Ex-Hibs star Stephen Glass clear on football future

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Throughout his career, Stephen Glass has returned for pre-season training ready to sweat it out under a mid- summer sun.

Today, though, a thick coat and gloves have replaced the normal attire of T-shirt and shorts as the former Hibs star takes his first step into management, assistant to Stephen Kenny at Irish champions Shamrock Rovers.

Glass has been reunited with his one-time Dunfermline boss in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght, now home to a club which styles itself as Ireland’s most successful.

And the 35-year-old is under no illusion as to the task he and Kenny face as they seek to live up to the inheritance left by another ex-Easter Road favourite, Michael O’Neill.

Back-to-back League of Ireland titles and regular European football which saw the likes of Rubin Kazan, Tottenham Hotspur, Partizan Belgrade and Juventus all make their way to the Emerald Isle – not to mention a friendly against Spanish giants Real Madrid – was no mean record.

But, equally, Glass insists he and Kenny are intent not only on emulating O’Neill’s legacy – one which saw him appointed manager of Northern Ireland – but in building on it.

Recalling how not so long ago Rovers were a club without a home – having faced them as a Hibs player during Tony Mowbray’s spell as manager when they were based at Dalymount Park – Glass said: “Michael was really successful and that’s going to be difficult to replicate.

“However, that has to be the aim. Other teams will be wanting to be as successful so it will be a big challenge. Winning the League again has to be the first target, Shamrock have done it in the past two seasons but, apparently, it is 25 years since they did it three times in a row. There’s also Champions League qualifiers to look forward to, something not a lot of people can say.

“Shamrock had been moving around for years but now they have their own stadium and a great set-up at Tallaght. The people here are determined to build on the success they have had, not to let it fall away.”

With the League of Ireland’s season running from March to October, pre-season training got under way this week with Kenny and Glass beginning their preparations for their opening match, away at Drogheda’s Hunky Dorys Park.

Glass said: “It’s something of a novelty, starting in mid-January rather than the beginning of July, it’s been a case of looking out a big coat.”

Watching and guiding from the sidelines, however, will be Glass’ role from now on, the former Aberdeen, Newcastle United and Watford midfielder revealing he’s finally hung up his boots following a spell in North America with Carolina RailHawks.

He said: “I’m 100 per cent a coach now. I hurt my hip towards the end of my time in America and having undergone operations on both my knees I think calling it a day on the playing front is the wisest thing to do in the long run.

“I want to make sure I have a good quality of life later on, I like my golf and want to be able to walk around without any problems so it would be foolish even although I feel fit enough.”

Glass, however, hasn’t simply rushed into football management, revealing he’s had his A Licence for the past three years having started his coaching badges while with Dunfermline under Kenny.

He said: “I wouldn’t say I was one of those players who rushed home after every training session to note exactly what had been done that day. You take notice of what you think is good and bad – and to me the main thing is to make sure you keep the players happy.

“I was probably halfway through my career before I started looking to the future, wondering what I would do next. I have to say I enjoyed being a senior player probably for the first time at Hibs and then again at Dunfermline.

“You start to look at the game through a coach’s eyes and think it might be all right, so it’s not just something I’ve jumped into.”

Having initially joined the Pars on loan from Hibs, Glass made his move to East End Park permanent only to sustain a serious knee injury in training just days after leading Dunfermline out on the opening day of the 2009/10 season.

Glass was released at the end of that campaign only to be welcomed back at Hibs’ East Mains training centre to work out with his old team-mates before securing his move to the east coast of the United States last March.

Back in Scotland, it was a chance phone call to Kenny, who had left Derry City to manage Shamrock Rovers while his assistant Declan Devine took charge at the Brandywell, which resulted in his move into management.

Kenny, of course, guided the Pars to the Scottish Cup final of 2007, beating Hibs in the semi-final only to lose to Celtic while unable to save the Fife club from relegation and while he admits “everything could have been better from all aspects,” Glass obviously made an impression on his then manager.

He said: “I’d really just called to speak to Stephen on another matter. Things might have worked out differently at Dunfermline but I must have made enough of an impression on him that he wants to work with me.

“He knows I am keen to do well, he knows the qualities I have and where I have been, that I have a decent pedigree.

“It’s a big decision for someone to stick his neck out and ask me to become his No. 2, but it is up to me to make sure Stephen has made the right decision. I am grateful that I’ve been offered such an opportunity so early on, it’s a very exciting prospect.”

Glass bade Scottish football farewell – at least for the time being – in appropriate style, taking in the SPL clash between Dunfermline and Hibs, Saturday’s proverbial relegation six-pointer at East End Parak.

The Hibees, of course, emerged victorious, easing their worries a little while opening up a four-point gap over Jim McIntyre’s side who have yet to win at home this season.

Although delighted to see Hibs win, Glass insisted no-one should be condemning Dunfermline to the drop just yet. He said: “I think most people were expecting to watch a dull 0-0 draw, but it was great to see both teams going for it and producing plenty of goals.

“Hopefully, it will be the start of Hibs climbing the table, it will be important for them to enjoy a good spell.

“But I wouldn’t write Dunfermline off. The important thing for any club in their position is to make sure there’s no massive points gap at the split.

“It’s possible a team can go through all five games after that stage without picking up a point and find themselves in real trouble. You might also find a side currently in the top six suddenly suffering a dip in form and being sucked into it without any warning.

“They’d then be on a real downer, coming up against teams which have been used to scrapping away, fighting for their lives which they might find difficult to cope with.”