not about getting a club; it’s about getting the right club.’

“That was always at the forefront of my mind,” McGuinness said at a press conference in Dublin today.

“I got a feeling that this is the right club at this stage of my development. I felt it could be a really good challenge and a really good project to get involved in.

“Over the next number of weeks we will heavily look at recruitment. We’ll need a certain type of player to implement the philosophy and a certain type of athlete.”

Among the players on Charlotte’s roster this year are the 54-times capped South Korean Lee Jung-Soo and an array of internationals like Je-Vaughn Watson, with 70 Jamaican caps, and Trinidad & Tobago players Kevan George and Cordell Cato.

Contact with Charlotte began after a meeting with Padraig Smith, the Irish man who is the General Manager at Colorado Rapids. McGuinness spent some time in Colorado and has been to visit his new club.

This certainly represents a huge step for the Glenties native, who had tried and failed twice to land the top job in Donegal before finally being appointed in 2010.

He said: “There is a saying in psychology that ‘fear lies in the unknown’ and that’s why, from a coaching point of view and a philosophical point of view, if you know exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it, you could potentially eliminate that fear for the players because they understand all the different variables that can happen within a game and they have a game plan in their head for that, so you don’t get this ‘rabbit in the headlights’ moment and that, for me, is coaching.

Donegal’s selectors, Damien Diver, Donal Reid, Pat Shovelin, coach Jim McGuinness, selector Paul McGonigle and Dr Charlie McManus
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

“So, there is a fear in the unknown and I’m going into an environment now, I’m going as a head coach, something I’ve never done before but I have the exact same experience when I was going into the Donegal job. It’s the exact same feeling, you’re going in there, you’ve never managed an inter-county team before. There are teams in the country winning All-Irelands every year and you’re trying to take them on.

“That becomes part of the excitement of it as well and the adrenaline of it.”

McGuinness’s family will relocate from Glasgow – where they have been based in recent years – to America.

The ‘blueprint’ will be kept closely guarded, but he mentions ‘aggressive’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘attack-minded’ in talking how he’ll have his side playing.

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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