Neale Fenn: Cork City, Playing the game and Barry Fry

*This interview was conducted while Neale was manager of Cork City

You became manager of Cork City in 2019 having also played for the club during your playing career. How are you enjoying managing the club you used to play for and what do you view as the challenges of managing a club such as Cork City?

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With what is going on in the world at the moment with the Coronavirus outbreak it is a little bit of a strange scenario at the moment where I have no physical contact with the players and no coaching for three weeks now so it has just been speaking to the players via telephone and keeping them motivated during these strange times.

I took the Cork City job at the end of last year and it was certainly a turbulent year for the club. A club that had won the League and Cup double in 2017 here in Ireland found themselves near the bottom of the league and struggling to be honest. Crowds were down so going into the club at the time was about trying to get a couple of results and get a little bit of a feel good factor back.

Our pre season was about building up a squad on a tight budget and going into to this season that is what we did. We got a few loan players in from Arsenal, QPR , AFC Wimbledon and Birmingham City and tried to sign a few local players from the domestic league and when the season started we had a rocky start and our results and performances were picking up just before the enforced break. The day to day coaching is what I like to do but obviously at the moment we can’t do that but I was enjoyed it immensely up until that point.

You played two seasons for Peterborough United. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any particular highlights or special memories of your time at the club?

I really enjoyed my time at Peterborough United and we had some good times together as a squad. With Barry Fry at the helm there was never a dull moment. We had a great team spirit and I also made a lot of good friends during my time there. During my first season at the club we started really well and we were near the top of the league but we tailed off a little bit and at one stage I found myself out of the team and that is frustrating for any player at that time of the season.

My highlight of my time at the club was playing against Newcastle United in the FA Cup at London Road. We had a chance to beat them and I also had a good chance in the game and Shay Given saved it had that goal gone in it might have been a different story but Newcastle United ended up getting a bit of a dodgy penalty and going on to win the game which was quiet disappointing but that game remains a highlight and a packed home crowd. I really enjoyed my time at Peterborough United and it is a shame that it did not last longer.

Credit: Simon Lankester

You also had a two year spell playing for Bohemians in Ireland. They are one of the biggest clubs in Ireland. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights from your time at the club?

Yes, I went to Bohemians after my first spell at Cork City and I arrived at the club at a time where the club were in a position where it looked as if they were going to sell there ground and build a new stadium so it was a very exciting time and this was before the financial crash in 2008.

The club were certainly riding the Celtic Tiger at the time. At the start of my first season it was very exciting we had a lot of new players and a new manager. We qualified for Europe which was an improvement on the year before although I struggled in front of goal when I was playing up front but in my second year Pat Fenlon came in and we a few new players we ended up winning the league and the double and playing in the FAI Cup Final which was fantastic. The following season we won the league again and it was a really enjoyable time. I made a lot of friends at the club and I look back on a fantastic time at the club.

You mentioned Barry Fry, You have played under some very good managers during your playing career. Did you speak to any managers and did they give you any specific advice or encouragement when you decided to enter football management?

Credit: EggHead06

Yes , I played under some very good managers during my career in both England and Ireland. I did not really speak to many managers before entering football management. The only one I did speak to before taking this job at Cork City was former Republic of Ireland national team manager Brian Kerr. He was also my manager when I played for Republic of Ireland at youth international level and he is also a very well respected figure over here. I spoke to him and the advice that he gave me was ‘Be true to yourself and stick to your principles and stick to believing in what you are trying to do and do not let anybody sway you away from that.

That is what I am trying to do to stick to my principles in how I want the game to be played and try tp treat the players how I wanted to be treated as a player.

You made your debut as a manager in a two year spell at Longford Town. How do you look back on your first spell in football management and did you have any highlights or special memories?

I really enjoyed my time at Longford Town and the club were really good to me and they gave me a chance to be a manager and I have no previous experience and I will forever thank the club for that.When I arrived at the club I had a bit of a rebuilding job on my hands in terms of building a squad from scratch and we played good football and we got a reputation of being a good football team which I was very proud of.

We signed some good players and a testament to that is that a lot of the players are still at the club which is fantastic for me to see that the players I signed where still good enough to be kept on and still be part of the club building for the future and hopefully Longford Town will get promoted this season which will be a fantastic achievement for the club. The highlight for me during my time at the club was a 5-1 away win against UCD ( University College Dublin ) who were top of the table at the time. It was a fantastic performance.

Finally Neale, How would you describe your managerial philosophy and is there anything in particular that you would like to achieve in your managerial career in future?

I suppose my managerial philosophy is built on team values and all players playing within a structure of a team.I like players that are all comfortable on the ball.

I like to give young players a chance and get as many home grown players as possible in the squad. I believe in creating a winning culture around the club where everything is done right and professionally around the club from the top to the bottom.

We want a high performance culture at the club but we want good players and a winning mentality and players to put the team before the individual. In terms of future ambitions I would like to manage in another country and first and foremost you try to achieve as much as you can at the club you are at. As a player I always harbored ambitions to play abroad and I never managed it so managing abroad one day does appeal to me.

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