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Glass looking forward with Rovers

Sitting beside Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Kenny in the dug out tonight will be his number two Stephen Glass. Glass answered Kenny’s call when the new Rovers boss came looking for an assistant manager to work alongside him with the Hoops for the 2012 season. The pair worked together when Kenny was in charge of Scottish side Dunfermline.

“I was a player under him so I got to know him,” said Glass when he recently spoke to Hoops Scene, “but that was a player to manager relationship. He saw enough that he thought he could work with me in the future. He knew my character and was willing to bring me on board. When you are working for the biggest club in Ireland, you want to get it right. It is a good sign for me that he wanted to bring me in.”

It was just last season that Glass hung up his playing boots after a lengthy career that began in Scotland and included spells in Premier League with Newcastle and concluded in America. His playing CV includes a couple of trophy wins, an appearance in an FA Cup final at Wembley and an international cap with Scotland. So does the man from Dundee have a career highlight? “The biggest thing I did was winning a trophy with Aberdeen,” said Glass about his man-of-the-match performance in the 1995 Scottish League Cup final. “Anytime you win something it is got to be highlight. We won the championship last year in America and that was a good way to go out.”

The focus at Shamrock Rovers this year is not to sit back on last season’s Airtricity League and Europa League success but build on it and that was an attitude that Glass had during his playing career. “I was never one for looking back and saying that was great,” said the 35 year old. “I just enjoyed doing what I was doing at the time. I had great experiences playing with good players, playing with good clubs and playing in front of a lot of people.”

It was with the Carolina Railhawks in America that Glass ended his playing career on a high. The Railhawks last season won the North American Soccer League (NASL), the level just below Major Soccer League. So how did the move come about to play in the NASL, a league that includes teams from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico?

“A mate of mine Greg Shields, from when I played at Dunfermline, had gone over to play there. The manager was a Scottish fellow called Martin Rennie. He knew of me and he started asking Greg about me and it escalated from there. I was out of contract and nobody was taking a chance on me. I went over to America for two weeks to get myself fit. The manager kept me in mind over the winter as their season plays the same way as Ireland. I went to Hibs over winter and trained with them to stay fit. I believed I could still play for another year and I managed to it so it was worth it.”

The decision to switch from playing to coaching was an easy one for Glass to make and it is been a decision he is happy he made. “I’m really enjoying it.,” said Glass about his new coaching role. “It was something I was hoping to get into. I was going to retire regardless, it was time. Your body tells you when its time to retire and my body was telling me! I hurt my hip towards the end of my time in America. If I trained on it there was a possibility that I would need an operation. I wasn’t willing to go through that for later life. I already have had three knee operations on each leg, so the wise thing was to stop before any big damage was done. I was waking up sore every morning and grinding through training.

“I got this opportunity to come to Rovers and I couldn’t have hoped for it to go better. It has worked out really well, working with the manager and the other staff that he has brought in.” There were a few familiar faces in the Rovers camp in addition to his former manager Stephen Kenny. “I half knew a few players from before which makes things easier. I played against Gary Twigg in a friendly game and Craig Sives was with Hearts when I was playing with their rivals Hibs. I’m enjoying the work and I’m enjoying the response so far.”

Glass’ time at Rovers has seen him coach a team competing at the top of the league and playing in front of large crowds. Rovers have played in front of close to 5,000 fans at each of the home league games to date including the delayed kick off against Shelbourne due to crowd congestion. Rovers also sold out their 1,000 away ticket allocation in Inchicore last Friday but the less said about that result the better! “For myself it is good to coach at this level in front of big crowds but for the players it is great. When the referee comes in and tells you that the game is going to be delayed five or ten minutes, they know why it is delayed. They know there is a big number coming there to watch them and to be fair it’s a majority of Rovers punters. It isn’t because someone is bringing that big an away support. It is because we are bringing big numbers in and that is home and away from what I’ve seen. We got that 94th minute equaliser (away to Cork City) and it makes that trip a lot more worthwhile for fans. Hopefully the lads will keep giving them plenty more to keep them coming back.”

Rovers have made good progress in the Leinster Senior Cup (against Bohemians) and in the Setanta Sports Cup (against Cliftonville) but have required penalties in both competitions to move on. Kenny and Glass have been utilising the full squad in these competitions plus the EA Sports Cup and this has helped integrate the new players with the full squad. “Sometimes a penalty win, like we had in Belfast, can be great for team spirit and the group. The two penalty shootouts Oscar (Jannson) has done really well and saved a good number of them.”

“All the new lads will be looking to contribute and get accepted by the group and the public in general – to show that they deserve to be a Shamrock Rovers player.
The manager brought in seven or eight players so it is never going to be easy to get that group together. Obviously last season was a great success so by changing the group too much there can be danger there. But we think we’ve got it right with what we’ve brought in. You can see the spirit is there already. Winnings bring spirit, we are growing and getting better.”

Published in Hoops Scene 5 (Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk/Derry City, April 2012)

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