Mar 22 2010 By Fraser Wilson
WILLIE IRVINE has swapped work in the scenic Scandinavian coastal town of Lillesand for the hustle and bustle of managing Pollok Juniors - and he admits he can't wait to get started.
Former Hibs, Stenhousemuir and Alloa striker Irvine spent the past two-and-a-half years in the south Norwegian town working with the local football club and developing their youth academy.
The job had its rewards - none more than the way of life in the friendly Lillesand community.
But Irvine, a hardened striker who notched over 200 senior goals in a playing career spanning 20 years, returned home to Central Scotland in January eager to get back to the nitty, gritty of Scottish football.
And where better to channel that desire than in the blood and thunder of the West of Scotland juniors where Pollok are enduring a second season without a major piece of silverware.
Irvine, 46, told the Glaswegian: "I'm delighted to land the Pollok job because this is arguably the biggest junior club in the country.
"I know what the demands are and it's important to me that people who come to the club understand the expectations of Pollok FC.
"Also-rans are not accepted at this club, I realise that and I must make sure any player who comes here knows that. This isn't just any other junior club."
Irvine moved to Norway in 2007 after a spell working at the Falkirk Academy. He said: "My job in Norway was partly to develop the youth academy; to bring kids from school age all the way through to the first team.
"I was also manager of the first team who played in the fourth tier of Norwegian football.
"It's a different set-up in Norway. It's very much regionalised and the club, which was semi-pro, encapsulated all the social elements of the local community.
"It was a nice atmosphere in which to work but eventually it was time to come home."
Irvine, a social worker in his day job, acknowledges his new challenge at Pollok is literally miles away from the position he left behind in Norway.
But his experience of playing and managing Sauchie Juniors - where he won back-to-back Fife and Lothian Cups in 2003 and 2004 - prove he is no juniors rookie.
He insists he is not scared by the expectation levels at Pollok.
"I realise the pressure is on this club to achieve success and so it should be. Every year should be the same at Pollok.
"That's why the job was so attractive to me. But I don't look at it with fear - I see it as an attractive challenge.
"As a player I was quite successful. As a manager at Sauchie I was successful. I know what type of player it takes to be successful and I'm confident of that at Pollok.
"People who come to watch the juniors want to see players give 100 per cent, that's normal. But they also want to see exciting football, creating chances and scoring goals.
"Marry to that the steel and experience of playing at this level and I think you will have a successful team.
"The priority has to be to challenge for every single honour that's available - that's the Scottish Cup, the league title, the West of Scotland Cup - everything.
"It's a huge challenge but I'm up for it."
Irvine added: "I hope I don't have to overhaul the squad. There are good players here with good pedigree but I need to find out who is still up for the fight.
"I'm open minded at this stage but I've been in football a long time and you get a gut instinct on these things so it's up to me to find out about every player and what their motivation is.
"It's great that we still have to play the likes of Beith, Irvine Meadow and Rob Roy as well as trying to retain the League Cup because these games will allow me to see what the players here are made of."
Irvine has appointed ex-Hamilton coach Kenny Shand and former Arbroath keeper Derek Jackson as his assistants.
The new team's tenure at Newlandsfield begins with a trip to runaway Premier League leaders Beith on Saturday.