SCOTT Fitzgerald says David Connolly was the outstanding candidate to take up a position at Millwall’s academy.
Connolly, 37, retired from playing last season and was one of four key appointments this week as the Lions continued their revamp of the coaching set-up.
Three of the new faces – Justin Skinner, Larry McAvoy and Andy Frampton – are familiar to Lions fans, but the appointment of a World Cup player with experience of club football on the continent is an intriguing addition to the academy.
Connolly made a move that not many UK or Irish players make when he joined Feyenoord from Watford in 1997 and he was part of Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland squad at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2002.
“David was an interesting one,” Fitzgerald explained. “I’d never met him in my life – the first time I met him was at the interview. When he sent his application in there were lots of very good applications.
“David’s playing career was one thing that stood out. He’s only recently retired this season and when I looked at the coaching qualifications he has gone and done, it’s phenomenal.
“For a young man to already have his pro license, you could tell he’s definitely going to be a thinker about the game and that really impressed me.
“When I sat down and spoke to him one-on-one his enthusiasm and his knowledge and how he wants to do things fitted in with Millwall and I think that was the most important thing. Whoever comes to work for the club fits in with us, not the other way round.”
Fitzgerald also explained that he and manager Neil Harris took their time choosing the most suitable candidates as the future welfare of the players was paramount.
“It’s taken a long while,” he said. “It was a long, slow process which I was fully aware of when I took the job on and the board were fully aware of it.
“It wasn't going to be an overnight fix. We’re trying to prepare players for long careers, not just one season, so we knew it would take time.
“But I think the academy is in a healthy position. We’re working really hard now to try and build on what we’ve already got and by bringing the new people in that will really help us.”