Thursday 24 January 2019

Long-term vision

James Rogers

Dundalk FC investor Corey Woolfolk insists that the club can follow in Rosenborg's footsteps by earning themselves the upgrade of Oriel Park that supporters crave. Lilywhite fans are familiar with the Norwegian outfit having faced them over two legs in last year's Champions League qualifiers.

The Trondheim-based side have been cited as a blueprint for other teams who hope to build domestic dominance before making a breakthrough in Europe. Between 1995 and 2007 they made the group stages of the Champions League 11 times in 13 years. Woolfolk, who was not part of the top table at the YDC on Sunday night, said Dundalk can expand similarly if they achieve on the field.

A former semi-pro footballer himself with a degree in urban planning from Stanford, he also insisted that Oriel Park was the right place for the club to develop. 'When we were first here, I was struck by the authenticity of the place,' he said. 'We were at a game where it was raining sideways and stuff like that and there was a certain charm that I really enjoyed about it. 'I think there are ways in the long-term to build around the ground to improve the infrastructure as the guys talked about.

'If you take Rosenborg and the people who went there and saw the facilities there -  that wasn't just built, that was earned. They earned that through their continued qualification in the Champions League and selling players and that kind of thing so you have to crawl, walk and run. 'As far as the environment here goes, it's great. I don't see any reason to move and it would be great to fill it in a little bit.' Woolfolk, who also has an investment in Gibraltar-based Europa Point FC, admitted that it was a goal for the new owners to see Dundalk become a dominant force in Ireland similar to how Rosenborg and BATE Borisov have dominated their respective leagues in Norway and Belarus.

'I think it was Mal who said we want to be a European club who competes domestically, not the other way around and that's really our goal. We want to be up there every year and we want to go deep in Europe. 'What is the difference between a Rosenborg, a BATE or ourselves? Not a lot, as you seen on the pitch last summer. Maybe it's a couple of players here or a couple of players there. That's what is really exciting about the opportunity. 'At the end of the day it's football and you need a little luck but all you can do is put yourself in those situations, create the opportunities, have the resources there and let the manager make it happen. Then when the 11 hit the field anything can happen.'

Woolfolk also confirmed it was the new owners' intentions to offer long term contracts to players so that Stephen Kenny could build long-term or the club could at least profit from a departure. 'You have to have longer term contracts and I think we're starting to shift into that. That's key. You're also a product of yourself so when teams are poaching your players it's because you're doing something right and they're good.

'You can lose players. I was a player and it's transactional. It's business. The player will look at what's best for them and their family and I get that but it's on us as a club to make sure we harness that in the best way we can. We want longer term contracts so that we're not losing them for free. That's just something that we have to do. 'Then it's up to us to start building your pipeline, your youth, so there's the next level pushing to get in the team. That's how you keep it sustainable. I'm excited about that piece so we don't always have to buy. Hopefully we can start building,' he said.

The Argus