Saturday, 28 November 2009

Buckley's Sporting Vision Fulfilled

On launching Sporting Football Liam Buckley a couple of seasons ago was fulfilling both a personal and a professional ambition by pursuing a vision of how he believes a League of Ireland club should develop over time. It was also based on his own view that any club with which he is involved should aspire to the highest level of achievement on all fronts and be part of the local community.

The result in Fingal has been a project that is the fulfilment of that dream and the achievements this season have been beyond even his expectations.

On a personal level, Liam Buckley’s views and ambitions are based on very practical experiences of the League of Ireland given that over the years he has earned his keep at St. Patrick’s Athletic, Athlone Town and Shamrock Rovers before this latest opportunity came about.

Some years ago Buckley was attracted by the Belfield Park job when a vacancy arose at UCD AFC. In his view the club had a great pitch, great training facilities, scholarships which would allow the players to be available for training during the day. It also triggered many ideas that could not be contemplated in other "part time" clubs at the time all operating on small budgets that did not allow for full tome football.

In the end that particular opportunity did not come about and probably for the right reasons so he moved on. As Liam Buckley always balances his pragmatism with a positive “can do” attitude it sets 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 and a person who loves to win and who is fiercely competitive.

For those not old enough to recall his glory days in the early eighties at Glenmalure Park alongside Alan Campbell with Shamrock Rovers, 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 a 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, and the great pitch at Milltown allowed for skilful ball players to ply their trade; provided for great training facilities for weekly sessions and a level of professionalism brought back from England by Giles.

So 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 reassured him it was right to leave Ireland. Things like a good stadium, proper training facilities and the professional people at the club were the key details that influenced him.

His move to Belgium also gave him the opportunity to play in the UEFA Cup and the club reached the semi-finals in his first season away from the League of Ireland. The Following year he joined Racing Santander where he competed on a weekly basis with clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona; Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.

On his return from overseas he played for a variety of clubs eventually getting into management after working alongside the likes of Brian Kerr and Pat Dolan, amongst others.

For Liam though success on the field on a weekly basis could not always guarantee any club’s long-term future and he appreciates what can happen if the fixtures do not go well and his team are not in the hunt for any league or cup glory. He always balances these two extremes with patience and realism and Sporting Fingal now is a case in point. In building a club from nothing from a vision he developed by seeing community based clubs succeed in continental Europe he has fulfilled part of his ambition.

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

Based on what he has achieved so far and the blueprint he has started one would be slow to bet against further success in the near future.

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