Belfast Telegraph

Eddie Patterson must stand heat to get Glentoran firing again

By GRAHAM LUNEY

Who do you think has the toughest job in Irish League football? A few weeks ago, as Linfield languished at the bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership, you wouldn't have wanted to be in David Jeffrey's shoes.

But now we have a crystal clear understanding of how tough the Glentoran manager's job is.

So does Eddie Patterson have the toughest job? You can see a theme developing here – being a Big Two boss is no stroll in the sunshine.

Jeffrey is still going strong after nearly 17 years in the Blues hotseat and that extraordinary length of service is testament to his remarkable ability to motivate different teams to meet the expectations of demanding supporters.

However, the Linfield boss hasn't had to deal with the unrelenting wave of budget cuts that former Cliftonville manager Patterson has encountered in the east of the city.

In February, 2012, Eddie was handed a two-and-a-half year contract. I sometimes wonder whether, during his interview, Glens directors asked him to try on a fireman's uniform as he has been firefighting ever since.

After the appointment, Oval chairman Terence Brannigan said he hoped Patterson could play "the kind of attractive football for which Glentoran became famous."

But was it really going to be a bright new dawn for the club after previous managers Alan McDonald and Scott Young had departed the stage to the sound of vociferous protests from disgruntled fans?

Patterson could never have seen the financial storm coming. There were several missed wage payments threatening to shatter morale in the camp but the Glentoran players, to their immense credit, never went on strike.

In fact, they demonstrated their total commitment to the jersey by rallying to win the Irish Cup with a stunning performance against newly crowned league champions, Cliftonville.

For north-Belfast man Patterson it was an especially sweet moment as his Cliftonville side had lost out to Crusaders in the 2009 decider.

Patterson and his backroom team of Paul Trainor and brothers Seamus and Tiernan Lynch helped mastermind that miracle, but no sooner had the page been turned on that glorious chapter, his experienced men Andy Waterworth, Sean Ward and Stephen Carson jumped ship.

Now Eddie is fighting another wildfire. His new look side is out of two cup competitions and battling to stay in the league's top six.

Glentoran's financial nightmares are well documented and I was interested to read in Roy France's excellent book 'Glentoran, A Complete Record' that when the Glens experienced cash-flow problems at the end of the 1927-28 season, Linfield gave them £20!

Some things never change!

You would like to think the current Glentoran board have learned the lessons of the past. A special history does not guarantee a future.

Patterson said recently that the name of the game at Glentoran was "survival". He wasn't talking about his job ... he was talking about the football club.

Meanwhile, he must keep on firefighting. His passion and vision is clear for all to see but the man who guided Cliftonville to two County Antrim Shield wins and turned them from relegation candidates to championship challengers must soldier on in an environment where winning isn't easy.

When you're a Belfast Big Two manager the media spotlight is intense.

You need a thick skin. Criticism is never far away and the late Alan McDonald in particular was shaken by unacceptable personal abuse from a section of the club's fans.

Anyone thinking of dishing out similar abuse to another Glentoran manager should remember that while the job is a huge honour that comes with huge responsibility, it's also a huge challenge.

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