The Juniors Interview: Tony McInally, Pollok FC

Tony McInally, the Scottish Cup-winning manager of 2012 with Shotts Bon Accord, has recently returned to the managerial scene with Super League Premier Division side Pollok after a six-month touchline ban. Here, he chats to eveningtimes.co.uk about returning to the dugout, and the challenges of awakening the sleeping Newlands giant.

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Name: Tony McInally

Club: Pollok FC

Position: Manager

Previous clubs as manager: Shotts Bon Accord, Lanark United, Cumbernauld United

Previous clubs as player: St Mirren, Ayr United, Queens Park, Albion Rovers, Shotts Bon accord, Benburb, Irvine Meadow

Congratulations on your appointment as Pollok manager, how are you settling into the role?

Thanks a lot, I'm really enjoying it. It's a great club with fantastic people at it, good bunch of lads and there's some good talent in the team, so we're hoping to get results and kick on from here.

Pollok have been struggling in recent years in relation to where they would traditionally see themselves in the junior game. What attracted you to the role?

Pollok are obviously giants in the junior game. They've got a fantastic fan base and a great history.

It's a tremendous lure for any manager when Pollok come and chap your door and say they want you to be their manager. It was the chance to make them great again that lured me to Pollok.

When any new manager comes into a club there can be a high turnover of players, is there any news on signings or players leaving?

During January, we have tried to make best use of the senior transfer window so we have brought two players from Airdrie and hopeful of another two joining over the next week or so. In terms of outgoings, I'm keen to restrict the number going out the door within reason. From when I started and in the preceding month, the club lost five players. Quality players like Tommy Sinclair, Brian McGinty and Ross Hepburn.

We also lost Alan Lindsay for the season with a knee injury; Rob Henderson retired, so that's a lot for any team to lose in a short period of time. I'm trying to bring stability to the club rather than create any more turbulence, because too much has happened in recent times.

With that in mind, the current squad of players need a hand. But I would only bring in players that I thought could enhance the team. I don't want any that are sub-standard or are just going to be squad men, I want to bring in players that have a good chance of competing strongly for a place in the team and of making an impact.

Are you happy with how the current squad are progressing since your appointment?

One thing we have had is tremendous buy-in from the players of what we've been doing on the training ground. I've went around all the players now just to gauge the feeling within the group as individuals, and the feedback that I've had has been nothing short of terrific. The boys are loving what we're doing - the preparation, the professionalism, the coaching and the training - we've had really positive feedback. The players are a lot fitter and sharper than what they were when we first went in the door. We just need to string a few results together and get momentum going in the league and cups.

From a personal perspective, how does it feel just to be back amongst the game again after such a long layoff?

It feels great to be back involved and at such a top club too. I'd like to think that the name and respect that people in football have for me has meant that I've never really been away, because I've helped other teams and managers out with signing players and giving my opinion on players.

I chose to take the period out because effectively I would have been a redundant manager on a Saturday. I would have just been a training ground manager that is no good for me because I love a Saturday and trying to help get results for my team.

During my sabbatical from the game, I've been doing scouting for a lot of senior teams, as well as other junior managers asking me my opinions on players or other teams. I just wasn't involved in the cut and thrust of a Saturday.

It must have been a wrench for both you and the club when you decided to leave Shotts?

Shotts Bon Accord were heartbroken when we decided to leave. They were willing to do everything and anything to keep us at the club, which we appreciated greatly, and they're a fantastic bunch of people at Shotts.

As a management team, we were gutted to leave the players and the club but we've moved on now and our focus is 100% on Pollok. It's a big part of what I was before, I enhanced my reputation and name there and I'll always have a great deal of affection for everything to do with Shotts Bon Accord and look back on my time there with a great deal of pride and pleasure.

It was a huge wrench to leave, but I left for the right reasons. Everyone fully understood the reasons, from players to committee to supporters. They're fantastic people at Shotts, what you see is what you get and I'm the same.

Managers and players come and go at clubs and it's a natural evolution within clubs and football in general.

Do you believe given time you can replicate or even better your success at Shotts with Pollok, given the larger resources available to you?

Absolutely. They have a bigger fan-base, they are a bigger club and they are probably a much more affluent club than Shotts ever were, so I've got the opportunity if I do the right things at Pollok to be an even bigger success and make Pollok better than what they are.

A team of Pollok's standing should be competing for every trophy or be in the latter stages but we have a lot of hard work to do before we get to that stage.

First and foremost though is getting stability at the football club, phase two is to be very competitive and challenge strongly for every trophy.

There's really been quite a number of band-aids put over Pollok in recent times for one reason or another, so we're looking to bring the right players, coaching and ethos to the structure of the club.

Also, I need to lower the age profile of the group, I need to bring in hungry, talented players that fit the Pollok mould and the way that we like to play, and from there we can hopefully bring some excitement back and play the type of football that the Pollok fans deserve.

Off the park, Pollok are working towards becoming a community club, so we are going to embrace that too.

Coming off the back of the ban and given your history with a rival club in Shotts, do you think you have a real point to prove to the Pollok fans to win them over?

To be honest, no - my track record of success speaks for itself and only pressure I feel will be pressure I place upon myself to succeed and change things around.

All the Pollok fans that I've spoken to have been first class, they've been very supportive and understanding of the difficult position we have been placed in.

I've met the wider committee and everyone behind the scenes at Pollok are very supportive who want us there for the long haul. They appreciate the tough job we have and what's required to make things better.

I believe the Pollok fans are just a bit down just now because they've not had the success they've been used to in the last four or five years. What they want is for their club to be back competing at the top like an Auchinleck Talbot or a Linlithgow Rose so they're right to demand that the team play in the right manner and compete for every trophy.

Football

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