Canterbury football royalty Danny Halligan returns to Christchurch United

Christchurch United legend and former All Whites midfielder Danny Halligan has signed as the new first-team coach to help his former club return to the top of Canterbury football.

Halligan has just completed five successful seasons coaching Ferrymead Bays, competing among the top teams in the Mainland Premier League and winning the title in 2017, as well as the English Cup in 2016.

“I was very happy at Bays and not looking for a change at all, so when Christchurch United approached me I was initially not that interested,” says the 53-time New Zealand international.

“But once I took a closer look at the intentions and the ambitions of the club, I got really excited by the challenge. And of course, I’ve also got a soft spot for Christchurch United with my history at the club,” says Halligan who had a huge impact on the club as a player and coach from 1987 to 1998.

Halligan initially joined the star-studded, all-conquering Christchurch United team in 1987 to win three National League titles and two Chatham Cups, before embarking on a professional career with Brisbane United in the Australian League.

He returned to Christchurch United in 1993 and unexpectedly found himself in his first coaching role, while still a key player, at a tender age of 28 when legendary coach Terry Conley retired. The first two players he recruited were two school boys called Ryan Nelsen and Ben Sigmund.

When Canterbury United entered the new National League in 2002, Halligan was appointed as player-coach and lost the final against Auckland City on penalties in 2006, the closest the franchise has ever come to winning that.

After the club’s glory years of the 1980s and 1990s, Christchurch United has been languishing in the second tier of Mainland Football and Halligan admits his knowledge of the Championship and his squad is limited.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do and it will be a big challenge, but it is the challenge that excites me about this role,” says the 53-year-old coach.

Christchurch United has been rebuilding over the past few years and its Academy programme has delivered great results at youth level, but president Slava Meyn hopes that Halligan will be the missing piece in the puzzle to take the first team back into the Mainland Premier League.

“We feel honoured that Danny Halligan has agreed to help his old club get back to where we belong. Getting a coach with his experience and pedigree shows that Christchurch United is serious about its ambitions to again be the leading football brand in the region,” says Meyn.