Jim McGuinness: ‘Wherever he rocks up next, it shouldn’t be a surprise’

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Jim McGuinness parted ways with Chinese Super League club Beijing Sinobo Guoan last week, fuelling all sorts of speculation about the Glenties man’s next move.

As he generally does, McGuinness will keep his deck of cards close to the chest, but wherever he next pitches its tent, it shouldn’t really be a surprise.

McGuinness has consistently broken boundaries and barriers in his own development.

His initial appointment as assistant manager to Roger Schmidt came out of the blue last summer.

McGuinness first met Schmidt, the former Bayer Leverkusen manager, at a coaching conference in 2015.

McGuinness had spoken of his admiration for Schmidt, whom he described two-and-a-half years ago as ‘a really interesting coach’.

The feeling was clearly mutual.

Upon being confirmed as Beijing Sinobo Guoan manager, Schmidt punched McGuinness’s number into his phone.

The two met at Dublin airport, where Schmidt took McGuinness through his plans.

“We just had a really good conversation. I feel that we think similarly and share core principles,” McGuinness would later say of that meeting.

McGuinness was hands on in China and was working largely on set pieces with the team.

For someone who grew up on the Ard Patrick estate in Glenties, walking into a multi-cultured dressing room in such a vast city as Beijing was a shock to the system.

McGuinness described the scene as being ‘a bit like being in a wake house and somebody starts a decade of the rosary and then the other voices start up.’

He said: “But what fascinated me is how quickly everyone settled into that way of communicating. This is just the way things are done.”

McGuinness spoke, on leaving Beijing, of looking forward to ‘a new chapter in Europe’, which leaves open a wide variety of possibilities.

You can rest assured that he will have a plan of action.

“Jim’s okay,” his friend, the former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said last week.

“He’s on a plan. He’s on a plan and a lot of things are confidential that I can’t talk about but he’s on a plan.”

McGuinness was long admired by Celtic before the Glasgow club recruited him in the wake of Donegal’s All-Ireland win in 2012. He double jobbed between Celtic and Donegal for two years before stepping away from the GAA after guiding Donegal to the 2014 All-Ireland final.

Having been employed initially as a performance consultant with the Glasgow giants, McGuinness began to take  a more hands-on approach with the Hoops’ youth teams.

“I’d like to maybe at some stage take control of a team myself, whether that’s the young lads within the academy or whatever,” he said in an interview during his time in Glasgow.

“I’d like to get out the other side in terms of my own philosophy.”

At a coaching course, the former Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini was taken by McGuinness and the Italian tweeted that he had found McGuinness ‘very interesting and motivating’.

‘His work is outstanding,’ Cudicini added.

McGuinness’s inspirational work has long since been documented.

He told the story of his time lecturing at Limavady College when he took the GAA team. A player, who had never previously played Gaelic football, set up a score in a final.

The player had dropped the first ball that came his way.

“A couple of minutes after that he won the ball again, slipped it to someone else who kicked it over the bar…that was the best buzz I ever got out of football coaching,” McGuinness, with wide-eyed enthusiasm, told journalists in Ballybofey one evening.

McGuinness played basketball in his youth and brought across many methods from the court to the pitch during his time as Donegal manager.

He dabbled only briefly as a soccer player, though he did line out in the Donegal League for Kilmacrennan Celtic.

In his formative days as a coach, he spent time at Limavady United, Finn Harps and Derry City.

With Harps, he took a pre-season training camp in Waterford during Anthony Gorman’s spell in charge in 2006, while he did fitness testing with Derry City.

However, Celtic saw something and took a punt that has allowed McGuinness get onto the ladder.

McGuinness knows where he’s going and how he’ll get there, but will have to bide his time yet. It will be next summer before he will complete his UEFA ‘A’ Licence and could be 2021 before he obtains the ProLicence.

The UEFA ProLicence is required to take charge of a top flight team with the “A’ badge permitting holders to manage teams outside of the top divisions.

Notions from bookmakers and others that he could walk into all sorts of lead roles are, for the moment at least, inaccurate, but you can bet that he won’t be idle for too long.

A return to Glasgow is perhaps one possibility for McGuinness, although Schmidt has been listed among the runners for various vacancies of late, including the current void at Watford, left by the sacking of Marco Silva.

McGuinness has been in the waiting room before.

Remember, he was interviewed twice for the Donegal senior job before a successful third bid for that role in 2010.

Watching his next move and where that ‘personal development’ he often references will fascinate for some time yet, it seems.

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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