AFTER a short stint with the Philippine men’s football team four years ago, Simon McMenemy is back and ready to stay for the long haul at club level in the United Football League.
The Scottish mentor who steered the Azkals to a historic semifinal finish in the 2010 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup and sparked the renaissance in the sport in the country, has returned to handle the star-studded Loyola Meralco club.
A lack of license to manage a national team barred him from getting a contract extension with the Philippines and his coaching journey brought him to club teams in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Maldives. Now McMenemy is back in the country to lead the Sparks starting with the UFL season that kicks off on Saturday with the Football Alliance League Cup.
“It genuinely is quite a humbling experience to come back and have people tell you that you were a major reason why football is the way it is now,” Mcmenemy said on Tuesday at the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum where he was formally introduced.
“I’ve learned a huge amount in the last four years and I’m totally a different person than I was four years ago,” the 36-year-old coach said. “What I bring here is experience.”
Mcmenemy takes over from Vince Santos, who guided the Sparks to a breakthrough title in the 2013 UFL Cup before they ended up as bridesmaids to Global FC in the League wars.
“There’s a great motivation for us to do well this year and I’m very keen to see these guys play,” the Mcmenemy said.
With stars Phil and James Younghusband, Matthew Hartmann, and Simon Greatwich re-signing and a key local acquisitions in Anton del Rosario, Eddie Mallari in the side that still has Lee Joo Young, Joaco Canas, Baba Sampana, Roxy Dorlas, Sam Bonney, and Fred Gonzalez, Mcmenemy believes he has the material to sustain the gains the team has made.
“I think we have the best squad in the league,” he declared less than a month into the job. “There’s a great crop of young and experienced Filipino players.”
The Sparks also have international signings in Pedro Marenco, Max Wright, Jamal Fenelon, Charlie Beaton, Brian Fredrick, Josh Grommen, Jorrel Aristorenas, and Reuben Silitonga.