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GCR Books

John Devine: a lifetime in football

John Anthony Devine was born in Dublin on 11 November 1958 and played for Arsenal from 1974 to 1983 at a time when the number of Irishmen associated with Arsenal was particularly high and included Liam Brady, David O’Leary and Frank Stapleton. He became a professional at Arsenal in 1976 playing right back, and played his first, first team game on 22 April 1978 taking over from Pat Rice.

By the time of the 1980 cup final he was chosen ahead of Sammy Nelson and was part of the Cup Winners Cup squad for the final. However after an injury John Hollins was brought back in, and unable to retain his earlier top fitness John Devine was transferred on to Norwich in 1983.

He was a non-playing member of the Norwich squad that reached the league cup final in 1985 but after the club were relegated he went to Stoke in November 1985 taking over from Alan Hudson. But after breaking his leg in a game on 18 February 1986 his top flight career was over.

However he did return in 1988 with Start in Norway and was part of their side that won promotion.   In 1989 he played for Shamrock Rovers and won the FAI Cup in 1991 with them. He retired from playing in 1991, before spending a year in East Bengal coaching the local team.

Internationally he won 30 caps with Ireland, with his debut for the senior side coming on 26 September 1979 against Czechoslovakia.   The last cap was on 17 October 1984 against Norway.

At the end of his playing career John became head coach and later caretaker manager at Shelbourne. After that he was head coach at Spirting fingal from 2008 to 2011 taking the club through two promotions and the 2009 FAI Cup final. He also worked for 10 years for Manchester United’s academy at the Irish Academy Director.

Games  Goals
1977–78 3 0
1978–79 8 0
1979–80 33 0
1980–81 44 0
1981–82 15 0
1982–83 9 0

I don’t have exact details of John’s work subsequently but there is an interesting commentary from him on grassroots football in Ireland here: http://www.thecoachdiary.com/john-devine-talks-grassroots/

And John is also the South Dublin Football League coaching director, and he has given interviews on his work with grassroots football there too:

“Following my appointment by the SDFL in 2012, it was important to design an alternative player development programme to the traditional format, whereby U-7s, 8s and 9s play competitive 7 v 7 leagues with promotion/relegation structures on pitch areas and goals which are too big,” said Devine.

“From my experience of working as Manchester United’s Irish director of coaching for a decade, allied with visits to clubs in Spain, Germany and Belgium, I believed this to be the most appropriate small-sided format game for us.”

“The 3 v 3 games increase the number of touches on the ball for the players. There is also a coaching area for the players who are waiting to go into their match, so the kids are fully involved all the time.

“And there are no referees, so the players have to decide quickly between themselves on any issues.   They all get two games and one practice session. Within an hour, they’ve had 70% more touches to master the ball.

“Parents can view the game but they’re not giving any input. There is no promotion or relegation, no league tables.”

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