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“This is something I have always been excited about doing." - Rory McArdle on swapping the pitch for the dugout

1 September 2023


“This is something I have always been excited about doing." - Rory McArdle on swapping the pitch for the dugout

1 September 2023

It’s early on a Friday morning, a match lies in wait on Saturday. However, for Rory McArdle the approach is different. He looks relaxed and takes a seat...

After retiring from professional football in the summer, the first question posed to the club’s new Development Phase Coach: ‘do you miss playing?’

“I do. I have been so occupied that I kind of forget about the draw of it. However, it’s matchdays where I feel it the most. I watched a few of the first-team games and watching some of the blocks from defenders. The feeling of that is what I miss.

“The backs to goal, winning the game, blocks , headers all give you a buzz. When you win there is a camaraderie in the dressing room. It’s the same here but it’s obviously slightly different. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.”

Despite conceding his desire to cross the white line, the former Town defender admits it was the right time to hang up his boots.

“I had a great relationship with the gaffer and Thirs. We had spoken on a couple of occasions about the future, about where I saw myself and about where I wanted to be. I always made an effort to help lads after training which I think the gaffer noticed.

“He mentioned about a potential opportunity which could come up. He asked if it was something I would consider. It’s a big decision because it meant I had to be happy with the choice to stop playing.

“I spoke to a couple of ex-players and team mates. I had a couple of offers about playing part-time still but I wasn’t sure that it was for me. I had made the decision to retire and I was happy to finish playing.

“I think I am quite particular with stuff too. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle the part-time stuff. I was used to things being done right with no complacency and I wasn’t sure if that would creep in.

“I spoke to an ex-manager who advised me to stay in the game where I can. They knew all about this club and when I told them I had the opportunity here they backed up my belief in this role being the right one for me.”

At 36, McArdle now got set to begin the new stage of his life and that began with the desire to make a positive first impression on the new scholars.

“As a player, you don’t really think about the planning which is done for you in the close season. Now I was starting to look at playing a role in that now. Obviously, I knew some of the second year scholars, they had come up to training a couple of times but I was new to the first years.

“I wanted to make sure I got the little things right. I didn’t want to not know the players by name on that first day, if I was ever being coached by someone who didn’t know my name then it didn’t quite sit right and that was something that I wanted to avoid.

“I also had to introduce myself, I thought about that quite a lot over the summer. I spoke to them about passing on my experiences on, my new role and getting to know each other.

“It was the first meeting for us but I wanted to make sure the lads knew they could come and speak to me about anything.”

Six weeks on from starting in his new role, McArdle is enjoying the opportunity to start fresh.

“It feels weird to be honest, during the summer I had time to reflect and relax but I was looking forward to what was next for me. We have been back around five / six weeks now and it has been great.

“This is something I have always been excited about doing. I am still involved in football but over on the other side now. I have learned a lot since I first started. I was always open to learning because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

“For me, this was like starting again. I have been lucky with the staff that are here, they have all helped me settle in which has been great.”

Looking back, McArdle remembers the delight from his family that he would continue his affiliation with Town.

“My family were delighted, when I made the decision to retire I think they were cautious about what I would do next. I had lost my routine by retiring but coming back to the club, it gave me that back and they all know how I loved my time here.

“The club doesn’t want to just stand still, we want to keep moving forward. They recognised it’s not just a job, it’s something for me to keep motivated with. I also had the opportunity to pass on my experience to the next generation.”

After former Academy Manager Paul Stansfield departed the club last month, Town’s new Development Phase Coach believes the transition with Stansfield was managed well.

“We all know how far this academy has come over the last two years. Paul was a mainstay of that and I have to give massive thanks to him. He was in every day helping Josh and I to build up a routine.

“If we needed anything at all he was there. That was a huge help and I don’t think I would be as comfortable as I am now if I didn’t have the feedback from having Stanners there.

“His attention to detail and the way he works away from the pitch isn’t something I was used to. We had a couple of presentations and you could see how he got his point across. He understood the boys and the way to speak to them. I’m glad I had the opportunity to sit and learn from him.”

The new look coaching set up also sees Josh Law promoted to the role of Academy Manager and this coaching duo is one which McArdle is pleased to be part of.

“Alongside Paul, Josh Law has played a huge role over the last 18 months. Before taking the role, I already knew Josh because I had played with his brother Nicky before. That connection and relationship was important because before getting started I knew him well.

“We travel in together every morning. That gives us an hour meeting almost before we even get to training. The amount of stuff I have learned from those conversations have been great. He is another person who I can’t thank enough.

“When we first started speaking about the way we would play and our approaches are very similar. Everyone wants to play well, keep the ball and create lovely passing moves. However, it isn’t always possible but we are always open to playing the game which is in front of us.”

When asked about the key principles of a side coached by Rory McArdle, the former Scunthorpe and Exeter man’s answer was simple.

“I have tried to implement the discipline side of things. I want to see things done properly, as a group we won’t cut corners, we will work hard, run around and make sure we have those fundamentals to build on.

“At 16,17 years old then it gives our players a solid base. Obviously, we have Will too who is our Sports Scientist and he makes sure the lads are eating and fuelling themselves well. 

“We have posters etc around where we train but we also want the lads to take a bit of ownership to look after themselves.”

Having lost several members of the club’s title winning side last season. McArdle praised the club’s summer recruitment as we began the defence of our title three weeks ago.

“The crop of players coming through is different but there is a good core group of players still here. The recruitment which has been done is really good. I spoke to Josh and he shared his belief in the importance of this recruitment work and the building blocks that gives you for success.

“It’s a challenge in itself but it’s one which I want. The hard work the academy staff has done is shown in the quality of player which we produced over the last year. However, the challenge is there to replace them.

“It’s always going to be difficult because a lot of people will want to go to the very best clubs. However, looking at the bigger picture we provide a better opportunity to play for the first-team and I think that is something we need to use to our advantage.”

Looking ahead to the new season, Town’s Development Phase Coach insists the club will not rest on their laurels.

“We aren’t going to stand still, we want to keep getting better, we want to keep pushing as many into the first-team. That would keep improving on that success but we have to keep learning from every situation to piece it all together.”

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