Garvan Stewart’s decision to take the road less travelled has paid off more than he could ever have dreamed.
Making the choice to study in Manchester rather than Jordanstown has resulted in the Ballybofey native going on to become head analyst at AFC Bournemouth in the English Premier League, with whom he achieved two promotions after suffering two relegations with Portsmouth and an FA Cup final defeat with Cardiff City.
The 35 year-old is currently working night and day in order to help Eddie Howe’s ‘Cherries’ retain their place in the English top flight for a sixth season, an achievement he feels would be ‘absolutely amazing’, but had he not made the move to Manchester after completing his HND at college in Enniskillen, his life may have turned out differently.
In order to achieve a place at university, Stewart studied in Fermanagh after failing to achieve what he needed at the Royal and Prior in Raphoe and it was while in Enniskillen he made the decision not to take the same route as so many of his peers by going to the University of Ulster.
Instead, he moved to Manchester where he studied for a degree in sport, exercise and coaching science, which he initially planned to use as a route into a PGCE before becoming a PE teacher.
However, somewhat serendipitously, it was during his final year at Manchester Metropolitan University that he took a module called ‘performance analysis’ and from there his career path took an altogether different path to any he could have envisaged.
He enjoyed that particular module of study so thoroughly that he asked his lecturer how and where he could take it further and he was pointed in the direction of University of Wales Institute Cardiff which was the only place in the world to offer an MSC in performance analysis.
The course was mostly spent on placement and Garvan was fortunate to earn a spot with the Football Association of Wales in Aberystwyth where he worked primarily with the youth sides in match analysis.
It was while there he got to know Enda Barron, who was an analyst at Cardiff City and once his studies were complete, his fellow Irishman offered his friend a job as his assistant at the Championship club.
The chance to work for the Bluebirds came at the perfect time as they were performing well in the second tier of English football and at the end of his first season there, they reached the FA Cup final at Wembley.
“It was a great experience because it was my first time with a professional club and we got to the FA Cup final, so it was really, really good timing to get into that club. It was great to get to Wembley at the end of my first season in professional football!,” he beamed.
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