LOCAL football coach Kenny Shiels spoke exclusively to the Mid Ulster Mail about his thoughts on the start of the Scottish Premier League season with Kilmarnock.
Former Moyola Park and Tobermore manager Shiels was delighted to kick start the SPL season as new Kilmarnock boss. Killie secured a hard fought 1-1 draw in their opening game with Dundee United, following a wonder strike from Belfast teenager Rory McKeown.
However, Shiels acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done before his side get into top form.
“We have been hindered by a number of factors. Unfortunately we have been victims of our own success. We had a superb side last season and unfortunately a number of those players have moved on.”
The Scottish season has started a number of weeks before their English counterparts and Shiels was critical of the early start to the season.
“We have had an extremely short pre-season and it has been hard to establish what is our strongest starting eleven.”
“A number of players have arrived and integrated into the squad. It has been a difficult pre-season but I remain hopeful that we can have a good season.”
Shiels admitted that he was still on the look out for new signings to bolster the Rugby Park squad. On Friday afternoon Shiels completed a loan deal for his son, Dean, who arrived from Doncaster Rovers.
“We are always looking to improve the club. As a manager it is your job to keep looking to always make improvements and to build up a strong squad.”
The former Arsenal trainee made his debut on Saturday in a 0-0 draw against Motherwell. Shiels had been largely playing a cameo role for Doncaster Rovers and made the large majority of his appearances last season from the bench.
Former Northern Ireland Under 17 boss, Shiels was recently in the media spotlight when he slammed the Irish FA over their care of under-age footballers and in particular those players who have recently defected to the Republic of Ireland.
“Everyone know my views on the issue. I firmly believe that we should have a programme organised to help bring these young lads through the ranks and eventually through to the Northern Ireland senior setup. Much more pastoral care is needed within the setups and this was one aspect which I believed that I looked after particularly well when I was in charge of the Under 17 squad.”
Shiels was also critical of the lack opportunities given to local lads in the various international sides.
“I have nothing against the players being used from England and other places but in my opinion we have some talented footballers in the system .It is a real shame that they miss out playing on an international level when the are replaced by lads from over the water with family links to Northern Ireland. Some of these lads being brought into the Northern Ireland setup are certainly no better than what we already have.”
However, despite his criticism of the IFA, Shiels is adamant that he would never turn down the opportunity to work in the Northern Ireland setup again.
“I love Northern Ireland, my family live in Northern Ireland and I loved my time when I was part of the international setup. I would relish the opportunity to get involved again.”
Kilmarnock boss Shiels and his son Dean, will be hoping that they can enjoy a successful season with Kilmarnock as they bid for another top six finish.