Warren Feeney: 'Cheeky' kid taking dad's advice and 'making it work' at Ards

Warren Feeney and his father, Warren Sr, both played for Northern Ireland and Linfield
Warren Feeney and his father, Warren Sr, both played for Northern Ireland and Linfield

Warren Feeney may not always have done as he was told as a child - but he listened to his father when he agreed to become manager of Ards.

Just as he did throughout a playing career that saw his son win 46 Northern Ireland caps, Warren Feeney Sr was looking on proudly as the former Bournemouth and Cardiff City striker was presented as boss of the County Down side.

The appointment of the former Linfield player-manager by the relegation-threatened club surprised many, but Warren Sr was in no doubt what to say when the 38-year-old asked for his thoughts on taking the job.

"He told me he wanted to get back into football, so I said 'do it and make it work for yourself'," he explained.

"That's what the game's all about. He wanted a life in football and it's hard, you will have many ups and downs.

"If you want it, you've got to go out and get it. He's still striving and still working hard - that rainbow is there and he's got to go out and follow it."

Many Northern Ireland fans will have been familiar with Feeney's all-action style as a player - but what's he like as a manager?

"He was a cheeky so and so when he was growing up and he certainly knows what he wants," Feeney Sr joked.

"He lays down the law - he's straight, but he's fair. If you put the work in he'll give you the plaudits, but he has no time for 'slackers' - they'll be out the door."

Completing a family hat-trick with Ards move

Lee Feeney and Warren Feeney
Warren's cousin Lee had three seasons at Rangers after joining from Linfield

It's perhaps not surprising that the new Ards manager asked his dad for advice. Warren Sr had a distinguished playing career himself, playing for Linfield, Glentoran and Ards as well as winning an international cap.

Indeed, with Warren's grandfather having also played for Northern Ireland, Linfield and Ards, Feeney's appointment completes something of a family hat-trick.

The family connection runs even deeper, with Warren's cousin Lee, himself a former Linfield and Ards player, joining the new Ards coaching team, while sister Lynsey was a leading player for Ards Hockey Club.

"It's funny, there's definitely something in the Feeney blood with Linfield and Ards," Warren Sr noted.

"It was always a friendly, well-run club that has had it's good times. Their fortunes have changed and they're struggling a bit, but sometimes you have to just dig in."

'Rude awakening' for Ards players

Feeney scored five goals in 46 appearances for Northern Ireland
Feeney scored five goals in 46 appearances for Northern Ireland

Those fortunes have risen almost immediately upon Feeney's arrival, with Ards beating Newry City 3-1 in his first game in charge on Saturday.

It was a result which saw them climb off the bottom of the table for the first time in months, moving ahead of Newry on goal difference into the 11th-placed play-off slot.

After replacing Colin Nixon, who was sacked after just three wins in 29 league games, Feeney has vowed to do everything he can to stave off relegation from the Irish Premiership.

"I like everything to be intense and it will be a rude awakening for a few players," said Feeney, who left Linfield top of the league when he quit as player-manager in 2015 to become assistant manager at Newport County, where he eventually replaced John Sheridan as boss.

"I need to change the mentality straight away and it's not going to be easy, but if we can win the majority of games then we will give ourselves the best chance possible.

"I know what it takes to win relegation fights - I did it as player with Bournemouth and as a manager at Newport. Hard work and honesty are the things that will help us stay up."

Cup final chat led chairman to look to Feeney

Ards chairman Brian Adams said sacking Colin Nixon was a difficult decision
Ards chairman Brian Adams said sacking Colin Nixon was a difficult decision

Ards chairman Brian Adams admitted he was considering asking a few senior players to lead the team ahead of the Newry match, before a conversation with fellow chairmen at the recent League Cup final made him question his strategy.

Then, once he had chatted with the former Swansea City forward, he was in no doubt what his next move should be.

"A few chairmen suggested getting an impact manager in that might get us three points against Newry," the Ards and NIFL chairman explained.

"Once I spoke with Warren and realised the enthusiasm he had, I knew he was the manager for us. That enthusiasm, alongside his knowledge and experience, will lift the players.

"We have struggled to score goals and there could be no better man to help in that department. He certainly makes me think I can trust him."

With Saturday's win over Newry, it looks like that trust is starting to pay off.

Just as his dad has urged, Feeney is already getting to working on making it work.