Mick McDermott, the Glentoran head coach, will likely draw on his experience of working alongside some of the game’s most high profile managers when he pits his wits against Motherwell counterpart Stephen Robinson tomorrow evening.
The Belfast man’s career path to date has been unconventional and intriguing in equal measure.
Current Colombia boss Carlos Queiroz, once the Real Madrid manager and erstwhile Manchester United number two under Sir Alex Ferguson, and Brazil manager Tite are among those he has previously worked with.
After moving to America in his late teens to take up a soccer scholarship at the University of Rhode Island, his first spells as an assistant followed at university level.
He then took up a role as a fitness coach with then nine-time United Arab Emirates champions Al-Ain, serving the aforementioned Tite and later Walter Zenga.
But he formed arguably his strongest relationship with Queiroz, becoming the Iran national team fitness trainer in 2011 under the Portuguese before then becoming his assistant in 2018 and being part of the dugout staff for the 2018 World Cup.
Indeed had, Glentoran’s offer of employment not come along in March 2019, the 46-year-old could have become Queiroz’s right-hand man with the Colombian national team.
“I had worked with Carlos for a number of years across two spells,” said McDermott.
“The majority of his staff were potentially going to the Colombia project, that was March 2019 but my issue is that I don’t speak Spanish – so it was hard to bring in an assistant coach who does not speak to the language.
“There was a delay in me potentially joining the staff then the Glentoran project came up.”
McDermott added: “People who don’t know Carlos don’t know what is capable of.
“He is has got a background in sports science, a background in physical education, as an all-encompassing manager I have not worked with anyone better and I’ve worked with a few interesting ones.
“I’ve also worked with the current Brazil manager, Tite; I worked with Walter Zenga (Al-Ain and Al-Nasr) a couple of times and Sven Goran Eriksson was our technical director at Al-Nasr for six months.”
McDermott’s first season in charge of Glentoran yielded an Irish Cup win and subsequent qualification to the Europa League.
He has never crossed paths with Robinson, but that has not stopped him taking note of how well his fellow countrymen has done in the Fir Park dugout after he led the Steelmen to a third place Premiership finish last term.
He added: “I have been massively impressed by what Stephen has done.
“I thought he was the likely candidate for the Northern Ireland job when I was reading all the media reports, based on what he did at Motherwell last year and before.
“He’s done a brilliant job under financial restraints, to finish third was unbelievable.”
McDermott also admits he is finally looking forward to meeting up with Robinson for the first time.
He added: “I was gone from Belfast for 26 years but I know who Stephen was from playing for Northern Ireland, although we actually never met.
“We’ve been in touch through email and phone calls in recent years. We have colleagues we’ve both worked.
“We had been meaning to meet this year since I was home but it was always either he was a away or busy or I will busy, it was one of those.”