Belfast Telegraph

Give Glenn Ferguson support that's due or else watch him walk

By Graham Luney

I've performed quite a few varied and interesting jobs in my life. I've been a heart surgeon, male model and James Bond stuntman. I should write a book, or at the very least, a newspaper column.

One year I was crowned World Scrabble Champion but I fluffed my acceptance speech, saying I was lost for words.

One job I wouldn't relish is that of football manager. Why would you want the stress when you can lie on the sofa with a soothing cup of hot chocolate?

At this stage of the season a lot of managers are suffering sleepless nights and, as we haven't walked in their shoes, we can only imagine the emotional torture they put themselves through.

But a manager isn't a solo artist. He's more like the lead singer of a band, the man or woman who is often in the spotlight but they rely on their bandmates to keep the show on the road.

Whenever our bosses are presented with their monthly awards they are quick to recognise the contribution of the players and their coaching staff, the unsung heroes who work behind the scenes.

Supporters often only hear from the manager and the vitally important contribution of others, from coaches to scouts, is overlooked.

But there is another group of people who perform an essential function at a football club and it's impossible to overstate their importance.

I'm talking about the board of directors or, if you like, the club's management committee. Just how important is the relationship between manager and his board?

I was thinking about this issue when I watched the Irish Cup semi-finals unfold. There was joy and relief for Portadown manager Ronnie McFall and Glentoran boss Eddie Patterson but disappointment for Crues chief Stephen Baxter and Ballymena United supremo Glenn Ferguson.

In the run up to United's 3-1 defeat to the Ports, Ferguson outlined how he needed reassurances from the club's board that they are ready to match his ambition and desire to be successful.

Glenn may no longer be a player but his appetite for glory hasn't diminished one bit.

United fans were fuming with the performance of their team on Saturday night and rightly so, but they do have a manager with a hunger to transform the club's fortunes, mirroring the progress that has taken place in north-Belfast where Cliftonville and Crusaders are regularly challenging for honours.

Crusaders needed relegation to get their act together and placing their faith in Baxter was a masterstroke.

McFall has been Ports boss since December 1986 and his future was uncertain at the end of last season.

What did the club's board do? Hand him a two-year contract and their reward could be a fourth Irish Cup in May.

Patterson sought reassurances from the Glentoran board before agreeing a two-year deal last May.

A manager needs the full backing of his board or he could find himself on quicksand.

David Jeffrey's YouTube performance last season sparked heavy criticism from the board and the writing was on the wall for DJ.

There has even been speculation this season that opinion is divided within the Linfield boardroom.

In any family you will get tensions and disagreements but clubs have no chance of progressing unless everyone is pulling in the one direction.

A manager needs to know his board is fully behind him.

If Ballymena United want Glenn Ferguson to take them forward and allow him to build a new team, they have to prove they share his vision for the future.

Belfast Telegraph

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