CONOR Crossan has stepped down as manager of Newington with immediate effect after five years in charge of the North Belfast club.
His decision comes ahead of a new ruling from the IFA which stipulates that Premier Intermediate League managers need to have a UEFA B licence from next season onwards.
However, the club are currently in the process of applying for their PIL licence for the 2020/21 season and Crossan fears continuing as manager for the forthcoming Irish Cup campaign might jeopardise Newington’s application.
Conal McNally, who had been due to take over from Crossan next season, will now manage the team for their Irish Cup clash away to Championship side Knockbreda on Tuesday, April 27.
Crossan will remain as part of McNally’s backroom team over the coming weeks to facilitate the transition, but he has hit out at the IFA for “forcing his hand” regarding the matter.
“We have someone in place to take over for next year and I was of the understanding that I’d be the manager until the end of the season – which included the Irish Cup,” said Crossan.
“We’ve since been in contact with the IFA and I feel my hand is being forced by the IFA and PIL as they could refuse our license for next year. The only option I have, for the sake of the club, is to step down.
“I don’t see why I can’t be the manager for the Irish Cup as you don’t need the B license for it but, apparently, the IFA have to have all their meetings concluded and the applications completed before the end of the season.
“If it wasn’t for Covid-19, I probably could have obtained my B license. There are no courses at the minute and they aren’t giving any grace with it. It will take the best part of a year to get the B Licence.
“I think it is a bit of a joke that you now have to have a UEFA B licence to manage in intermediate football and only in the Premier Intermediate League. There are other managers of intermediate clubs in other leagues who don’t need it and we are playing at the same level. I now have to pay to get a licence to do something that is voluntary.
“Just because you have these badges, it doesn’t mean you are a good coach or a good manager. It is a farcical situation. I’ve been managing in this league for five or six years – it is a hard pill to swallow.”
Crossan revealed he had tried to bring McNally into the current Newington set-up in the past and feels he’ll be good fit for the club.
“Conal (McNally) played for Newington a number of years ago on the reserve team and I’ve been trying to get him involved with the first team because he is a very good coach,” added Crossan.
“He was still playing and doing some coaching at Shamrock FC up in Ardoyne and he wasn’t able to commit.
“I’ll be there as part of the coaching staff to help Conal settle into the role, but he will be the main man. It will be a big step up for him, but he is a young coach who is ambitious and I’ve no doubt he’ll do well.”
Crossan found himself in the Newington hotseat, somewhat reluctantly, back in 2015 when Eamon McCarthy’s successor, Jim McMenamin, quit just a few months into the new season due to work commitments.
McCarthy had led the club to a famous 1-0 Irish Cup fifth round win over Glentoran at The Oval back in 2012 and had overseen their promotion from the junior ranks.
Crossan admitted he didn’t agree with the club’s decision to move into the Premier Intermediate League and came close to leaving Newington, but his decision to stay was soon vindicated and the Steel and Sons Cup final win over Linfield Swifts on Christmas Day in 2017 was the undoubted highlight of Crossan’s tenure.
“I was assistant manager to Eamon McCarthy and we’d a successful spell in the Amateur League,” said Crossan.
“Jim McMenamin took over when Eamon stepped down at the end of the 2015 season, but he left in October of 2015 and I came in as first team manager.
“I was against going into the Irish League – I would have preferred to have stayed in the Amateur League. The club and the manager decided to move forward and I had to move forward with them, but I was very close to leaving to the club to take over as manager of Greencastle Rovers.
“It was tough during for the first couple of seasons. A lot of good players who played under Eamon were coming to the end of their playing careers and we only stayed up on the last day of the season in my first year as manager.
“We beat Wakehurst on the last day and Newington would have been very close to folding if we had been relegated that season.
“We improved slowly, but surely and the highlight for me was the Steel and Sons Cup win in 2017. It was probably the biggest day in Newington’s history.
“We’ve plenty of good people in the committee who have helped out behind the scenes.
“I have to thank Eamon (McCarthy) for bringing me into the management team in the first instance – things took off from there.
“I’d like to thank all the backroom staff and coaches, the players I’ve worked with over the years, the chairman Colum Burns and the committee and supporters for their backing.
“There have been highs and lows, but I’ve enjoyed my time as manager.”