Belfast Telegraph

Eddie Patterson written off but Glentoran could have last laugh

By Graham Luney

Now that the placings have been confirmed ahead of this month's league split, supporters, players and managers are assessing where it has all gone right or wrong this season.

Making the top six are Crusaders, Linfield, Portadown, Cliftonville, Glentoran and Glenavon.

Here's a question for every supporter - which team has surprised you the most this season?

It's very difficult to be certain of anything in football. The only confident prediction we can make in the world of football is that Mario Balotelli would fail a PSNI fitness test - for the football team and the real police!

At the start of our domestic season Glentoran were labelled no-hopers and also rans.

Even legendary Linfield boss David Jeffrey predicted a seventh-place finish for the Glens.

DJ will be tucking into some humble pie, but in his defence, I'm sure many supporters would have shared his bleak outlook. Even the Glentoran faithful, understandably, wouldn't have been dreaming big. Yes, their glorious Irish Cup win in 2013 - stopping a classy Cliftonville side from celebrating a stunning treble - was a remarkable triumph against the odds, but a competitive league can highlight a lack of strength in depth.

And yet here we are, with just seven games left in the league campaign and Eddie Patterson's side are chasing a Europa League place and are just one game away from another Irish Cup final appearance.

Eddie, his coaching team and the Glentoran players have been swimming against an enormous financial tide as other clubs invest heavily in their squads, but their determination to play football the right way, even on some of our shocking playing surfaces at this time of the season, is commendable.

Linfield boss Warren Feeney has been complaining about the financial demands of players and you've got to believe that if the Blues are being frustrated in the transfer market their old enemy are taking more punches than Carl Frampton's opponents.

Glentoran's recent history is littered with financial headaches, but they are like every other club in the sense that without supporters' generosity they will go under.

The fans, particularly the Glentoran Community Trust and supporters' clubs, have played a significant role in keeping this business afloat and that commitment was underlined further by the news of Jordan Stewart's new deal.

Our Irish League clubs don't get the credit they deserve for nurturing young talent and Jordan's determination to continue his education at The Oval is a tribute to the coaching and encouragement he's receiving.

Without the funds to sign more experienced players, Eddie has focused on getting the best out of his young talent and their performances this season suggest that the Glens have some of the most under-rated players in the league.

Midfielder Steven Gordon has blossomed into a box-to-box performer in the mould of former Glens favourite Darren Lockhart and Stewart, with the benefit of added rest, has shone so bright that cross channel clubs are casting admiring glances in his direction.

The Glens cannot boast many of the league's flair players, but only Crusaders, Portadown and Glenavon have scored more league goals than the east-Belfast side.

The Gary Hamilton eligibility row cast a shadow over our game and many felt the Cock n Hens suffered a terrible injustice.

It will be a sad footnote to Glentoran's season, a campaign which kicked off with considerable pessimism, but could yet end with another fairytale.

At the start of the season Glens fans would have settled for a chance of lifting the Irish Cup and qualifying for Europe.

Credit to the management and players for answering the doubters.

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