By Frank Craig
Damien Diver is backing Jim McGuinness to be a success as he looks forward to beginning his managerial odyssey Stateside.
The former Donegal boss has been appointed as head coach of Charlotte Independence, a second-tier outfit in North Carolina.
The 46-year-old previously spent five years with Glasgow Celtic under the reigns of Neill Lennon, Ronnie Delia and Brendan Rodgers.
In 2017, he moved to China to take up the position as assistant-coach to ex-Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt at Beijing Sinobo Guoan FC. But his Chinese odyssey came to a premature end ahead of the 2018 season with Guoan citing ‘personal family reasons’ for McGuinness’ early release from that contract.
Diver is one of McGuinness’ closest allies in football and the Tir Chonaill legend was also the man he turned to following that acrimonious split with former assistant Rory Gallagher back in 2014.
The Ardara man believes McGuinness will sees Charlotte as a blank canvass.
He explained: “He has taken on a team that he can mould in the exact way he wants to. He had to start somewhere and it’s a very interesting one. You know, even the second and third division sides in England; they’d all be well established household footballing names.
“But this gives him the chance to put his own unique imprint on a set-up. I believe the section they’re in, they are just outside the MLS. That’s something to aim for. That must be the owners’ ultimate ambition. There are some huge sides and brilliant players there now. So I think it’s the ideal choice for him.
“He’ll have the ultimate say. And things will be done the way he wants to do it. We’re all fascinated to see exactly how Jim wants his soccer sides to play. It’s going to be so interesting to follow all of that. What style of football will they play? What level of intensity will they be asked to operate at?
“I’m looking forward to it and I hope it goes great for him. I’m sure it will. He leaves no stone unturned. His ability to organise and motivate will be two of the mains things. I’m sure he’s excited.”
McGuinness had been linked with a return to Gaelic football with Mayo back in August. But Diver knew his immediate future was always focused on soccer.
“I’m sure he took his time choosing a club,” he said.” He’d have looked at this and made sure it was the right fit. They must be ambitious. I’m sure he’ll have their complete backing. Starting out, Jim would have wanted to make sure all those boxes were ticked. I think it’s the perfect marriage. They were probably looking for someone in the form of Jim and, of course, Jim was looking to get his chance to take the full reins of a professional soccer side.”
Diver also believes that America will be a much easier transition to make for McGuinness’ family. That, he feels, will be the most important aspect of the switch.
“It was a big move going to China,” he explained. “It’s a huge cultural change. Besides work, you’re probably in your own wee bowl after with language and everything else. America, he’ll not have that. It’s much easier to blend in. With his family, kids going to school, things like that; it’ll be much easier to integrate. The way of life out there will be lovely for them, I’m sure.”