Wednesday 25 June 2008

Liam Buckley sets off with Sporting Fingal

By Rossa McDermott

On launching Sporting Football today Liam Buckley is fulfilling both a personal ambition and a professional one of putting together a vision of what he believes an Eircom League club can develop into over time if it is to start from an idea. More importantly, he believes that any club he is involved in should aspire to a level of achievement and as result developing this project is the fulfilment of a dream. It is also based on very practical experience of the League of Ireland given that he had already earned his keep at St. Patrick’s Athletic, Athlone Town and Shamrock Rovers before this opportunity came about.

Some years ago Buckley was attracted by the Belfield Park job when a vacancy arose at UCD AFC. In his mind the club had a great pitch, great training facilities, the players would be available for training during the day and it triggered many ideas that could not be contemplated in other "part time" clubs. In the end that particular opportunity did not come about but as always Liam Buckley balances his pragmatism with a positive “can do” attitude that has set him apart as a manager in many ways.

It is those characteristics, which at times are not apparent beneath his personable and affable manner, which encompass a passion and competitiveness that are too often underestimated.

He also portrays himself in a causal and easy manner often using very few words with the media. However underneath the flowing hair and those perpetually youthful looks lies much ambition from a person who loves to win and is fiercely competitive.

For those not old enough to recall his glory days in the early eighties at Glenmalure Park alongside Alan Campbell in the Shamrock Rovers attack, his efficiency and ability in front of goal was undisputed in the League of Ireland. It was this reputation that saw him attract the attention of continental football clubs, finally leading to a move to Belgium in the mid eighties after being regular top scorer for “The Hoops”

When he did travel abroad in 1986 he left the best club set up in Ireland under John Giles and Noel Campbell, as they had a great pitch at Milltown that allowed for skill players to ply their trade; great training facilities for their weekly sessions and a level of professionalism brought back from England by Giles.

When Buckley went to Waregem in Belgium to see the things at the club with his agent Goyvaerts, before he made his decision to move, it was the practical side that helped make his decision. Things like the stadium, the training facilities and the people at the club were the key points he looked at in detail.

In each case he rarely erred and in his move to Belgium he even had the opportunity to play in a UEFA Cup Semi-final in his first season away from the League of Ireland. His time at Racing Santander was with a club that provided faculties and a structure that allowed them compete on a weekly basis with clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona; Valencia and Athletic Bilbao.

For Liam though his vision for the future must be married into the day-to-day progress of the club, the success on the field on a weekly basis knowing it cannot all guarantee any club’s long-term future either. Similarly, he appreciates what can happen in the reverse if the fixtures do not go well and if his team are not in the hunt for any league or cup glory. He always balances these two extremes with patience and realism.

He has also been around long enough to know that there is a long way to go yet before he can feel completely satisfied or that the job is really only beginning for him in Fingal. But his optimism is infectious and his style inimitable with a broad smile that well equips him to make Sporting Fingal a success.