“I still dream of becoming better and achieving things I have not yet achieved.”
These are the words of former Irish international women’s soccer underage manager Dave Bell.
There may be many of us who at times feel we are too old to achieve our dreams, but this certainly isn’t the case for Bell, who has been coaching for more than three decades, and although he has enjoyed a very successful career, he still feels he has a lot to offer in the game.
“Even as a coach, I still dream of becoming better and achieving things I have not yet achieved,” he said.
“My advice to any young player is to always dream and believe that with hard work and dedication you can achieve that dream. Yes, you will make mistakes, but learn from them and never give up on your dream.”
Bell began his coaching career 30 years ago at Bury in England and has since enjoyed many different roles with various clubs, all of which shaped him into the person he is today.
“It’s over 30 years ago now when I first took my role as a player-coach at Bury FC and sometimes that only feels like yesterday,” he said.
“Bury will always be special to me. It was most upsetting to see them fall out of the football league last season due to financial reasons. I then had coaching and management roles at Bristol City, Cardiff City, Bristol Rovers, Manchester United, Chester City, Morecombe, and the Football Association of Wales before joining the FAI 13 years ago.
“My life in football brought me to meet and work with many players and managers in both the men’s and women’s side of the game.
“Unfortunately, due to FAI company regulations, I was informed due to my age, I had to retire from the FAI.
“For over 12 years I held the position of football development officer, tutor/coach with the Football Association of Ireland. One of my roles was being heavily involved in women’s and girls’ development from the grassroots to international and elite level.
“The most recent was July 2019 when as assistant coach of Ireland’s university women’s team, we reached the semi-finals of the World University Games.
“Previously, I had held the position of head coach of the Republic of Ireland’s U17 women’s national team who after competing in the qualifying and elite rounds, qualified as one of the top eight countries in Europe for the UEFA U17 finals.
“Before taking the role as U17 head coach, I was the assistant coach to Dave Connell of the Republic of Ireland’s women’s U17 and U19 international teams. Again, both reached the final stages of the European Championships. The under- 19s reached the semi-finals of the UEFA finals, which was some achievement for a country so small.”
Bell’s most recent stint was as manager of Shelbourne women, where he recently stood down, much to the disappointment of all involved at the club.
“Having spent the last two seasons with Shelbourne as the women’s head coach/manager, my decision to step down from the position, which was made together with the club, was one of the most difficult ones I’ve had to make,” he said. “I am of course disappointed, finishing runners-up two years in a row, however I’ve been so happy with the way the girls performed and in the main, the style of football we played, for which we received many compliments.
“But I feel that now is the right time for the club to go in a new direction.
“I have travelled many miles back and forward from my home in Cork these past two seasons. This season, mostly because of the demands put on us by the virus [which] I felt took its toll, there were times because of the travel restrictions it became increasingly difficult to give the position my full commitment. So I had to make what I felt is the right decision, to step down,” said Bell.
“I do think, playing-wise, the standard of the Women’s National League is improving. The games now have become a lot closer,” he added.
“I know Bohemians finished bottom. I can honestly say that it was because they were new to the league. I’m sure they will improve, as many games in which they played last season, they only lost by the odd goal.
“After saying all that, the FAI Cup final probably did not live up to expectations and living in Cork, I was upset for the girls, losing by such a big score. I’m sure everyone was hoping that the game would have been much closer.
“Peamount have proven themselves to be the best team. I know that all too well, chasing them these past two seasons.
“Many people who don’t watch women’s football may make a judgement on the final and feel it is not as good as we all say it is. All I would ask them to do is try to watch a few more games — they would be pleasantly surprised at how the game has improved over these recent years.”
Bell’s experience at all levels of football will be a huge benefit in whatever role he takes up next.
“I am very proud of my involvement in disability football for the FAI,” he said. “I was the coach of U19 football for the international men’s team who compete in the home internationals each year.
"The amputee men’s team, alongside Nick Harrison, took them to the highest-ever placing in the World Cup in Mexico. The women’s deaf futsal team, alongside Ben O’Looney, took them from the bottom position in the world to now after the recent world cup finals, eighth in the world, which was some achievement.
“I also many times held a role as a UEFA coach education tutor for the Football Association of Ireland, a role in helping and developing coaches from the grassroots level up to the UEFA B, A, elite youth A awards.
“I kindly thank Niall O’Regan for allowing me to be one of those tutors. 2020 has been a tough year for everyone and we all hope things will improve in 2021.
“My family live in England it has been nearly 12 months since I have been with my children and grandchildren. I have no immediate plans for any future roles but I do hope that someone may require a person of my experience in the game.”
No doubt there will be several teams looking for such experience.