Belfast Telegraph

Embarrassed Glenn Ferguson will dig deep and come out fighting

By Graham Luney

Glenn Ferguson was a ruthless predator as a player and now his Ballymena United players are about to see his ruthless side as a manager.

The five times capped Northern Ireland international had backed his players to start the season with real purpose but a shocking start, including Wednesday night's 7-1 thumping by Glenavon at the Showgrounds, has embarrassed everyone who cares about Sky Blues fortunes.

Ferguson said that rout was his "lowest moment as a manager" but he says he's "no quitter" and will fight "tooth and nail" to get the club back on track.

But one goal scored and 11 conceded after only two matches are dismal figures and highlight serious defensive frailities.

The players need to rise to the challenge quickly and with neighbours Coleraine arriving at Warden Street tomorrow, former Linfield, Glenavon, Ards and Lisburn Distillery ace Ferguson is ready to crack the whip and demand some pride.

"I was embarrassed," said the 46-year-old.

"It was the worst I've felt as a manager.

"Defensively, we were brutal and with the greatest respect to Glenavon's strikers who are very talented players and Eoin Bradley scored a hat-trick, but even at the age of 46 I could have scored goals against our defence.

"That performance embarrasses the club and the supporters as well as myself and it's very frustrating when centre halves don't do what they are supposed to do or we don't deal with set pieces.

"I was honest, open and critical of the players afterwards.

"I know we were missing influential players like Jim Ervin and Johnny Taylor but the performance was still totally unacceptable.

"We had a decent pre-season and worked hard so this form is very disappointing.

"You never expect the players at any club to be in perfect physical condition at this stage of the season but you do expect to see desire, application and the right attitude.

"Alan Blayney, an experienced goalkeeper was brought in and Kyle McVey is back to full fitness, giving me belief we would be stronger at the back but that's not the case.

"We have a situation now which must be addressed and I have backed the players up before but now I'm going to have to be ruthless with them."

It's now the heaviest defeat Spike has endured since his appointment as United chief at the end of December, 2011.

In November 2012, Cliftonville romped to an 8-0 victory at the Showgrounds and the club has wrestled with defensive concerns for a long time.

Ferguson is shocked because he felt his side were "moving in the right direction" and he added: "I'll get the right people behind me and the right players and go again, starting on Saturday."

United are not as rich as many of their Premiership rivals and the Linfield legend has been unable to offer players significant wages.

The Northern Ireland Football League has set up a task force looking into the issue of undisclosed payments in the league but Ferguson is not convinced a level playing field will be the outcome.

"I know from experience I've been trying to sign players for years but other clubs are offering a lot more money," he added.

"I'm not convinced everyone is following the rules but it has been going on for years and nothing has been done about it, probably because they fear they might find something and then have to do something about it.

"We are all supposed to be working with a wage cap but I see other clubs in a similar position to ourselves finding the money from somewhere."

United skipper Jim Ervin returns from suspension for the derby fixture.

That's another Linfield legend walking into a storm.

Belfast Telegraph


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