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Monday 24 April 2017

Bell is braced for Irish test

Republic of Ireland Women’s Senior manager Colin Bell
Republic of Ireland Women’s Senior manager Colin Bell
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp is a close friend from their time together in Germany and Colin Bell, the newly-appointed manager of Ireland's women's national team, also counts Tubeway Army frontman Gary Numan as a pal.

Of course Bell (55) will need more than some famous friends and an impressive contacts list to make a success of his new job with the FAI, the Englishman now tasked with making the Irish side more of a force.

The Irish girls were off the pace in qualification for Euro 2017, finishing fourth in a five-team group and Bell won't get to lead the side into competitive action until September and the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup. But Bell comes to the post with a real pedigree in the coaching game after he struggled to make it as a player.

Rejected by his hometown club Leicester City as a teenager ("I wasn't good enough, or so they said"), he took a chance by signing for a third-tier side in Germany and landed up in a coaching role at Mainz, where he came across a young Klopp.

He moved on to coach women's teams, won the Champions League at that level with Frankurt and has now come to Ireland.

He has lived in Germany for three decades but plans to base himself in Ireland for the duration of his initial two-year contract, insisting this was important to be based locally and the polyglot (he speaks German and Norwegian) joked that he had considered learning Irish but will put that on the long finger.

A keen music fan (he's pals with Are 'Friends' Electric? singer Numan and lists German outfit Rammstein as his favourite band) but he won't have much time on his hands in the short-term to check out the local music scene - work to be done.

Bell will work with his charges for the first time next month, Ireland playing in the Cyprus Cup to help get ready for the World Cup qualifiers and he is already prepared for the challenges.

"I am convinced that Irish women's football can improve over the next few years," he says, aware of the gap between Ireland and the German national teams.

"I know the German and Scandinavian system, I have worked with their international players, but anything is possible. You have to be well-prepared, but you go onto the pitch thinking you can beat anybody. I would never give a game up before it's started. You can't always win but you can challenge."

And will he seek advice from the man he calls Kloppo? "I will be watching games in England and if I go to see Liverpool Ladies I will find time to go and see him," he says.

"We got on really well, he was a top coach then and he's just advanced, I am watching Liverpool hoping they do well. I am sure he will be a success with Liverpool."

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