Henderson: Right Attitude Can Win Us Any Gameby Cork Sports News February 22, 2019
The season starts tonight for Cobh Ramblers fans and a trip to Drogheda and Cobh manager, Stephen Henderson is optimistic for the season ahead.
“Supporters can expect us to be very competitive against some very good teams that will be in the division this year, a lot of investment has gone into teams, Athlone Town’s signings has been eyecatching so this should give a good indication of how tough the league will be, however, I do believe even though other clubs continue to leave us behind financially, the squad we have got together are capable of winning any game we play once our attitude is right.”
The first division is a proper battleground and despite the fact that there is always a club talked up as runaway winners, it rarely happens, Shelbourne are this seasons red hot favourites so does Henderson believe they are the team to beat?
“Shels are red hot favorites and with the investment gone into the club allied with the quality signings they have made, they deserve that tag. I would suggest Bray, Drogheda and Longford might give them a run and there is definitely potential for one or two other teams to disrupt that and hopefully we can be one of them.
“I was actually more envious of the investment going into Athlone Town than Shelbourne to be honest, Shelbourne is a big club so investment is always likely but Athlone blind sided a lot of us.
“I don’t think any other team’s finances is needed to motivate us, we have a great group this year who will help each other, any success we get will be a motivation to help ourselves and our team mates more so than every other club in the division having more money than us,” commented Henderson.
The club announced a long-term plan recently, how realistic it is, well only time will tell, in that can it be brought to fruition and are with Henderson’s fingerprints all over it the question is can this plan stabilise Cobh Rambler’s future in League of Ireland football?
“The long term plan that was announced at our awards night was to be a continuation of the work done over the last four seasons.
“Unfortunately at a club like ours, the management structure is vulnerable to being ousted at any time by literally anybody who bought a season ticket.
“When we started this project of literally saving the club from extinction, we knew that when the AGMs were brought back we were opening ourselves up to been kicked out any time.
“Sadly, this has happened and the core group that had literally saved this club have been systematically removed.
“How this will impact the club, only time will tell, I can only put on record my huge thanks to these people for saving the club and apologize for how they have been treated,” said Stephen.
Attendances at games is always a talking point in League of Ireland football so why can’t we sell out grounds in Ireland or is just the way it is and there are a hardcore of supporters that keep the flags flying, is there a magic wand that can be waved so that Cobh for instance can turn approximate attendances from 500 to 1000/1500, what can be done?
“More community presence and more community projects is vital for Ramblers.
“We have ideas but we don’t have the personnel to drive them on.
“Winning games will always increase gates but we need to be more proactive around the town in the businesses, schools, youth centre’s and charities.
“We have to give something in order to receive but we need people to help us.
“If we can do this, then I believe we can increase our gates not just because we are winning but because the people of the town would be part of us, they would be proud of us and most importantly they would respect us because we would become more than a football club to them.”
If Henderson took over the reins of the League of Ireland tomorrow there are at least three changes that he would make to benefit the whole set-up, does it require a complete overhaul or is this close to as good as it gets?
“Huge overhaul is needed, I gave a recommendation to the FAI last year on how we could progress football in Ireland .
1) I do believe a premier league of at least 16 teams is imperative and I do think another four provincial leagues is imperative for football to grow into a proper industry here.
2) I would insist that every clubs management structure is evaluated at boardroom level and I think it would be vital that people running our professional clubs should meet a fit and proper criteria designed specifically on their ability to run a successful football club.
3) I would demand more financial backing and promotion of the leagues, football has the potential to be huge employment industry if it was given the care and backing that it needs, a business plan showing the potential to create thousands of jobs in the sporting sector of professional football would be my priority and delivered to all the relevant local and national government officials, amazing as it seems, I don’t believe anybody has ever seen the employment benefits of a vibrant football industry here,” said Henderson.
Moving to the appointment of Stephen Kenny as Republic Of Ireland manager after the current qualifying campaign for the European Championship and Henderson believes the FAI got both decisions right.
“I think they got both appointments right although if Mick McCarthy does well it will become a very interesting scenario in two years time.
“I think Stephen Kenny taking the U21 job was the right thing to do, nobody would question Stephens knowledge of the game but it is the other facets of managing at such a high level that he will need to get used to.
“I thought he sounded unsure of himself in interviews after the announcement, if he had gone straight into managing the senior team this could have had a negative effect on how senior players would have perceived him.
“He has two years to become more comfortable with the invasion of privacy, deal with interviews better and get himself ready for the job of a lifetime without been thrown in at the deep end.
“On the football side, he will be fantastic,” said Henderson.
It must have been a shot in the arm though for other managers in the League of Ireland to know that a manager/coach plying his trade at this level had spiralled to the highest level of all based on performances in the League of Ireland, all managers, coaches and players must now believe there is a window of opportunity there?
“No we don’t, it is a unique set of circumstances that Stephen got the job.
“What he done at Dundalk was phenomenal and it coincided with a time that our international team was in free fall.
“Unfortunately, our league is not respected enough even though we have some of the best coaches in Europe working within it.
“We all hope Stephen is hugely successful, maybe then our league just might get a pat on the back and a bit of deserved recognition,” commented Henderson.
Is there room for another Cork club in the League of Ireland or for the forseeable future, is it about the Cork footballing community rallying around Cork City FC and Cobh Ramblers FC?
“There is loads of talent in Cork so yes there is room for a third team.
“As I said previously, a provincial league as a support structure to a premier league would afford more teams in more counties to test the waters of professional football.
“Until then, Cork and Cobh deserve the support of the rebel sporting community.
“What harm can it do supporting young Cork players playing at the highest level of the game in this country?,”
And finally we asked Stephen to lay it all on the line, can Cobh Ramblers win the league, grab a play-off spot or mount a cup challenge?
“What will be will be, in the last three seasons, our young players have normalized over achievement.
“They have brought us to the quarter-final of the FAI Cup, they have reached the playoffs, they have finished runners-up in the league, won the Munster Senior Cup and brought the club to their first ever national cup final before losing to Derry City.
“We will try and win every game we play, we know we won’t but we will try, we have no targets other than that, at the end of the season we will see where we are but it would not surprise me if this particular group done something special, we will just have to wait and see,” concluded Henderson.
Stephen Henderson was speaking to Paul Hogan for Cork Sports News
Cobh play Drogheda United tonight in Drogheda and you can see them at home next Saturday, March 2 at 7pm in St Colman’s Park against Athlone Town.