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Glentoran fans have real grounds for concern after latest nightmare

By Steven Beacom

Published 03/09/2016

Gone: Alan Kernaghan resigned but, with the Glens seeking an eighth boss in 10 years, fears for the club’s future have grown
Gone: Alan Kernaghan resigned but, with the Glens seeking an eighth boss in 10 years, fears for the club’s future have grown

Glentoran fans were up in arms on Tuesday night. Fuming and frustrated, they were finding it difficult to accept one of the worst defeats in the history of the club. Annagh United 3-2 Glentoran. The stuff of nightmares for the east Belfast outfit.

The Championship club had endured a shocking start to the season, losing their opening three league games and lying bottom of the table.

One League Cup tie later against the Glens and little Annagh were enjoying life again.

For Glentoran it was embarrassing and so humiliating for manager Alan Kernaghan that he resigned before the night was out.

Even before the shock loss to Annagh, questions had been raised by fans about Kernaghan's leadership not even a month into the new season which began with such excitement amongst Glentoran fans following the arrival of ex-Rangers striker Nacho Novo amid a blaze of publicity.

The truth is, many Glentoran fans never truly took to Kernaghan. After the Annagh defeat, the former Republic of Ireland defender knew he had to go and mercifully for him didn't hang about.

For the time being Roy Coyle, the Director of Football at the Oval, is in temporary charge. The caretaker role is one that Coyler has become accustomed to in recent years with managers coming and going on a regular basis at the club. Word has it he will have the players in for training over the weekend in the absence of a match.

How Glentoran supporters yearn for the days when Coyle was in charge for real. The glorious era of Jim Cleary and Billy Caskey in the '80s is rightly revered in the east but under Coyle the team achieved greater success, winning league titles, Irish Cups and much more.

High quality players like Colin Nixon, Mark Glendinning, John Devine, Chris Walker, Gary Smyth, Paul Leeman, Stuart Elliott, Scott Young, Pete Batey, Tim McCann, Rory Hamill, Chris Morgan, Darren Lockhart and Michael Halliday won so many medals they had to build new trophy cabinets in their houses.

Linfield had a brilliant side in those days too and the Big Two battles were anticipated for weeks on end with huge crowds flooding in to see them.

That was back in the late '90s and early to mid 2000s with Coyle's final title in 2005 his most satisfying and dramatic.

From then on Linfield started to dominate, winning three titles in a row. The Glens broke that run in 2009 under the guidance of Alan McDonald but it was only temporary respite from more Linfield success and another hat-trick of titles going to Windsor Park.

Trying to keep up with Linfield proved impossible and as the Glens faltered then came news of serious financial issues and even suggestions that one of the great institutions of Northern Ireland sport, facing debts of £500,000, could fold.

Thankfully the club was saved but bar a couple of Irish Cup wins under Eddie Patterson in 2013 and 2015, there has not been a great deal to cheer about in recent times. Now looking for their eighth manager in 10 years, there are serious worries about where the Glens go from here.

Well, eventually, into a new 8,000-capacity stadium, at a cost of £9.2million, financed by a Government funding programme. That is something to look forward to but right now Glentoran fans are more worried about what will happen on the pitch.

Ex-midfield favourite Scott Young (inset), who also managed the club and still deeply cares about Glentoran, suggests drastic steps may need to be taken.

"The football club needs overhauled. That's my opinion. I'm not having a go, it's just what I feel needs to happen," he says.

"When things go wrong it is easy to blame the manager. I've been in that position and believe me it is not always down to the manager. Everyone at the club should take responsibility and that includes the players and remember it is the board which appoints managers.

"They had better make sure they get it right this time because there is a real sense of disillusionment with our fans.

"It seems like some people at Glentoran are relying on the new stadium heralding a new era and we hope that is the case, but unless the football club gets it act together over the next few years it doesn't look too good."

As for the next manager, Young would love to see Tommy Breslin, who won two titles with Cliftonville, persuaded to return to the game.

"Tommy would be a calming influence and has been there and done it," states Young.

"He is a gentleman but he has a tough side to him. Somebody like him, if given time, could make a difference."

In yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, ex-Northern Ireland ace Colin O'Neill and former Crusaders player-manager Aaron Callaghan revealed their interest in the post. Ex-Linfield striker Paul Munster is also keen while Gary Haveron, previously at Carrick, has also been linked with the role.

Whoever comes in will inherit a side low on confidence and a famous name in Novo, reputed to be £1,000 per week.

Before the season kicked-off, Novo told me he needed time to get fully fit. Fair enough but fans will soon be demanding he proves his worth otherwise their joy at having him at the Oval could turn to anger at him not living up to the hype.

"I was surprised by the signing of Novo who as a Rangers supporter is a hero to people like myself but it does make you wonder about what direction the club is going," adds Young.

"He needs to start performing and isn't the only one. Other players must step up too as well as the board. It's not just bad for Glentoran when Glentoran aren't doing well. It's bad for Irish League football. The Irish League clubs need a strong Glentoran. At the moment sadly that is not the case."

Belfast Telegraph

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