Bruce McCandless is aiming to utilise both his international playing experience and underage coaching background as resources towards securing Premier League safety for Portadown Ladies this season.
McCandless can boast a proud playing record for club and country, plus success with Banbridge’s youth teams - with the senior head coach keen to integrate lessons from all aspects of his career into the Edenvilla Park senior set-up.
His arrival toward the closing stages of last season helped kick-start pre-season preparations and a return of eight goals from two friendly fixtures offered an area of encouragement.
Key to McCandless’ approach is the importance of the hard yards in training, alongside a mental strength developed thanks to team unity.
“You learn on Saturday but you improve during the week each Monday and Wednesday,” he said. “Development of each individual is crucial and that comes down to technique but also mental focus.
“If I can bring anything from my playing career with Ireland it is the need for self-belief, not only in your own ability but also that of the coaching staff and the faith that, together, you can achieve your goals.
“My coaching experience leading up to Portadown has been on the underage scene around Banbridge but, again, youth development is a big part of what I want to achieve and we have a brilliant system in place at the club.
“There is an excellent coaching team on board with the firsts, with Alison Thompson, Suzanne Evans and Jeanette Turner bringing plenty of experience and positivity.
“Premier League safety should be our starting point but I have 100 per cent faith that there is the talent at this club to push forward.”
The inclusion of five 15-year-old players in the senior panel offers firm evidence of a bright future.
“There is that mix of youth and experience,” he said. “Often it is not about ability but more about confidence.
“Confidence was very low when I arrived but we are still in the Premier League and the past is in the past.
“We have had a very good pre-season so far, with the Ulster Shield considered an extension of our work before the league starts up.
“With young players, you need to give them the belief that they deserve to be at this level.
“With the older players, you often need to give them the belief that they deserve to still be at this level.
“I am new to senior coaching but the players have put in total commitment so far, with excellent backing from the club overall and a really strong working relationship within the coaching team.
“We have to remain realistic but I feel there is a great chance of a mid-table position following such a positive pre-season.”