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WHEN it comes to football, the Shiels family is very much a case of like father, like son. That bond and shared philosophy on the game is now shaping a new generation in Northern Ireland.
Dean Shiels would work under the guidance of dad Kenny at Kilmarnock and Derry City. Today, he stands alongside him as his assistant with the Northern Ireland Women’s side.
For Shiels Jnr, it has been an enlightening but hugely beneficial time as he also enhances his coaching skills through his Academy in his homeland and strides along the path to a new career after leaving Coleraine last September.
Just a couple of months later, the reunited Shiels duo would create history in Belfast as their side beat the Faroe Islands to qualify for the European Championship play-offs. The draw in March will determine their fate as Northern Ireland look to reach the finals for the first time.
The latter years of his time as a player gave Shiels – who spent four seasons with Rangers and enjoyed successful spells with Hibernian, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline in Scotland – a chance to prepare for a move across the white line. It is one he is pleased to have made.
“I am still involved with the Women’s side with Northern Ireland and I am loving it,” Shiels told and Times Sport. “I am going through the process of my coaching badges and I am starting my Pro Licence now.
“It is a great experience for me and I am keen to progress as a coach so it has been invaluable in terms of my learning. I am loving every minute of it.
“I have always had that aspiration and the more you get older, the more you start to play for your future and what will come once you retire from playing.
“It is something that I have always been very passionate about and I have got the Shiels Academy here too and developing young players has been a massive part of what I wanted to do when I returned home.
“The work with the Women has been great and very rewarding because of the success we have had and it has been an unbelievable job. The job that my dad has done there has been brilliant and we are delighted with how it has gone.”
It was during their time together at Kilmarnock that Shiels and his father would earn the first silverware of the forward’s career as Celtic were beaten in the League Cup final nine years ago. At Ibrox, Shiels would win three league titles as he helped Rangers complete their recovery from the Third Division back to the Premiership.
📅 On this day 2014
Rangers lifted the League One trophy at Ibrox after 3-0 win over Stranraer.
On the scoresheet that day was Fraser Aird, the Late Arnold Peralta and Dean Shiels.pic.twitter.com/Xd6WAwKBFM
— Michael Seafarer (@SeafarerMichael) April 26, 2020
The 35-year-old will be revered at some clubs and fondly remembered at others but now he is looking to the future as he follows Kenny’s path into management and continues to learn from the man who has been such an important part of his career.
“It has been really good and we share the same philosophy on the game in terms of passing out from the back and building through the thirds and playing in that way,” Shiels said. “It helps that we are both on the same page regarding that style and we know what each other’s thoughts are on certain aspects of coaching and how we feel the game should be played.
“That helps when we are assessing games and preparing for games so it has been really enjoyable and a real learning curve. It is going well and hopefully things can move forward for us after the pandemic.
“I start my Pro Licence in May and that is my last one, I have done my B and my A so it is just going through that process. It takes a few years and I am at the last bit now. Hopefully that will take me somewhere in the game.”
If Northern Ireland can go on and secure their place at the Women’s Euros next summer, it could be a transformative moment and achievement for the game there.
That is not the only level that Shiels is eager to make an impact at, however. He would win 14 caps for his country and believes his experiences in the game and his outlook on it can benefit those who dream of wearing the green jersey.
“At the Academy, we have got an elite level of kids from nine right up to about 14 so it is the best players in the area at the two locations we have,” Shiels said.
“We are trying to give something back to the game and pass on the experiences that I have had over a number of years with different clubs.
“I want to improve players, especially in my local area where I grew up. There hasn’t been a lot of players coming through in these areas recently so hopefully we can develop them technically and work on how players think about the game rather than just doing games and going home.
“I want to see players improve their intelligence in the game and their technical ability in Northern Ireland. We don’t have a lot of technical players here so hopefully if we can catch them at the right age there will be more coming through in years to come.”
Shiels would win the last of his international caps in 2012 and then watch on his friends and former team-mates took Northern Ireland to the European Championships four years later.
🎥 More of the same tonight!? 🤔 Our only goal against Luxembourg in Belfast is this chipped finish from Dean Shiels! ⚽️👏🏼 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/xMmriOguvT
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) September 5, 2019
The midfielder grew up alongside Steven Davis as they moved through the youth ranks and represented their country together. And the Rangers hero – who became Northern Ireland’s record cap holder last year – acts as the perfect role model for kids across the country.
Shiels said: “Steven is the real figurehead and inspiration for children in Northern Ireland and he is a great role model for kids coming through in this country.
“The success that Michael O’Neill brought has only whetted the appetite and there is hopefully now a momentum for the national team to progress and improve.
READ: Dean Shiels details the class of the player and the qualities of the person as Ibrox hero Steven Davis reaches 300 Rangers appearances
“It was a disappointment to miss out in the play-offs for the European Champions and that was a bitter blow, but hopefully we can find some momentum again in the new campaign and take the country forward again.”