Cassidy holds his head high
TOMMY CASSIDY is comfortable with himself.
Relaxing on an inviting
armchair, sipping tea in a Belfast Hotel, the former Glentoran manager is
quite proud of his Uefa touchline suspension.
Remarkably happy that his
outspoken manner almost brought Cypriot football to its knees when he
Assiduously satisfied with his work as manager
of Glentoran FC, while reflecting on his recent resignation there.
sufficiently receptive to a barrage of questions and is equally keen to go
home and nurse a sudden flu bug. The demands of fatherhood take preference
though as Cassidys son must be collected from school before dad heads off
to Castlereagh Park where Ards, his new club, prepare for a Coca-Cola Cup
Devouring a chicken sandwich, the former Newcastle United and
Northern Ireland international proclaims: You fire the questions and Ill
answer. I never hide from the press, in fact I love to work alongside the
media. Thats probably why Ive been criticised by certain people - but
theyre not football people, theyre d**kheads who know nothing about the
game. You, pointing his managerial finger in my face, That interview
you did with Roy McCreadie (Omagh Town manager) and he called me an amateur,
that I dont like. If there are facts to be answered to, Ill answer.
He (Roy McCreadie) said hurtful things which went into print, but Ive
mellowed since. I know the facts and if someone nails me in the press and
they have their facts right, fine. But it gets stuck in my head (slapping
his forehead) when I know the wrong things have been said about me, you know,
Responding to the words of the Omagh Town boss after the sale
of Ards striker Harry McCourt to Cliftonville, Cassidy says hes above lashing
back. I have played professional football in England, for Newcastle
United, for ten years. Ive been at Manchester United and Burnley. I have
played in the World Cup finals for Northern Ireland and I have 24
international caps. I have managed in England and in Cyprus. I took the
Glentoran job and turned the club around. We won the Irish Cup in 1996 and
reached Europe. I know where I have been and what I have achieved and Im
proud of it all.
Tommy Cassidy returned to Irish soccer in 1994. He left
Cyprus ablaze with allegations and accusations, not only against those who run
the game but those he worked for at Apoel Nicosia. I knew what was going
on. To them its not a bribe, its how they see the way football is run.
It was brushed under the carpet. I saw money being handed over to a referee
and I challenged it. The guy who did it said, Tommy, this is how it is.
Now Im banned from the sideline for Uefa games. Im quite proud of
that, I am.
It all started the night before we played a cup game against
Sofia. We went, myself and the chairman, to this little chateau in the
mountain for dinner. There I noticed three little guys with three big
blonde birds. I was told the men were our match officials.
The next day,
they arrived at the game with the three girls. Now these guys were 5ft 6in and
the girls were 6ft plus with long legs. We drew 2-2 in the first leg and I
honestly thought there was something going on. I grabbed the referee
afterwards and accused him of taking bribes. They tried to tell me that the
three girls were interpreters. They were prostitutes.
"I spoke out and ended
up in front of a tribunal. There were two French guys and one German, all
about 70 years of age. They didnt want to open that can of worms. I
sat there in a glass surround and they wouldnt look at me. I spilled the
beans and I got done for that. I had no future there. A short while after I
came home, I sued World Soccer magazine. "A report said I had left Cyprus
over allegations of corruption. I won that case.
About 18 months ago, I got
a call from an old friend in Cyprus. The country is mad about soccer, its a
way of life there and it has many newspapers dedicated only to the game. My
friend told me that the whistle had been blown on bribery. The next day the
papers published only white pages."
Cassidy took over at Gateshead on his
return to England and flirted with the idea of managing Newcastle United.
1992 I was touted for the Newcastle job. Jim Smith had just been sacked. I
was managing Gateshead at the time but Ossie Ardiles got the job and what a
disaster that turned out to be.
In 1994 the one-time Ards Boys youth star
returned to his native Northern Ireland. The young Protestant boy swept of his
feet by professional football, had come full circle. Almost four years later,
he is Tommy Cassidy, failed Glentoran manager. A description he contests with
notable anxiety. There were good times, the Bass Irish Cup win of 1996.
maintaining of a place in the Premier League. European football.
On the other
hand, unexpected defeats, four defeats in six cup finals and Liam Coyle. The
clubs most expensive player signed from Derry City in December 1995. Coyles
class was a footballing God-send and Glentoran needed his like. Little over
one year later the unhappy player returned to the Brandywell. Cassidy will
always be left to answer the Coyle issue.
