• Irish coach’s joy after dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Sunderland
  • Hails family feeling at Eagles after making sacrifices to take over his role
  • Pays tribute to Under-23s manager Shaun Derry for helping him to develop this season

IN HIS ELEMENT...Stephen Rice on the training field at

STEPHEN RICE has hailed the family feeling of Crystal Palace after helping to guide the Eagles' Under-23 side to promotion to Premier League 2's Division One.

The last eight months since he moved to London have been a whirlwind for the 36-year-old Irish coach.

Sport Careers Agency client and UEFA Pro Licence holder Stephen is assistant coach to the experienced Shaun Derry with Palace's second string.

They have steered their side into the Premier League's highest level of development football now after a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Sunderland.

Rice made a big decision to take over the role at Palace in September of last year.

He revealed: ”It's a great environment to work and I'm learning every day. I made a big sacrifice to come and take the role, leaving my family and my partner in Ireland.

”It's been everything and more than I expected. Sometimes you've got to make big sacrifices to achieve what you want and I've absolutely loved it.

”There's just a fantastic homely feeling around this place.

”I lived with my fellow Irishman Paddy McCarthy for the first three or four weeks until I got a place and that just shows the mark of the man.

”His family welcomed me into their home and were unbelievable. Shaun was the same and he offered me the chance to stay with him.

”Shaun Derry has been brilliant for me. He comes from a first-team scenario and only managed first-teams, having come to the Under-23s from Cambridge.

”I've come the other way from a development level. So we actually have a really nice blend.

”We kind of get that balance. I've learned so much from him in the time I've been here.”

COACH MENTORSHIP....Stephen with his Palace U23s manager Shaun

Rice's latest success is part of a plan he devised for himself as a coach after retiring early as a player.

Stephen starred for the likes of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers in his homeland and earned Under-23 honours for the Republic of Ireland.

He learned the ropes coaching different age groups from U14 to U19 and he reflected: ”I had the coaching interest early and had some really good coaches as a player.

”As a young player you see a good coach and you see a bad coach. A good coach can make you want to be a coach, not just a player.”

Stephen worked under shrewd former Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill at Shamrock Rovers.

He listened and he learned and he recalled: ”I'd think about what we were doing in all the sessions and the game plans.

”I wanted to go back and develop my own coaching way, my own systems of play. The best way to do that and to make the most mistakes is to go back to academy football.

”A lot of lads might pick up a role as assistant at the club they played at or whatever it might be. I was very conscious that I didn't want to do that.

”So I get to this point when an opportunity arises at Crystal Palace and I'm as well prepared to take that opportunity.

”Not only take it but to come in and help the kids progress even further.”

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