Wednesday, 20 January 2010

There's only one Mark Kinsella

Atmospheric piece on Mark Kinsella from Bloomberg (whom I know as a financial wire sevice):

DOWN at their New Eltham training base the Charlton Athletic players are filtering out into the car park after their Thursday morning session. The troublesome snow has left all but one pitch unplayable, the staff working overtime to ensure another day wouldn't be gone to waste.

Yet as the players say their goodbyes and jump into their cars, one figure remains ut on the sod, taking pot shots at goal. Mark Kinsella's playing days may now be behind him but the passion remains as strong as ever.

It's been just over a year since the Dubliner returned to coaching the Charlton first team, having been put in charge of the reserves during Alan Pardew's ill-fated spell at the club, and he is loving every minute.

"You want to be involved on the Saturday; it's something I've missed," admits Kinsella, who made 208 appearances for the club. "Coaching is a bit different to playing but it's the next best thing. When you've played football all your life you want to stay in and around the game. I had a successful time here as a player and hopefully I can do the same as a coach." It's been a case of so far so good.

Following relegation from the Championship last season the Addicks are well-placed for an immediate return, vying with Leeds United and Norwich City for the two automatic promotion places. In England's third tier for the first time in 30 years, Charlton are keen to ensure their stay is a short one. It's less than three years since the club was plying its trade in the Premier League, which underlines how quickly fortunes can change in football.

For someone who cares so passionately about the club it was a difficult time for Kinsella, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"People were expecting more doom and gloom," he said. "But we went to Waterford for a few days pre-season training, and when we saw the atmosphere and team spirit on that trip it gave us an inkling that if we could get the season off to a good start we could carry it on.

"We worked very hard to get into the Premier League. So for us to get relegated twice in three seasons was very tough; it was a real kick in the teeth. But sometimes you've got to take three steps back before you can go forward again.

"We want to get out of this division at the first time of asking. The first-half of the season has been a success; I think the fans will be happy with where we're placed in the table. We're in a good position in the league; now we've got to try and push ourselves over the line."

Kinsella is pushing himself just as much as he did when he was calling the shots round the middle of the park. The 37-year-old is currently doing his UEFA 'A' Licence, which he hopes to finish inside the next year. Then it's straight onto the Pro Licence.

It means a heavy workload, which keeps him away from his family and Midlands home more than he would like. But he accepts that it comes with the territory. "It is time consuming. I try and get out and watch games midweek so we can figure out game plans for future opposition, while also trying to get home and see the kids. It can be difficult but it's part and parcel of being a coach. It's all about getting the three points at the end of the week."

It was that sort of commitment and drive that saw Kinsella become a fans' favourite with both Charlton and Ireland in his playing days. He started in the lower leagues but he went on to compete at the very highest level, and holds the World Cup in 2002 as the pinnacle of his career. Which is why he empathises so much with the current squad following Thierry Henry's 'Hand of Gaul'.

He's already starting to sound like a manager, and Kinsella admits that down the line he does fancy taking the next step up. He's in no hurry yet though. "I do see management in the future; I'd like to have a crack at it. I don't think anyone would want to retire from the game without giving management a go. But for the time being I'm very happy with what I'm currently doing. As a player I started in non-league football and worked my way up and I plan on doing the very same in coaching."

There'll be plenty more late afternoons spent on the training ground yet; the playing days may be over but in terms of coaching, he's only getting started.

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