O’Halloran steps up after Johnson’s shock departure

STALYBRIDGE Celtic have appointed Stephen O’Halloran as player/assistant manager following the sudden departure of Ian Johnson as Simon Haworth’s number two.

It is understood Johnson left for personal reasons, though neither Haworth or Johnson was available when contacted.

The only hint came from Celtic’s website which reported Johnson, appointed in April 2020, would be taking a ‘period of time away from football’.

“Ian is a great guy and football mad. Hopefully we will soon see him back in the game,” said O’Halloran.

Stephen O’Halloran

O’Halloran, 33, is looking forward to the new role as his playing career winds down – he said this will be his final playing season.

But O’Halloran, capped twice at full international level by the Republic of Ireland, sees this as a means of making the transition to a non-playing role.

“I have always said I want to remain in football, whether as a physio, strength and conditioning coach or something similar to what I am doing,” he explained.

O’Halloran, who works as a physio at Spire Manchester, is studying for a masters degree in strength and conditioning.

The defender, who joined Celtic in June 2019, was appointed player-coach for the 2020-21 season by Haworth.

He said: “I enjoy coaching and with Celtic have experience of working with the players on fitness and the defensive side.

“With Ian leaving, the manager has given me the chance to become his assistant which I have grabbed with both hands.”

O’Halloran wants to pass on the knowledge he has acquired from his career in both the EFL and non-league.

He singles out Martin O’Neill as a major influence from when he was starting out at Aston Villa.

O’Halloran said: “I was not involved with the first team and was injured but he looked after me.

“And he gave me good recommendations which is why I got a move to Coventry City.

“I learned from Martin the importance of man management which he was brilliant at, from the person who made the tea.

“That is something I have brought into my own persona as I respect everybody involved in the running of a football club, especially at our level where there are lots of volunteers.”

O’Halloran’s other mentor was his father Eddie who was a semi-pro for Irish side Cobh Ramblers and captained the side when Roy Keane starred for them.

He admitted Celtic have had a challenging start to the season but believes there have been positives to take from their games.

O’Halloran said: “We have had a tough start but have a good run of games between now and Christmas and hopefully we can push up the table.

“We have shown flashes that we can become a good team and maybe we are just a couple of players short which we may bring in this week.

“I want this season to be a positive end to my playing career, something I will be working hard to achieve.”

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