Dundalk FC head coach Vinny Perth hopes to hand debuts to his three new signings Will Patching, Darragh Leahy and Greg Sloggett when the Lilywhites begin their pre-season campaign against UCD at Oriel Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The 43-year-old, who was named the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Personality of the Year award winner on Friday night, said he was very happy with how the new recruits had settled in during their first week of pre-season.
He described the club’s first week back as “very good” and praised his staff, in particular strength and conditioning coach Graham Norton, for the work that was done over the close season.
“It was everything I wanted it to be,” said Perth when asked about the first week of pre-season training.
“I think the work that has gone on between November and December with micro groups of players meeting up in different places and the staff travelling around the country to meet players has really paid off. The work that Graham Norton has done in terms of his strength and conditioning work has meant that we just rocked back in and we were ready to go. There was no need for mad bleep tests or mad runs.
“Our players were in a really strong physical condition and I suppose the most exciting part of it was that the three new players – Darragh Leahy, Greg Sloggett and Will Patching – have just hit the ground running. Albeit it’s only a week in but the players that are there are very excited about their new team-mates so, for me, that’s a positive.
“We were able to do ball work because I restructured pre-season and we were in before Christmas so we got a lot of the testing out of the way. The ball work tells me that the Will Patching I think I signed is probably there. It tells me that Greg Sloggett is what I would consider a typical Dundalk player. He ticks all them boxes. Darragh has been a little bit behind the other guys in terms of the amount of ball work he has done but physically Darragh is already one of our fittest players so it just tells me that we’re in a strong position.”
Perth confirmed all three would feature against the Students this Friday with most of the squad expected to be involved ahead of their pre-season camp in Spain the following week.
“I’d imagine you’ll see all three to be honest with you,” he said when asked would the new signings be involved.
“There’ll be a lot of players used next week so I think we’ll see all three.”
Perth also said he was hopeful of adding to his squad soon following the departures last week of Jamie McGrath to St Mirren and underage player Aaron McNally to Longford Town.
Asked was there an update on squad additions, he said: “There’s not other than we could sign a player in the next two to three days or it might take us two weeks or three weeks.
“We are actively looking to improve our squad to give our players a hand to reach their goals. I couldn’t explain it to you the amount of work that has gone into what I feel is the next piece of the jigsaw for this group but we’re very close to doing something but very close means anything from this week to two to three weeks time.”
Perth said it was a real honour to have joined a list of his heroes in winning the Personality of the Year award at the SWAI banquet in the Burlington on Friday night.
“I’ve been coming here many years and I’ve often dreamed of having my name on that trophy because of the names that are on it like Brian Kerr, Stephen Kenny, Eoin Hand, Jim McLaughlin… real heroes of mine.
“I knew therefore that if I was ever going to have my name on it then it would have meant I’d have done something special. I think we have done something special in Dundalk so, for me, it’s a massive honour. It’s not like winning a league but it’s an accolade that I would have targeted 15 years ago in a strange way because you only get these awards if the people you work with and yourself have been successful and I think that’s the way it has turned out.”
Perth said after a successful debut season in management he was hoping to help Dundalk grow further in 2020.
“Really what I’ve spent the last two months doing is two things: One is working very hard at making Dundalk better – better around town and better as an overall club – but also reviewing and studying videos and data we receive and looking at systems. I want Dundalk to be better next year. I want everyone in our club to strive to become a European club.
“We’re not ready to do that yet but we’ve got to be building blocks and getting closer to that. Two things I always say as much as I can is firstly you’ve got to have championship winning staff in your club if you’re going to win championships and, secondly, create an environment for your players to thrive in. So much of what we do is driven by the players and I won’t be forgetting that in 2020. I need to create a better environment for them to achieve more and that’s really my challenge for next season.
“To be honest, I’m not driven by proving people wrong, I’m actually driven by proving myself right. I know that might sound like a big grand statement but that is the way I think. I think I can make Dundalk a European club soon, with the help of the staff and the players. I think I can make us better and I don’t really care what anyone else says. I’m going to prove myself right first and foremost that we are where we are and we can get better. Really that’s what drives me.”
After winning four out of five trophies on offer last season, it’s expected that the comparisons with Perth and his predecessor Stephen Kenny will dampen down even more this year but he says they never bothered him.
“It has never bothered me. I can’t control that and I can’t control what people think.
“I think a certain amount of people would probably prefer if Stephen was still there for different things. Maybe he is more likeable to certain people than me and that’s fine but, for me, it’s not really about me. It’s about the environment and if I can make these players better, keep improving the squad and keep making Dundalk better then that will look after itself in time. I wouldn’t be too bothered about what people think when they compare myself to Stephen.”
Perth also said he was looking forward to working with new chairman Bill Hulsizer, who recently replaced Mike Treacy in the role.
“You know my thoughts on Mike. He has been a wonderful man for me and I still look to bounce ideas off him and because of the way his brain works it’s a real option for me to be able to ask him certain questions that he can give me brilliant answers to. Mike and Bill are different people and they bring different strengths.
“What Bill brings is, he’s someone who I think the community will realise that him and the owners are here for the right reasons. They believe in the club and they love the club. Not that Mike ever shied away from that but Bill is a guy who we’re going to see more of around the town. He’ll be a bit more local as such. You see him walking from the Innisfree B&B across to the ground every morning and he’ll walk into town then for his lunch.
“I think over time people will realise that he is over here for the right reasons. He has been a massive help to me and I can’t stress that enough.”
Meanwhile, Dundalk have appointed local journalist Gavin McLaughlin as the club’s new media officer.