Ian McGuckin is relishing his new role in the Club’s Academy after stepping up to take charge of the Youth Team at the start of the current campaign.
Having come through the system at Victoria Park himself, McGuckin is expertly-placed to be the guiding hand for the next generation of talent emerging from the ranks at Pools.
The former centre-back made almost 200 senior appearances for Pools during two stints with the Club before returning as Lead Youth Development Phase Coach in 2013.
McGuckin was then appointed as Professional Development Phase Coach during the summer following Nick Green's departure from the Club.
“It’s been great,” said McGuckin, after leading another high-tempo training session at the Club’s Racecourse Training Ground this week.
“I was always looking forward to the job but since stepping in to the role it’s been everything I had hoped for and expected so I am really enjoying it.
“The boys I am working with are a little older but I have previously been with the Under 12s through to Under 16s so I have coached a lot of them previously at schoolboy age so now it’s just developing them further.
“We realise how important it is for all the boys to get themselves to the next level and on the way to a pro contract – it’s a competitive phase where the lads are learning how to win and it’s a big challenge.
“It is a little more results-orientated at this stage and I’ve enjoyed that but first and foremost it remains about development and getting players through to senior football – it’s always nice to win games on the way though.”
The experience McGuckin has when it comes to youth football and what is needed to make the grade is a real bonus for the players under his care this term.
He’s hoping he can pass on as much of that knowledge as possible to give the players the best chance to progress but remains confident that, whatever the future holds, the youngsters will have been served well by their scholarship at The Vic.
“I came through the system as many players over the years have done at this Club,” he explained.
“We’re not just trying to prepare the players for making their league debut, we want them to be ready to go above and beyond that and hopefully have a long and successful playing career.
“We all know that the percentage of players who go on and make a good living out of the game is quite small but my mindset is that if they have to leave the Club then let’s make sure they leave as a better player and a better person.
“It’s very important that we set them up for success in whatever they go in to in the future, whether that’s in football our outside the sport.
“The values we have as a Club of honesty, humility and hard work are hopefully things they take with them that can be transferred in to whatever they find themselves doing down the line.”
Like so many other staff in the Club’s Academy, McGuckin was proud to see the latest talent off the production line come to the fore last month when Connor Simpson scored on his full debut for the First Team.
Still only 17, the tall front man has made great progress through the system at Pools and his towering header against Maidstone United is a moment which McGuckin thinks should inspire all young footballers at the Club.
“That’s the kind of moment you’re in it for,” he smiled.
“When you see lads make the next step and do themselves proud it’s great, not just for the coaches who have input in their development but for all the staff at the Club because it’s a team effort with lots of different aspects involved.
“Ultimately, it’s down to the players themselves but it is definitely very pleasing and rewarding for the staff when you see someone go on and do well.
“The coaches all saw something in Connor very early on and felt like he was someone we could work with and develop – he’s by no means the finished article but it is nice to see someone kicking-on.
“Young lads are impressionable and want to hit milestones like making a senior debut and signing a pro deal so to see one of their team-mates make one of those steps is hopefully something that rubs off on them and can act as further inspiration.”
McGuckin’s Youth Team roared through to the knockout stages of the Youth Alliance Cup last weekend, defeating Morecambe 3-0 to finish as group winners with a 100% record.
They’re also through to the final qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup and have started to find their feet in the League as well to leave the boss happy with the way things are going.
“We’re a pretty young side this season,” he told us.
“We’re not overly blessed with older, Second Year scholars – we finished Saturday’s game against Morecambe with three 15-year-olds on the pitch.
“That’s a test for us but it also provides a challenge for the players and that’s part and parcel of what we’re all about.
“Overall, I would say it’s been a good start. We could do with chucking a draw in here or there though – it’s either win or lose and no inbetween at the minute.
“We’re definitely an entertaining team to watch this year, that’s for sure!”