Making the jump from Coach to Manager: Interview with Colne boss Nathan Rooney

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 08 January 2021, 10:38

“My journey has been slightly different to many coaches who are working in the EFL,” Colne manager Nathan Rooney tells The Sack Race.

Rooney holds an LMA Managers Diploma, has studied for his UEFA Badges, and has 14 years of coaching experience working in the Football League at Crawley, Fleetwood, Blackburn, and Carlisle, while he’s been in charge of Lancashire outfit Colne - currently top of the Northern Premier League Division One North West - since May.

“My coaching days started at Blackburn as a youth coach where I spent over seven seasons within the Academy,” Rooney says. “My progression was with Fleetwood, where I was appointed Head Professional Phase Coach covering both U18/23 age groups with two interim first team coach roles. 

“At the end of the 2017 season I joined Crawley as the assistant manager to Gabriele Cioffi. My time with Cioffi was very rewarding, his overall passion and attention to detail was second to none. Our friendship is very strong and I look forward to working with him again in the future. I wish him all the best with his current team Udinese (assistant manager) who are performing well in Serie A.

“It was a matter of location and a few logistical issues that brought me back up North the following season to work with my previous manager, Steven Pressley, at Carlisle. Then in 2020 it was a matter of finding a management position close to home for me this season where I could enjoy my football and utilize my local contacts with both player and staff recruitment to try and build a strong team. At the start of May I was appointed at Colne FC.”

Colne’s appointment of Rooney was described as a “coup” by Chairman Ryan Haigh, and the boss has certainly lived up to his reputation as a bright young coach. “It’s been a stop start season with the pandemic and the hardest challenge for me has been adapting to the demands of full-time to part-time football,” Rooney tells The Sack Race.

“The plus to being part-time this season has been me using my free time to complete my LMA Managers Diploma through the League Managers association. My ambitions for the New Year are to try and get promoted with my current side and support the club with their projects on and off the field.”

Colne have enjoyed a fantastic start to what has been a disrupted season to date. Rooney’s troops are currently top of the table with 22 points from nine matches; three points ahead of the chasing pick, and seven points ahead of Marine who play Jose Mourinho’s Spurs in the FA Cup this weekend. 

However, Colne’s league season has unfortunately just been suspended due to the new national COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown.

“I respect that every club is going through the same issues especially at non-league level where the suspensions have had the biggest impacts,” Rooney says.

“Of course, I would love the opportunity to finish the season in some capacity, but I am also aware that there are bigger problems in the world.

“There have been a couple of potential whispers, including possibly playing 50% of the league, which for us will be another nine games.

“The players have dealt with the situation excellently, they have showed how dedicated and committed they are and this was a big part of my recruitment at the start of the campaign. For me having good people around is key and vital to success. Good people find solutions rather than creating problems.”

Rooney has former Newcastle player Ryan Taylor in his ranks at Colne, plus the services of former Liverpool and Wigan shotstopper Chris Kirkland who works as his Head Goalkeeping Coach. Kirkland has been a stand-out presence on Twitter, offering his time to help out others who may be struggling at the moment due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the ambitious Rooney hopes to return to the Football League in the future, but this time as a manager in his own right. “I want to be working back in the EFL as a Head Coach with a club who shares the same vision as mine.”

There’s currently a job going at one of Rooney’s former clubs, Fleetwood, following the surprise exit of Joey Barton earlier in the week. “I would definitely consider a return to Fleetwood in the future,” Rooney tells us.

“It’s a club with great facilities, good people and massive ambitions. I wish them all the very best as they continue to grow.”

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