The decision to ply his trade with Cliftonville in the NIFL is one that Jason McGuinness is content with. Having slotted in with ease into his north Belfast surroundings, the mutual belonging was reflected in him being made club captain.
While he has no desire to stop playing anytime soon, Jason still has one eye on the future; combining coaching with studying for his UEFA A licence. If he wasn’t busy enough, he also has a young family. Life for Jason McGuinness has never been busier. But you also get the impression; it’s never been better, either.
Brian Strahan: How are you finding life at Cliftonville?
Jason McGuinness: I’m loving my time at Cliftonville. The change has done me the world of good.
BS: Do you enjoy being captain?
JMG: Yes. It’s a huge honour for me to be captain of one of the biggest clubs in Northern Ireland.
BS: How did leaving St Pat’s come about?
JMG: Well I wasn’t particularly enjoying my time at St. Pat’s. Basically, Cliftonville made contact with me, asking would I be interested. I had two other offers in the League of Ireland too. I met with the Cliftonville manager [Gerard Lyttle] and he spoke to me about the club, its plans and what he needed. I got a good feeling about football from him. He is a genuine guy with huge ambition and hunger, so I made the switch. I felt the change would be good for me and that it would be nice to play against different opposition, in different grounds. Derby games and meeting new coaches and to learn more about the game.
BS: Have you learned more about the game?
JMG: Yes. I believe that in football every day is a school day. I’m currently doing my UEFA A licence. I look at the game differently from how I did previously. Gerard Lyttle has been excellent with helping me become a better coach. I bounce things off him and he is always on hand to help. I must be wrecking his head because I’m constantly asking questions; but so far he hasn’t told me to get lost!
BS: Do you see Cliftonville, the badges and your relationship with Gerard as a transitional period. The first steps into coaching?
JMG: Well, I’ve already been coaching at St. Kevin’s Boys. I’ve recently taken the Bray Wanderers Under-19s coaching job. I’m currently the manager at Maynooth University College too, so I’m already doing quite a bit. These are great places for me to learn the game; it’s like doing my apprentice without taking my eye off the ball playing-wise. I’m 34 now so coaching and management is the road I want to go down.
BS: You sound busy.
JMG: I sure am. I have two little girls at home – Abby who is seven and Penny who is five months old, who keep me busy.
BS: Do you get time to yourself?
JMG: Loads mate!
BS: How do you juggle studying for your licence, playing, coaching and two young children?
JMG: The A licence is run over the four blocks. The next one starts in May. It’s all hands on deck to be honest.
BS: Do you feel different now playing with the realisation playing at this level isn’t going to last forever?
JMG: Not really to be honest. I’ve always just taken a one game at a time approach throughout my career, and I’ll continue to do that.
BS: But you are planning for the future. Do you enjoy it more even if subconsciously you know it won’t last forever?
JMG: Yes. As you said, it won’t last forever. So it’s definitely in my mind that it’s important to enjoy every training session, every game, and that doesn’t mean I’ll take it easy. I still have that competitive nature in me. That will never go.
BS: You’ve played in both Irish leagues, obviously longer in the League of Ireland. How do they compare?
JMG: The standard is really good up there. The top three to four teams would definitely compete in the League of Ireland. It’s a man’s league up there. Physical, honest, hard working lads. The standard of players at Cliftonville is as good as I’ve seen.
BS: Will you be there next season?
JMG: I’m not too sure. We haven’t discussed about another season. I’ll take it game by game and make a decision at the end of the season.