“I always think if you start looking back you are looking in the wrong direction,” new Galway United first team head coach Lisa Fallon says.
Still, the past decade has brought plenty of interesting tales in Fallon’s admirable and burgeoning career. Involved in various roles with Cork City, Northern Ireland, Chelsea Women’s, and London City Lionesses, Fallon will commence training with United at Drom on Monday morning.
Following a recent schedule packed with interviews and meetings it will be a welcome relief for Fallon to be back on the pitch alongside manager John Caulfield, preparing for the 2021 SSE Airtricity League which commences at the end of March.
“Absolutely, we have been working away putting a squad together over the last few weeks, getting everybody on to programmes, and stuff to do while we couldn't go into group training,” Fallon states.
Fallon worked in a number of analysis and coaching positions previously to reach this exact stage in the football business.
“I think it was a process really because I started out as an analyst, it is probably easier for somebody who has been a former player to make that transition into professional football as a coach,” Fallon remarks.
“For me it was different because I was different. So I felt when the opportunity arose to go into analysis it was definitely a role I could do.”
Dublin native Fallon was a key member of Michael O’Neill’s staff when the former Shamrock Rovers boss was in charge of Northern Ireland.
“Also with Northern Ireland, obviously getting to work at that level of the game as an analyst - you are in those environments, you are learning about environments,” Fallon adds.
“You are learning about players, you are learning all of the time.”
Fallon, though, was eager to implement ideas of her own on the pitch. “In tandem with that I was coaching in the Leinster Senior League, firstly with Lakelands, then with Pegasus,” Fallon recalls.
“I was consistently coaching, building my repertoire. By the time I was with Sheriff in 2018-2019 that season, going in with those players, I knew they were all pretty much ex League of Ireland and a pretty good standard.”
Former Galway United footballers John Lester and Anto Flood were two of the players involved with Sheriff, the always highly regarded Dublin junior outfit.
“Just being on the grass coaching them, being in the dug-out, travelling to the games,” Fallon remembers. “Mark Quigley was the manager, but if he played, myself and Alan Murphy took charge. So we would have managed the team from the sideline during the games.
“We had a really successful year, a great year with a great group of lads. I felt that experience was a really important part of my overall development.”
Nuggets of information were gleaned everywhere. A stint working with the Dublin footballers in the Jim Gavin era provided another rich chapter. Going across to work professionally with Chelsea was a critical step too.
“England just exposed me to a different level of the game again,” Fallon admits. “For me it is all about getting that exposure.”
Emma Hayes’ work with Chelsea Women’s set standards and Fallon thoroughly enjoyed her time there. “To be honest every environment I've been in I've been exposed to different experiences, different philosophies, different cultures, the application of different principles to the game in different ways,” Fallon comments.
“My experience at Chelsea was no different to that. Learning Emma's philosophy, the way she wanted things done. Then working with some of the top players in the world - internationals. It was also the first time really I had to deal with players, who didn't speak English as their first language.
“So that asks different questions of you too. How do you communicate when you don't speak their language? It was really good, there were so many really positive learnings. In every different environment you're learning.
“I think every time you make a little step up in your career it is time to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Every environment I was in at the time I was in it did that. For me every step along the journey would have equal importance in terms of my development.”
It means Fallon is ready, willing, and able to contribute further. “Now do I feel do I have enough experience to come in to coach as a head coach at this level? I do. It has taken a long time, maybe 10 to 12 years of developing, but that probably replicates what a professional player does when they go into coach a group after having a long playing career.
“I had to establish myself, I had to learn, I had to get exposed to different levels of the game so that when I became a head coach I was experienced enough to do that.”
Ultimately Fallon wants to be fairly assessed on the ability to deliver in her specific coaching role. “That is something I will always do, that is the way you wanted to be judged, whether or not you're doing a good job,” Fallon replies.
“It shouldn't be about whether you are doing a good job and you're female. That shouldn't enter it. Are you doing a good job? That should be it.
“I'm really grateful to the managers that have given me opportunities because it was easier, maybe, to give them to somebody else rather than being different.
“They were prepared to give me opportunities based on my ability to do the job. Also a huge part of my development was getting those opportunities. If I hadn't been given those opportunities I'd never be where I am now.”
Last year Fallon was head coach of FA Women’s Championship side London City Lionesses. Dealing with the Covid pandemic, though, was a demanding challenge, especially trying to commute with family in Ireland.
“Trying to fly four times a week in the middle of a pandemic, it became problematic,” Fallon reflects.
“I flew over and back when I was at Chelsea, it was no problem. It was very manageable and very doable. In fact the door to door journey was often shorter than the drive from Dublin to Cork.
“In the pandemic it was really difficult. With lockdowns imminent you realise you can't be in two places at the same time. The reality was I was in two environments that needed me at exactly the same time. It wasn't possible.
“So I had to make the decision which was 100 per cent the right decision, to be where I was needed most. That was at home with my family.
“I was disappointed not to be able to continue in my role, but I couldn't risk being locked down in England when my family are here.”
The intervening months featured some conversations with Caulfield, who is doing his utmost to make Galway United relevant once more. A keen observer of the domestic game, Fallon is adamant about United’s considerable potential.
“For me that was a big part of the decision to come to Galway United,” Fallon responds. “The fact that this is a project, that there is a real opportunity to build something. It is a really new squad with a lot of change in terms of personnel.
“There are some people who were there last year, strong consistent members of the club. It is great to have that level of consistency so that we maintain the values and tradition of the club, that we look to this new group as an opportunity to develop something new.”