COMMENT: After Dean Shiels’ revolution it’s time for Dungannon Swifts evolution
Dean Shiels spent much of his first few months as Dungannon Swifts manager attempting to mark and measure marginal gains from big ideas.
His appointment in early March sparked the introduction of a football philosophy the former Northern Ireland international spent hours defining and defending.
On the final day of the Premiership season, the Swifts conceded inside the opening seconds following a misplaced pass during attempts to build from the back which Glenavon intercepted and converted.
But Shiels’ post-match analysis to the media was clear in that he accepted all blame for any growing pains required in the transition phase of turning plans into points.
However, Shiels also spoke at length with the assembled press on his summer plans and how “there has to be change...you can’t just keep the same squad and expect different results”.
Within days, the Swifts had confirmed the exits of nine players as Shiels started the next crucial phase in his gameplan.
After attempts to shape players into a philosophy, Shiels has a summer transfer window to start the process of signing players that fit a philosophy - alongside a pre-season devoted to welcome time on the training pitch with faces both familiar and fresh following a campaign dictated by a demanding cycle of games.
His steadfast faith in patience and possession on the pitch proved jarring to many across his early months as an Irish League manager.
Now, following the short-term revolution of imposing that style, comes the long-term evolution of his squad closer to one armed with the ability to best execute ideas many consider in contrast to traditional Irish League thinking.
“We need players that fit the style and identity of the club,” said Shiels, standing in Lurgan on the final day of the season but already with his focus on the future. “We need experience...we’ve been playing six and seven teenagers at a time.
“Next season we will be looking to add more experience and the younger players will have to earn more appearances.
“At times we’ve given them games...but every one I’ve played has shown quality.
“We’ve a great youth system at the club and we will continue to blood players in and give youth a chance.
“You have to be actively seeking to improve all the time.
“We have to improve the players we’ve got, it’s lazy sometimes just to replace a player with a new player.
“I think there are too many players within the squad...we need to cut numbers to get the benefit out of training sessions.
“We need a smaller squad, we need quality over quantity which is what we will work hard on over the summer.
“We will try and be as creative as we can, we’ve got a budget we will use but first and foremost we need good people.
“People who will be good in the changing room...then we want good players and players who will fit in...who will play in our style and, hopefully, that improves us.”
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