After working under some of the local greats, former Irish League defender is ready to forge his own career in management
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The 38-year-old was announced as Tommy Canning’s permanent successor at Championship outfit Dergview on Wednesday evening after gaining coaching experience at both Institute and Ballinamallard United, where he most recently served as assistant manager to Harry McConkey.
Friars’ playing career started in England with Notts County before he returned to Northern Ireland in 2007, spending three years at Newry City and then enjoyed further spells with Dungannon Swifts, Ballinamallard, Ards, Ballymena United and Limavady United.
Now felt like the perfect time – and Dergview presented the ideal opportunity – to forge his own path as a senior manager and Friars admits he knew from his early-twenties that this is what he wanted to do.
"I played for Stephen Kenny, David Jeffrey, Stephen Baxter, Rodney McAree, Gerry Flynn was brilliant for me as my first manager when I came home,” he said. “I've been so fortunate to do that.
"Then I got to work under good managers as a coach and assistant manager.
"I've always known that I wanted to be a manager. I've been watching and learning and have been lucky to see some of the top managers up close and personal.
"I'll probably be making a few phone calls over the next number of weeks to get some advice and help if needed.
"I just felt when the opportunity presented itself that it was one I had to take.
"The club ticks a lot of boxes for me and I really see a good club that hopefully I can push on."
Friars has been getting up to speed quickly after being appointed to the Darragh Park hot seat and will be tasked with improving the league position of 11th that they currently occupy.
Former Northern Ireland international Ivan Sproule has been serving as interim manager since Canning’s departure last month and helped turn their fortunes around by picking up consecutive league victories over Knockbreda and Bangor while pushing Glenavon all the way in their BetMcLean League Cup encounter.
With the timing of Friars’ arrival, Sproule will take charge of Friday’s trip to Ballyclare Comrades before the new boss gets to work properly for next weekend’s clash with high-flyers Newington – and he’s confident they have the squad to propel themselves up the table.
"Ivan is a fantastic coach and manager and the club are lucky to have a man like that there who cares about the club and players,” he added. “I'll be at the (Ballyclare) game to watch and I've been watching the videos and doing my homework.
"The staff have been brilliant and I've been getting as much information as I can.
"There are some top experienced players there with the likes of Blaine Burns, Keith Cowan and Gareth Falconer.
"I see some really good young players in there too that make a good blend.
"I'm a new, young manager, but all I can do is give it my best and I have full belief in the squad of players.
"Tommy Canning put a fantastic squad together that I genuinely believe in and I've a fantastic coaching staff there too behind me.
"I don't see why we can't climb the league.
"I'm very confident that we will find our feet and go where we want to go."