BY JOHN O’SHEA
A YOUNG man from Kilmichael is currently embarking on his coaching journey in football at the famous breakaway football club set up by disillusioned Manchester United supporters.
Darren Murray is the current head coach of the U17 side at FC United Of Manchester. Although he is only 22 years of age, this is a young man that has packed a very significant amount of coaching experience in already during his career.
‘Back in Cork I would have done stuff with Lakewood and stuff with the West Cork Emerging Talents,’ Murray says.
‘I knew a few of the guys down at West Cork Schoolboys League emerging talent and they just asked would I help out with the U12s that year, so I said I’d go for it.
‘I did that for a few years. I came over here for college and I got the call in the summer asking if I would be willing to take this position at FC United of Manchester.
‘I came over here to Manchester in 2016 to do a degree at UCFB [University Campus of Football Business] in football coaching and management.
‘It was one of the lecturers here that ended up getting the U21s job with FC United. I suppose it was pot luck really, he just asked me.
‘So I have been delighted since. It is a big transition compared to what I was used to in the past. But I was delighted to get it and dead busy as you can imagine.’
FC United are a club that are run and operate in a model which is similar to that of Cork City. That is as a co-operative model, with everyone an equal co-owner, holding one voting share in the club.
A club that are keen and generally dependent on producing from within, it is the current mission for people like Murray to ensure that there are players of a decent standard developed for the first team at FC United.
‘Out of the 29 lads we have, I would say six or seven of them would be potential first-team players at FC United in the next few years,’ he says.
‘Last season, 50 percet of the first team from FC United came through the academy so I suppose it’s similar to Cobh Ramblers back home, they don’t have the finances to go out and buy players.’
It is still just a few months into the role at FC United for Murray and it is an experience which he is finding hugely beneficial to his own development as a coach.
‘I have found it really well so far. It is a new group all are really eager,’ he says.
‘In the Conference North, they really, really focus on the youth. There are some players definitely that would have had a setback. They didn’t get the scholar at Oldham, get the scholar at Rochdale or at Bury.
‘They have gone down the leagues now to play for FC United and will be hoping to get back up.’
FC United are the largest fan-owned football club in the United Kingdom by a number of members. They also have the biggest home gates in English non-league football.
Through his role at present with the U17s, Murray is hugely invested into helping shape some of the first-team stars of the future for the club.
The ultimate aim for FC United of Manchester long term will be to get into the Football League. AFC Wimbledon, another supporter-run club, have showed that it can be possible for fan run clubs to compete in the upper tiers of English football.
‘At U23s, you might get a crowd of 100 people and at FC United first-team games, there is a good 2,500-3,000,’ Murray says.
‘There are 24 teams in the Conference North, 11 of those are full-time. FC United are not full-time at the moment, but they will be pushing to be full-time soon.
‘You are in front of crowds. If you go up to the Conference, you are in front of crowds of between 3,000-5,000.
‘Salford City would be the most popular non-league team. FC United would certainly on social media have the next biggest following.
‘On a good matchday, FC United could get 2,000-2,500. If they go into full-time football that could only get higher and higher.’
Murray began his coaching career here on Leeside, getting involved initially in the West Cork Schoolboys League.
The UEFA B-licensed coach also got some coaching experience with the women’s first team at Cork City.
He feels the standard of coaching and coach education ere in Ireland is presently at a very high standard.
‘I was actually surprised on the quality of coaching back in Ireland. I was expecting more in England, but the coaching in Ireland is just as good, if not better,’ he says.
‘I did the UEFA B licence last year in Ireland and I was really impressed. Not just the quality of the tutors, but the quality of people on the course, really, really high quality.
‘There are really high standards. One thing for sure is the quality of coaches in Ireland is really good to be fair.’
Murray is in Manchester as a football coaching and management student at UCFB Etihad Campus. As someone that has a keen interest in the beautiful game, he is in a part of England that is packed full of football.
‘On top of Manchester City and Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton nearby, you have got Bolton, Bury, Salford, even Preston North End, Wigan that aren’t far away, really,’ he says.
‘It is a different culture really here, not only here compared to Ireland but here compared to the rest of England. They live and breathe football.’
This is a young man that looks set to have a very promising coaching career in football ahead of him.
For now, Murray is fully focused on the task at hand and producing the next generation of stars for FC United of Manchester.