Warren Feeney On Glentoran, Representing Northern Ireland And Learning From Roberto Martinez

Warren Feeney On Glentoran, Representing Northern Ireland And Learning From Roberto Martinez

An interview with Warren Feeney, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You were appointed as manager of Glentoran in June 2023. You are now six months into your tenure, how would you summarise it so far?

“I have relished the opportunity and I have enjoyed my first six months even through the tough moments.

“No manager can wave a magic wand and instantly change things for the better at any club, it is a process.

“Over the first six months, I have been getting my message across to the players and I want to take this club forward because a club of our size must challenge for silverware.

“There is no getting away from that and as such, this is what we will be aiming to do this season and continually strive towards beyond this season.

“Overall, I am enjoying every minute of my time at the club so far.”

There was a mixed response to your appointment by fans, but you do have strong family links to the club with your father playing for Glentoran in the 1970s and your son currently being a part of the academy set-up. How much do you want to succeed not only for yourself but for the fans of Glentoran also? 

“The fans that we have are great, passionate fans and they want to best for the team.

“Of course, I want to bring success to the football club for them, without question.

“I am proud of my family links to the club because I remember coming to the Oval to watch games with my dad. I believe that he holds the record for the best goals-to-games ratio in Glentoran history with 192 goals in just over 220 games.

“It’s a joy to talk football with him and he inspired me on my own journey as a player too.

“Now, my son is playing the game and as soon as I came back home, I put him into the Glentoran academy because I am an East Belfast boy and I want him to represent the club too.”

As well as managing in the Irish League and in England, you have experience of managing abroad. You led OFC Pirin Blagoevgrad to the Bulgarian Second Division league title in 2021. What was life in Bulgaria like and how proud are you of that achievement?

“I am immensely proud of winning the title at Pirin Blagoevgrad because I think only myself and Graham Potter were British coaches who had won titles in a foreign league around that period of time.

“When I went into the club, I was given the task of keeping them in the Second Division in season one with the aim of trying to push for promotion in season two.

“We delivered both of those objectives with the league title added into the equation, so it was a period of real success for me and for the club.

“I could not ask for more than taking the club to the top flight of Bulgarian football where we competed against clubs such as CSKA Sofia and Ludogorets who have played Champions League football over the years.

“Added to that, I made good friends in Bulgaria, and I was able to leave with my head held high given what was achieved there. It was a critical time in my development as a coach.”

During your playing career, you represented clubs such as Luton Town and Dundee United. What are your standout memories from your time as a player?

“I loved my time at both of the clubs that you mention. At Luton, we had such an amazing togetherness as a group of players which was down to the squad that Mike Newell had built. He was great to work for.

“Our dressing room was genuinely like a family and our performances and results were a testament to that togetherness and commitment to each other and the club.

“Then, having the opportunity to go to Dundee United under Craig Levein was another great experience.

“He was such an honest person and as a player, he was the type of character that I responded well to. He demanded hard work at all times, and he would never let off in his demands which ultimately led to us performing to a high level for him and led to him eventually leaving Dundee United for the Scotland National Team job.

“Craig had us so well drilled as a team that every individual knew what was expected of them as part of the collective approach to games. I felt like a robot going into games because I was so well programmed that I never even had to think of what I needed to do on the pitch.

“It was a great time for me and playing against Celtic and Rangers was an amazing experience because we delivered wins over each of them and never shrieked the chance to take the game to them under Craig.

“I am delighted to see Craig back in football as manager of St Johnstone and I wish him well.

“Another experience from my playing career that stands out for me was playing under Roberto Martinez at Swansea City.

“Many see Roberto as Mr Nice Guy which he genuinely is, but he also has a combative streak that every top manager needs.

“I remember scoring two goals in a game on a Saturday for Swansea then being dropped on the following Tuesday evening.

“I went to see him and questioned his reason for not picking me. He simply asked me what my job was and I replied, ‘to score goals’ before telling me that his job was to ‘win games while looking after a group of twenty players, not just one.’

“That taught me a lot as he showed me that you cannot only think about yourself in football, especially as a manager, because there is a bigger picture in keeping your squad happy and motivated because you will always need to call on every player that you have at some stage.”

You represented Northern Ireland at senior international level on forty-six occasions, scoring five goals. What was your standout memory from playing at international level?

“I was incredibly proud to pull on the green jersey at all age levels and for the senior national team too. It was an honour that meant so much to me and my family.

“My standout memory would have to be scoring against Denmark in a dramatic 2-1 against them at home in 2007. I scored the equaliser in that game with a header, and I will never forget the feeling that scoring that goal gave me.

“I was fortunate to have other memorable nights such as playing in our win over Sven Göran Eriksson’s England in 2005 and our win over Spain in 2006. Those nights stand long in the memory too.”

Finally, Warren, what do you hope to achieve as a manager in the years ahead?

“My full focus is on bringing success to Glentoran because that is the parameter that every Glentoran manager is judged on.

“Management is a tough job, especially in the modern game with less and less time being afforded to managers across all levels.

“I have high standards and I am determined to stay in the game as long as I can as a manager.

“I want to win, and I want to continually improve and develop players in the years ahead whilst ensuring that I do not get too high when we win or too low when we lose.

“It is vital to stay level-headed and continually strive for the best in all that you do.”