Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Steven Beacom: Big Mac doesn’t deserve all this abuse

Russell Pritchard/Presseye.com-7th March 2009..Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland -7th March 2009...JJB Sports Irish Cup Quarter Final Match between Glentoran and Cliftonville at The Oval, Belfast..Glentorans Alan McDonald..Mandatory Credit - Photo by Russell Pritchard/Presseye.com... Russell Pritchard/Presseye....Press Eye office contact information..Press Eye office - 02890 669229..Kelvin Boyes mobile - 07850 334 365..Philip Matthews - mobile - 07817 978 766..mail@presseye.com

In all the time I’ve known Alan McDonald, sympathy has never been something he has sought. Well, big Mac, you’ve got mine now.

The rubbish he has had to deal with it over the last week has been outrageous.

Sure, fans are passionate about their team and have every right to be critical of their manager and players, but sending sick text messages is a step too far.

That’s what Glentoran boss McDonald has had to put up with since Saturday’s embarrassing 6-0 defeat at home to Coleraine.

The abuse, much of it personal, impacted on McDonald so much that he was advised to stay away from Tuesday night’s game with Glenavon on health grounds.

And this after winning the title for these same Glentoran fans a few months ago!

I know that 6-0 loss was humiliating and I’m also aware that it was a result waiting to happen given much of Glentoran’s form this season.

But a quick look at the Irish League table tells you the Glens are six points behind leaders Linfield, not 16!

And we're still in November.

A look back at last season’s table sees the Glens proudly sitting at the top. All those firing abuse at McDonald seem to have forgotten that.

Let me remind them that big Mac took over the Glens in the middle of one of their most embarrassing episodes ever.

For starters fierce rivals Linfield were completely dominating the local scene, winning virtually every competition they played in. Glens fans were looking across the city in despair as the man they love to hate, David Jeffrey, danced around Windsor as trophy after trophy was handed out.

Roy Walker was brought in to replace Paul Millar as boss, only for the Glens to find out that the former didn’t have the necessary coaching qualifications to guide them in Europe.

With more red faces at the Oval than on a beach in Benidorm, McDonald, who had been first team coach under Millar, stepped into the breach at a time when the Glens were floundering. And what did he do? He won the title, beating the previously invincible Blues in the process. What an achievement that was, yet even in winning the Gibson Cup there were some unnecessary jibes that came his way from the fans.

McDonald, typically professional, took them on the chin.

But after Saturday’s insults and the way in which he has been treated since, it’s all been too much to take for someone I've always found to be a decent man.

I’ve had some stick over the years from Glenmen myself, a lot of it stinging, but not in Big Mac’s league.

Frankly, he hasn’t deserved how it has all got so personal.

He’s hurting now. More than ever in his football career.

Not one to hark back to past glories himself, I’d like to remind Alan of a happier time.

It’s 24 years this week since his most famous match.

For Northern Ireland he was a colossus in most games, but one stands out. It was that epic night at Wembley when he played the game of his life to help his beloved country through to the 1986 World Cup finals.

His brilliant performance on the pitch back then is often underplayed because of his hard hitting comments off it.

With suggestions that England had been happy to play for a 0-0 draw to see Billy Bingham’s side through to Mexico, a bristling big Mac hit back on TV roaring: “If anyone thinks it was a fix, they can come round to see me.”

That’s the Alan McDonald we know and love, not the one that has seen his health and spirit deteriorate in the last few days. We all love football, but it’s not worth that. Word has it Alan is staying on as the Oval boss. Good luck mate, with those Glentoran fans who have short memories, you're going to need it!

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