League of Ireland kick-off: Kenny Shiels facing task of stabilising Derry City

By Eric WhiteBBC Radio Foyle
Derry City's new manager Kenny Shiels
Kenny Shiels will be Derry's fourth manager in as many seasons
League of Ireland Premier Division: Finn Harps v Derry City
Venue: Finn Park, Ballybofey Date: Friday, 4 March Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Foyle 93.1 FM and BBC Sport website from 19:30

A new season and another new manager at the helm for Derry City.

As the League of Ireland campaign kicks off this Friday night, the Candystripes will have a different manager for the fourth season in a row when they make the short trip to their north west rivals Finn Harps.

Former Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels follows Peter Hutton, Roddy Collins and Declan Devine in the managerial hot-seat at Brandywell since 2013.

There was also a caretaker stint in there too when Paul Hegarty steered the club to safety at the end of last season after the Candystripes flirted with relegation for long periods.

Has the job become a poisoned chalice?

Kenny Shiels says he will relish the task of managing Derry City

Former striker and Brandywell hero Liam Coyle blames the board for a succession of failed appointments.

"Since Stephen Kenny left, it's been a really unsettling period for the club apart from the FAI Cup win under Declan Devine in 2012," says Coyle, who won two league titles with his hometown club.

"For me, the club have made poor appointments and there is no long-term strategy.

"At one stage, they were staring relegation in the face last season - which would have been a disaster - and they really need to get their act together."

Since qualifying for Europe in 2013 - a campaign which bizarrely ended with the sacking of Devine - the club's performances have left them in danger of being cut adrift from the league's leading lights.

Uefa's decision to bump up the rewards for European qualification means the top clubs have more potential than ever before to extend their dominance over the pack and widen the gap between the top and bottom.

Champions Dundalk, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic are all threatening to do just that.

Derry's struggles could not be more untimely and Shiels is faced with the immediate task of reversing the club's alarming decline.

Derry tickets sales down for fourth straight year

Derry City's Kenny Shiels and Paris Saint-Germain's Pierre-Alain Frau during the Uefa Cup tie in 2006
Big European nights at the Brandywell such as the game against Paris Saint-Germain in 2006 seem a distant memory

Chairman Philip O'Doherty announced recently that season ticket sales are down for the fourth consecutive season.

Shiels will have to use every ounce of his experience as a manager - which has included a League Cup triumph with Kilmarnock in Scotland back in 2012 - if he is to return the Brandywell outfit to its former glory.

"I want to promote an innovative style of football and ensure that the fans are excited about what they have seen in the last match and about what they will see in the next game", said the 59-year-old Magherafelt man when he was appointed back in November.

His ambitions have not been helped by the departure of three key players from last season to rival clubs - Patrick McEleney (Dundalk), Mark Timlin (St Pat's) and Stephen Dooley (Cork City).

Liam Coyle doesn't blame the players for choosing to leave.

"Patrick McEleney has gone to Dundalk because he wants to win league titles and he's not going to do that at Derry in the near future anyhow," said Coyle.

Former Coleraine and Ballymena boss Shiels has also been frustrated in his recruitment drive over the winter months working within budgetary constraints.

Transfer targets Darren Murray and Daniel Hughes opted to remain in the Irish League.

Patterson among additions to the Derry squad

Rory Patterson scored 61 goals in 92 appearances during his first spell at Derry
Rory Patterson is back with Derry after a year in Australia

However, the return of striker Rory Patterson may go some way to alleviating their goal scoring problems. Last season, the team netted just 32 times in 33 league games, failing to score in 16 games.

Patterson scored 61 goals in 92 appearances during his first spell at the club which ended in January 2015 before he departed for Australia.

Gareth McGlynn has also returned to the Brandywell while Shiels has added to his squad with two signings from Scotland midfielder Harry Monaghan and striker Jordan Allen.

A continental flavour has also been thrown into the mix with the additions of Danish right-back Niclas Vemmedlund and Cristian Delgado from Spain.

With work on Brandywell Stadium to commence towards the business end of the year, Derry will relocate to either Maginn Park in Buncrana or Institute's Riverside Stadium.

By that stage, they will be hoping for the security of a mid-table position, at least, with a cup run not beyond their capabilities.

One thing is for sure, after several seasons of upheaval, Derry is a club crying out for stability.