TEN years since he departed Cork City as a player, Joe Gamble returns to his home club, where he will take on the role as assistant manager and head of strength and conditioning.
It’s a position he had hoped to be in earlier than now, but he is nonetheless excited about his role and can’t wait for the season ahead.
“I’m delighted to be back at Cork City as assistant manager,” said Gamble. “I left 10 years ago as a player and had hoped to be back in some capacity much sooner than now, but that’s football, and another day’s conversation but, as of now, I’m delighted that I am here.”
The 37-year-old, who is originally from Togher, is not concerned about the club’s financial situation, but is instead looking forward to getting the best from the players to compete at the top. He intends to leave no stone unturned in having this young side in fantastic shape for the season ahead.
“The situation the club is in now, with a smaller budget to compete with than previous years, really has nothing to do with me. I’m not here to complain or wished we had this and that. I’m here to roll up the sleeves and get stuck into it with the players we do have.
"Players left, simply left for a reason either the manager Neale didn’t want to retain them, players wanted more money to stay and budget dictated otherwise, or moved on for a different challenge — but we still have plenty of talent and eager lads.
“It’s only our first week of pre-season training with a mixture on astro and grass sessions. At the moment we are concentrating on physical conditioning, but also not wasting time by solely focusing on fitness.
“We want to implement principles on how we want to play quickly so players know what’s expected, and you can do both in training. It doesn’t have to be in isolation — running players for the sake of running isn’t acceptable, time needs to be productive in pre-season. Plus all players were given a fitness programme and, to be fair, a lot have come back in good condition. We are a young side so I expect and we demand that we are ultra-fit.”
The worry for many City fans is that the young players will not be physically strong and experienced enough for this league but Joe says the players will be more than ready to cope.
“Yes, we do need to work on the lads’ physical condition, however that won’t be our sole focus. It’s always a difficult task to get football players to change their mindset and concentrate on their physical shape like they do when it comes to football training. In every group you’ll have players who are gym rats, love doing weights, others hate it and would rather do anything but gym work. A majority plod along and will do it because you’re on their case and know the importance of the gym.
“The club have made a big investment on GPS which gives us live data during training so we can monitor players’ training load properly, but also, more importantly, push them physically to gain real improvements in all aspects of football fitness. I’m looking to working with the GPS to see how far we can push the players.
“A lot comes down to the environment you work in, the players turn up to high-performance training facility they know it’s work time and we are striving to get that environment at Bishopstown.”
Not many young players in Cork over the past four or five years got a chance in City’s first team of because of the success the club achieved. But now Gamble believes the roles have changed and he is looking forward to seeing some young players enjoy a long career with the first team.
“The roles have changed and I’m looking at it differently,” he said.
“Who out of the young players will grab the opportunity and make himself a first-team player for years to come? Enthusiasm and hunger is what youth give you, so we need to nurture all top players to make it to the top.
“I look forward to working with players who are honest — I won’t accept when standards drop and I will make sure we are a team that when either playing home or away, we are always up for the battle.
“Just training like your life depends on it and results and performance will come, is what I expect from our group of lads.
“Every team at the start of the year want to do well, Shels will expect to come to Cork and get a result. Every team will be full of optimism. I’m not going to go down the road of ‘we need this three points here and if we get one there that’s great’ nonsense — you play to win every game, every five-a-side, every sprint, every everything.
“We are concentrating on performance and results will follow.
“I want Cork City fans to be proud of this Cork City team who will be full of energy, full of enthusiasm and literally will run through a brick wall for the team.”