Belfast Telegraph

Gary Hamilton's fearless attitude can inspire Warren Feeney

By Graham Luney

As Gary Hamilton's tears of pride and joy trickled down his face after Glenavon's Irish Cup semi-final victory at Windsor Park, Linfield fans would have been quietly wishing they had a manager who could drive their club forward in the way the former Northern Ireland international has managed in Lurgan.

Glenavon are going places and I don't just mean to Windsor Park on Saturday, May 3 for the Irish Cup Final against Ballymena United.

Hamilton (below celebrating with with his mum) is also going places and perhaps, as his chairman Adrian Teer has already suggested, the man in charge at Mourneview Park could extend his managerial career further afield, mirroring his playing days.

As current Linfield boss David Jeffrey and his Cliftonville counterpart Tommy Breslin have already bagged one trophy this season and are hoping to double that tally by lifting the Gibson Cup, the race for Manager of the Year appears to be a two horse sprint but the Lurgan Blues chief has at least thrust himself into the discussions by the revival he has instigated at Mourneview.

A top six finish, a fearless approach to playing the league's best sides, an Irish Cup final appearance and a successful youth policy are just some of the reasons why Hamilton is winning so many admirers.

And he could still hammer in the winner in the final as his boots aren't hung up yet.

Inevitably, Hamilton was linked with the Linfield job after Jeffrey indicated he was stepping down at the end of the season but the former Glentoran hero is not walking away from his Lurgan project just yet.

Linfield have determined that Warren Feeney is their man after Pat Fenlon's wage demands forced the club to retreat from the Dubliner.

It would be too simplistic to say that the move for Feeney is a gamble – every managerial appointment is a gamble – but there will be no shortage of doubters saying the Blues have lost the plot.

Here is a man who has zero managerial experience. He doesn't even have the necessary coaching qualification allowing him to take charge in Europe.

And fans will also wonder whether Warren has a sound knowledge of players in the Irish League.

At least we know he's a devoted Blueman and perhaps the players will feed off his passion and enthusiasm. When playing for Northern Ireland, Warren was never blessed with the finishing prowess of David Healy – then again, who was? – but he did demonstrate the pride and passion which fans expect to see from someone representing their country.

Yet how will he cope with the Windsor Park pressure? As a first job in management it's a real baptism of fire.

Let's be honest. David Jeffrey is also a massive Blueman and despite all the experience he gained at Linfield as a player and manager, the job left him a tortured soul at times.

It's a brave and bold move by the Blues.

The Fenlon approach was more rational as here was a man who not only had a real affection for the Blues but has won titles in the League of Ireland and could have used this post as an opportunity to rebuild his reputation after his turbulent Hibernian experience.

Another big concern for Warren is the fact he is coming up against the greatest ever Cliftonville side. The Reds should set the pace again next season, even if Liam Boyce moves on in the summer.

Warren is likely to shuffle his Windsor pack and introduce a new regime. A squad that had been shaken up by Jeffrey will be juggled again.

Yet despite all the doubts and scepticism, Warren could prove to be an astute and ambitious boss in the mould of Gary Hamilton.

Gary has fed off the support of Paul Millar and Nigel Law at Glenavon and Warren will need expert guidance too.

One thing is certain. The Irish League is rarely dull and whether you are a Linfield fan or not, what happens at Windsor Park next season will make fascinating viewing.

Belfast Telegraph

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