Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Chris Holt: 'Nice guy' McDonald's Glentoran exit

Alan McDonald's decision to step down as manager of Glentoran ended the reign of possibly the most unpopular boss in the history of the club.

Glenmen weren't overly excited about his appointment in the first place and while some had given him the benefit of the doubt, others stubbornly refused to offer the former Northern Ireland skipper the opportunity to prove them wrong.

In his first season he came within a whisker of ending Linfield's stranglehold on the league thanks to a superb second half to the season, with the team playing fluent, attacking, attractive football.

For some reason that fluency disappeared the following campaign but crucially it ended in Gibson Cup glory in front of a packed house last May.

That season sparked widespread debate amongst fans and pundits - style v substance.

Glentoran fans of a certain age have been privileged to have grown up watching the type of football that had them salivating on the terraces and the team always had a reputation of playing the, so-called, 'right way'.

But while they may get misty-eyed about the skillful teams of yesteryear, looking at the hard facts, in my time in following the local game, green, red and black ribbons haven't adorned the Gibson Cup on that many occasions.

That's why it was shameful that even when McDonald led the Glens to title triumph, some tried to sully the achievements by claiming it was the worst team to ever win it, or it was only because rivals Linfield were so poor.

Attitudes like that are difficult to shift and as is always the case, the detractors are the ones that make most noise.

They grew louder and sucked others into the negativity. Only, as the season went on, their annoyance was becoming vindicated.

When teams are playing badly yet winning, it's hard to argue. When the poor performances are coupled with poor results then something has to give.

And so McDonald paid the ultimate price.

He has to accept some fault with the situation the Glens find themselves in having lost eight times in the league this season. His decision making at times was baffling in terms of tactics and substitutions.

But let's not forget he was still learning his trade, too, on the most difficult on-the-job training imaginable.

As well as that he made the Glentoran Academy his pet-project and spent many hours rebuilding the infrastructure on youth development, to the detiment of his own business and family life.

However McDonald was backed financially by the board who helped him to bring in a lot of players and keep hold of others.

Subsequently, a strong squad, on paper the best in the league, were for some reason churning out turgid displays.

Why this was the case is anyone's guess.

McDonald clearly couldn't get the best out of the team.

And as well as that, these big name players were disgracefully under-performing.

Saturday's defeat to Dungannon Swifts was the last straw as the boss skulked off the pitch amid yet more stinging criticism from supporters who had been waiting for their moment to strike.

One of football's good guys has left, for a while at least.

And maybe that description was his problem.

Many will remember the no-nonsense centre half who spilt blood, sweat and tears for club and country as a player.

To me, in my dealings with him, I never saw that side, that ferocious drive and ability to send any opponent cowering with just a stare.

Perhaps, off the pitch he is just too nice.

Footballers sometimes need a good kick up the backside and maybe McDonald was too nice a bloke to administer it.

Now he's gone.

Who replaces him in the long term, seemingly must come with a ready-to-be-swung size ten.

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