Sports

Sproule takes the reins at Ardstraw

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Sproule takes the reins at Ardstraw thumbnailNew Ardstraw manager, Ivan Sproule, is welcomed to the club by chairman. Aaron Hempton.

FORMER Northern Ireland international Ivan Sproule has made the move into management after taking the reins at Intermediate club Ardstraw.

The Castlederg man takes over at Vaughan's Holm from Gary Simpson, who stepped down at the end of the season. Sproule revealed he turned down offers to come back and play from a League of Ireland club, an Irish League club, and clubs in the Championship

"At this stage in my career, whatever football career I had at that level is over, I've done what I had to do. The next step for me was management, and Ardstraw is a perfect fit for me.

"It is a new venture into management for me. I met with the club twice and I was interested with what the committee had to say.

Sproule enjoyed a memorable professional career in Scotland and England, where he enjoyed long spells at Hibernian and Bristol City amongst others. He returned to Northern Ireland to play for Linfield and Ballinamallard, before spending last season at hometown club Dergview.

He is fondly remembered amongst Hibs fans for his second half hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Rangers at Ibrox in 2005. The pacy winger climbed off the bench and netted in the 67th, 86th and 90th minutes, leading to a call-up to the international squad a month later. Sproule won 11 caps for Northern Ireland, scoring one goal in a 1-0 win over Estonia at Windsor Park in March 2006.

"It goes without saying, just because you've played at the top standard that you're going to be a top manager. The one thing that I say for any walk of life, if you apply yourself and work hard, if you're willing to make things happen, more than likely those things will happen.

"I've a wealth of experience, I've worked under a lot of good managers, and I like to think I've taken something out of each one of those."

Management was something Sproule was keen to get into, and when the opportunity arose at Ardstraw, he jumped at the chance to take up the post.

"I'd done my coaching badges a few years ago up in Belfast, so it was something I've begin considering for a while now. Obviously I didn't know how soon. Sometimes though these things pop up and you know it's the right move.

"I knew the infrastructure Ardstraw had in place there, and they've been chipping away at the league and getting to cup finals. I've a general interest in local football with Ardstraw, Killen Rangers and Dergview, and I just thought it was a good for for me at my stage to take the role on and see if I can progress them as a club."

But Sproule has no intentions of hanging up the boots completely, as the assistance of former Dergview and Ballinamallard man, Neil Coulter, will allow Sproule take to the pitch for the Bridge this season.

"Neil is very knowledgeable of the local game, he was a team mate of mine in my younger days. Further afield he has played with Dergview and Ballinamallard, so he has a wealth of experience himself.

"I wish to continue on playing as well as managing, so that will free me up on a Saturday to get on with it on the pitch, and Neil can take charge on the sideline. He is someone I have full trust in.

"There are a few people at the club that will be keeping their roles on. That's something I want to add to through time, and try and make it that wee bit more professional."

As well as trophies and titles, the development of players also ranks high on the new manager's list of objectives. Sproule is hoping to progress young players to a higher level, similar to the rise of his own career

"I'll be targetting a lot of younger players and developing them. I didn't get across the water until I was 23, and I still needed a lot of coaching at that age, so it goes to show you. Hopefully I can find a few gems, people like myself that can maybe write their own story, and maybe push them on to the top level, and at the same time bring success to Ardstraw."

"You don't turn up on a Tuesday and a Thursday for a mess-about. For me, this is something I want to achieve. I don't take a look at the league and where we are, I take a look at the bigger picture, the football club. It is about progressing the football club, the players, and hopefully in a few years time, the club will be in a stronger position.

In a club statement, Ardstraw announced they "are extremely excited by [Ivan's] enthusiasm, passion and vast experience in the world of football."

"The club would like to offer Ivan, and his incoming assistant Neil Coulter, a warm welcome and wish Ivan every success for the forthcoming season as he endeavours to continue the club's tireless progression."

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