Vinny Perth says it was a ‘great honour’ to be entrusted with continuing his mentor Stephen Kenny’s legacy with Dundalk FC for the next two seasons at least.
The 42-year-old was officially appointed the club’s new head coach on New Year’s Day having taken over the running of the club following Kenny’s departure to take up the Republic of Ireland U-21 manager’s job at the end of November.
He will be joined in a new coaching set up by Ruaidhrí Higgins, who has been promoted from opposition analyst to assistant head coach, and John Gill, who has been appointed first team coach.
Gill, who guided Dundalk FC to the First Division title at the end of a three year spell in charge of the club in 2008, has the Pro Licence required to ensure the new management setup meets FAI requirements.
The trio teamed up with the squad for the first time on Saturday for the start of pre-season training where Perth oversaw the backroom team putting the players through their paces as they begin building towards the opening league match at home to Sligo Rovers on Friday February 15th.
Speaking on his appointment to The Argus, Perth said: ‘It’s a great honour that the board trusted me as soon as Stephen left.
‘We’re league champions, FAI Cup champions so for the club to turn to someone like me and say we need you to play a central role in how we move forward as a club and create continuity was a real honour for me and my family. It’s amazing, we don’t tell each other too much but my wife and kids were really proud and my father was really proud that the club showed that loyalty to me.
‘It’s an honour to be head coach of this great group that we have but it has been an honour for me all along. I wouldn’t be the most outspoken in the media over the last five or six years. I believed it wasn’t my role as an assistant to be too vocal but it has been a huge honour to be part of this group. It has been one of the most successful periods of any club’s history in this league. For me to play any part of that is something I’m very proud of but this is just another milestone of what has been a great six years so far at the club.’
Perth, who played for Dundalk for a season under Gill in 2007, said he always wanted to be a manager but believes coaching players is more important. ‘I always wanted to be a manager since I was fairly young. The game has changed now. It’s not about managing a team, it’s about how teams are coached now. When you look at the top of the game from Pep Guardiola, all the way down to our level it’s about how a team is coached.
‘There’s a certain amount of management needed as well but the difference with us and say Man City is that they have four or five people who manage contracts and different things but that’s where John gives us that real managerial experience. He’ll give myself and Ruaidhrí a hand in that side of the game. We’re both very experienced coaches but probably very inexperienced at managing those finer details so I think it’s a good blend that we put together.’
While the process of appointing the trio was somewhat drawn out from a supporter’s perspective, Perth said he never had any fears that the appointment would get over the line despite reports that his lack of a Pro Licence could be a blocker.
‘I don’t think there was ever any real fear of that,’ he said. ‘For me, I just got on with the job in hand. Back in March I went full-time with the club so I’m someone who would work 10 or 12 hours a day no matter what the case may be so all I had to do was keep working hard until we put the management team in place. ‘In the middle of that madness people forget that we re-signed Robbie Benson and Dane Massey. I’d like to think I played a part in that. They showed real loyalty to the club and myself so I hadn’t any real fear in that sense.’
While Kenny’s departure is an obvious loss for Dundalk, Perth feels the structures are in place on and off the field for him to continue the success that the future national team manager brought to the club in their six years working together.
‘We have used the word continuity a lot and there’s a reason for that,’ said the Dubliner.
‘As a group we really respect the last manager that was here. A lot of people owe a lot to him. He gave me a chance, not just six years ago but a long time ago in football, and he’s always someone that I worked very closely with but I’ve partially worn those shoes as well in as much that he has been the leadership and the figurehead of the club but we’ve such a small number of staff in the club so for six years it was just me and him taking training sessions so I was right in the middle of it.
‘There’s a real sense of motivation now. People will question with Stephen gone what will happen the club now and will they struggle but the players are leading the motivation for that not to happen. People are probably questioning will the players struggle but they’re saying it wasn’t just about Stephen Kenny, there’s a whole team that made us great for the last six years and I think that’s true. I think it’s something that has probably been missed a little bit – the quality of player that we have and the quality of the backroom staff that we’ve had over the six years.
‘It would mean a hell of a lot just to retain our title and be back in the Champions League the following year and that’s our target. Anything other than that is going to feel like a disappointment.
‘Personally there will probably be a bit more motivation but I felt that last year, winning the league back after losing it to Cork. Doing that and rebuilding the team as part of the management here meant more to be probably than the other ones. The next one always means the most and that’s what motivates top sportspeople I think.’
There’s no question Perth is a top man and coach. 2019 is a year where he can blossom even more.