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Former Man United and Ireland youth player thriving as a coach in New York

Dubliner Kevin Grogan has spent the past four years developing young footballers in the US.

Kevin Grogan Ferguson After signing with Manchester United in 1997. Source: Facebook/KevinGroganSoccer

KEVIN GROGAN MAY not be a name many Ireland fans are familiar with, but, back in 1998, the promising young footballer appeared to have the world at his feet.

Impressing at schoolboy level for Belvedere, the Dubliner caught the eye of Manchester United at the age of 12 and would travel over to train with their academy during the school holidays before signing full-time three years later.

The following summer, he joined the likes of John O’Shea, Andy Reid and Liam Miller as part of Brian Kerr’s famous Ireland U16s squad which claimed an unprecedented victory at the European Championships in Scotland — beating Italy 2-1 in the final.

Kevin Grogan 7/10/97 Grogan won the U16 European Championships with Ireland in 1998. Source: © INPHO/Patrick Bolger

Before his career in England could even get off the ground, however, Grogan was plagued by chronic pelvic injuries. He departed United in 2000 and returned to Ireland for a spell with UCD. After stringing a run of games together, Millwall offered a trial but despite a promising start, maintaining fitness proved a problem once more.

A couple more years of frustration were to follow while on the books at Bray Wanderers, St Patrick’s Athletic and Glentoran until Grogan accepted that his playing days were over.

“I would play, break down, then have an operation and do rehab. But when I would come back to play it would happen all over again,” Kevin told The42.

“I tried to come back so many times but ultimately I was never going to as it was one of those injuries that was so bad. You could argue that near the end there was a bit of desperation there to keep playing when I should have stopped way before I did.

“It was tough for me when I did have to give up as my dream was to be a player but life goes on and I have moved on.”

Kevin Grogan and Daragh Maguire DIGITAL During a spell with UCD in 2002. Source: INPHO

Eager for a new challenge, Grogan dabbled in some media work and tried scouting but admits “finding his calling” in the coaching and development side of the game. America had always appealed to him and a bit of research suggested there was an enormous market waiting to be tapped into.

Four years ago, he took the brave step of moving, on his own, to New York. It would initially be on a six-month visa which was be used to network and make contacts. When that period was up, his old mentor Alex Ferguson generously wrote a letter directly to the embassy to help him prolong his stay.

Although it was a slow process to build the business in the beginning, things have really taken off in recent times.

As well as being responsible for 2,500 kids as technical director of Charlestown Soccer Club he also coaches the men’s and women’s teams in the National Adult League (NAL).

Then there is Kevin Grogan Soccer, a private coaching company which focuses on elite performance seminars, club consultations and team camps, among other aspects.

“Coming to America has been good for me because it was a fresh start and I got the bug for coaching, development and producing players,” he explains. “So I am just really focused on that.

“It was a negative thing that I got injured and had to stop but now that I’m coaching I have drawn on those experiences and that is how I have become good at it.”

Kevin Grogan Academy pic

He has also forged links with a number of Manchester United current and former staff, who come over to the US to take part in seminars for coach, parent and player education.

In January, Grogan co-hosted an event at the National Soccer Coaches of America Convention, one of the biggest soccer coaching conferences in the world, with renowned fitness coach Tony Strudwick, who is head of athletic development at Man United.

“Tony is one of the best in the world at what he does and is behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney’s athleticism. He worked very closely with Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Just to be associated with him and to have him host seminars and tap into that knowledge has been brilliant for us.”

Kevin Grogan Academy Kevin and his team with Tony Swarbrick. Source: Facebook/KevinGroganSoccer

Ferguson was in attendance too and the pair still keep in contact.

“Over Christmas I was back over in Old Trafford and I was in his private room with himself, his brother and a few others.

“I learned a lot from his values, not just in soccer but in life in terms of workrate and discipline. When you’re young you don’t realise you have learned those things but now that I’m older and can look back, it has been instilled in all the young Manchester United players.

“That has definitely helped me in my career.”

Kevin Grogan Fergie Source: Facebook/KevinGroganSoccer

Even during his relatively short time living in the States, Grogan has witnessed the appetite for the sport grow. He describes the atmosphere and buzz in New York during last summer’s World Cup as similar to what you would find in Ireland.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side went out at the last 16 but it is only a matter of time before they are challenging the elite nations, he insists.

“There is a lot of talent here but coach education is key. They need to keep working on that because we should have better coaches here. There are a lot of talent coaches but at grassroots level they need to work a bit harder on that.

America has always produced athletes so that isn’t an issue. They have the facilities and they understand the sports science so I think it is only a matter of time before they can really compete at the top level.

“I have been here four years now and even at Clarkestown I can see the development, particularly in the U8s up to U12s. I can see some real talent coming through.”

And, having recently secured a new three-year visa, he intends to stick around and contribute to improving the next generation of football in America.

“My focus is the development and production of young players. There is where my passion is. I’m kept very busy, I like the lifestyle, I’ve got some good friends here so I’m really happy.

“It was a tough move initially because I came over by myself and I didn’t know anyone but I saw it as a challenge and things have really just spiralled.”

For more information on Kevin Grogan Soccer, visit the website, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter

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Ben Blake

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