He said: I was approached by
Glentoran while I just happened to be thinking of coming back to live in
Northern Ireland. I wasnt sacked by Glentoran. I made it easy for them.
After the Linfield game (a league fixture which signalled the end of Cassidys
spell as Glens manager in December 1997) I went to the chairman and said, its
no good. Every time the other team score a goal, these d**kheads have a
go, affecting me, the players and the board. So I said, lets come to some
arrangement and Ill go.
Since then, I have been annoyed with one or two
people in the club. I mean, when I arrived at Glentoran in June 1994, they
were at all-time low. The year previous they finished ninth in a league of 16.
They had to finish fifth at very least to stay in the top division of the
new leagues. I looked around the team. I swear, it must have been the worst
team I had ever managed. So my claim to fame is not winning the Irish Cup
in 1996 but turning the club around. We stayed up to go into the Premier
League. We won the Irish Cup and finished third in the league and last season
we finished third. We played in six cup finals.
In transfer fees, I brought
in around £300,000 and spent half of that. But I will be remembered for my
last three months or so at The Oval. Since winning the Irish Cup on May 4
1996, we sold Glen Little for £125,000, Liam Coyle (bought for £35,000
before May 4 1996) and Declan Devine for £42,000, for Trevor Smith we got
£20,000, £40,000 from Uefa for winning the cup and entering Europe and
£80,000 television rights. I spent £37,000 on John Drake and Phillip
Mitchell for £13,000, Tom McCourt for £5,000 and Stephen Livingstone for
I stick to my guns with Liam Coyle. He is one of the most
skillful Irish players in history, but he had to go. He was missing
training and other players were taking note. I think he only trained 15
times in 14 months with Glentoran. In one sense he has great ability, great to
watch. But on the other hand he was not being professional, not acting as I
expect a professional footballer to act. I cut my own throat in a sense,
letting him go. But I have principles.
Glentoran may be in the red now but
when I joined, the club had a system of paying all players a maximum wage of
£25. The best players were going to Portadown and Linfield. I broke that
system to take Glentoran out of the doldrums. The team Glentoran have now,
I built. I brought in Wayne Russell (goalkeeper) for free. Colin Nixon, Chris
Walker, Stuart Elliot, Andy Kirk and Paul Leeman, all free, not a penny. That
team was built on peanuts.
Now theyre Coyles Babes, Coyles Kids. Im not blaming Coyley (Roy Coyle, Cassidys replacement at
hes doing a good job. The cup was won, league status secured and a very
young and promising team built. Roy Coyle thinks hes in paradise.
sold on the job because I was told they had some great kids for the future.
They hadnt. Glentoran now have the best youth set-up in Northern
Ireland. I built that.
I keep my head up. Im proud of what I done at
Glentoran. You get the dozen or so d**kheads who will give me grief but they
are scum, what do they know about it.
Within weeks of tendering his
resignation, Cassidy took over at the Premier Leagues relegation courting
Ards. Today the club is facing the forthcoming season in the First Division. A
club with near crippling financial income and powered by a board constantly
under pressure from former holders.
Ards is a million times worse to what I
entered at Glentoran, claims Cassidy. Theres no money. No reserve
team. No discipline. Its a shambles. Im a bit bitter about what I
have inherited at Ards. The club is in a mess. There are two reasons why I
took the Ards job. I wanted to keep involved in football and I was cheap. Ards
couldnt afford to pay much and I was happy to take the job.
So I said to
them (Ards), Ill manage for peanuts. But what is happening now is that Im
losing credibility. If Ards get beat, I get the blame. The clubs in
limbo with AGMs and meetings upon meetings and I dont know where it will
end up. Now if I walk out, Ill be a quitter. Do I stay, take the
hammerings, get relegated and let the critics say I took Ards down?
Assessing Tommy Cassidy, Tommy Cassidy is candid. Whatever the game holds in
store for his career in management, Cassidy will not change his ways. Regrets.
Hes had a few. Very few.
Im good for the press. I open my
mouth and I normally have something to say that the press will want to hear. I appreciate the job of the press and without it, football would go down
the drain. There are people in power who are against that and dont like me
for that reason. When I speak they say, ah for Gods sake, listen to
Tommy Cassidy shouting his mouth off again. I dont care. So what if
people dont like my opinion. Im happy with myself.
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