Jim McGuinness is very clear as to his immediate goals as he begins his first season as Head Coach of Charlotte Independence this week.
The former All-Ireland-winning Donegal manager was appointed as Charlotte’s new Head Coach in December, having cut his teeth in the soccer world at, first, Celtic, and then as assistant manager to Roger Schmidt at Beijing Sinobo Guoan.
Charlotte’s recruitment of McGuinness, on a three-year deal, was always something that would rage debate, but McGuinness is crystal clear about both where he is and where he’s going.
The Glenties native leads Charlotte to their first game of 2019 in the USL Championship, American soccer’s second tier, on Friday night, as they host Indy Eleven at the Sportsplex.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s about your vision, style and philosophy and imparting that on the team,” McGuinness said.
“The opportunity to start up on my own two feet and try to implement my own philosophy is something that I’m very excited about.”
McGuinness first entered the soccer world on the back of guiding Donegal to All-Ireland glory in 2012. Initially employed as a performance consultant at Celtic, he moved into coaching before Schmidt, with whom he previously struck up a connection, enlisted his help in China.
McGuinness has spoken often of his blueprint that he has been waiting to unveil in soccer.
They are comments that will bring memories of a PowerPoint presentation he had prepared to show the Donegal County Board’s selection panel when he went for the Donegal job in 2008.
McGuinness was overlooked, his plans kept under wraps having not been provided with the required equipment, until, finally, he was given the job in 2010.
McGuinness has been working his way up the coaching ladder and is currently undertaking his UEFA Pro Licence in a group that includes Finn Harps assistant manager Paul Hegarty and Harps coach William O’Connor.
McGuinness said: “We have a certain style of play. I want us to be very dynamic, very aggressive in terms of taking the game to the opposition, pressing the opposition and look to take the ball to the first third, take ball to goal very quickly, create chances and score goals.
“We want guys with quality and pace. We are trying to get the principals nailed down and then the intensity levels up.
“We want a team that gives everything they’ve got every single day. There will be challenges and mistakes, but if there is an honesty to what they’re doing, it will resonate with fans.”
Charlotte won three, drew one and lost one of their pre-season fixtures. The season-proper begins at home to Indy Eleven on Friday.
“The acid test is the games themselves,” McGuinness said.
“We’ll know a lot more about ourselves after the game.
“There are a lot of things to catch you off-guard, but that’s the same for every season. It’s always pretty hectic and manic. You’re trying to get players in the door and trying to profile certain players for certain positions.
“You’re looking at mentality and quality. You have a huge amount going on in the operational side of things as well.
“For me coming from a different country, I have to quickly grasp the league, what’s involved in the League, the travel, the food, the accommodation and the flights.
“You’re juggling a lot of things and still getting the message across to the players and trying to get that out into a competitive league.”
McGuinness’s family, his wife, Yvonne, and their children, have all relocated to be with him in America.
That has certainly aided his own settling in process and he has already been faced with some challenges. Four players, for instance, were still awaiting Visas early this week.
“They have no concept into what coach wants so it will take time to get everybody here and then to build up the game plan and intensity,” he said.
“We’re very fortunate to have a good core group of players and they’re helping drive the process right now.”
The comfort zone was never somewhere McGuinness appeared content in.
He’s out of it now and into a whole new world.