Cliftonville beware, Gary Hamilton is enjoying his football again
Gary Hamilton insists he has nothing to prove in Irish League football.
The former Northern Ireland striker was discarded by Glentoran at the start of the season and sent out on loan to home-town heroes Glenavon with question marks over his ability to score at the top level ringing in his ears.
Fast forward five months and Hamilton's goal-scoring exploits have played a huge role in Marty Quinn's push for a top six finish before the Carling Premiership splits into two.
Despite spending the first eight weeks on the treatment table, Hamilton has bagged 14 goals — and insists there is more to come.
Cliftonville, fresh from their Irish Cup humiliation against Warrenpoint Town, will be on red alert tonight as Hamilton and co. aim to impress in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
“I didn't come to Glenavon to prove people wrong; I just wanted to play football,” said the ex-Portadown hitman.
“I did want to show I was still a decent player and wasn't done just yet but I always knew I could still find the net and, even when I'm not, I hope I am creating goals for my team-mates.
“Until last season I had never gone more than four games without a goal since coming home from Blackburn but I went something like 11 games last year which was tough but I now feel like that is behind me.”
The Lurgan Blues were unfortunate not to take a point off runaway leaders Linfield on Tuesday night and Hamilton insists they have what it takes to continue climbing the table.
He added: “We are sitting sixth at the moment and finishing in the top half is a must.
“If we can achieve that then I don't see why we can't push on and target the top four.
“In recent years Glenavon have been fighting at the wrong end of the table but Marty Quinn is bringing players in who know what it takes to win and the entire squad is getting that winning mentality.
“We also have some terrific young players so there is no reason why we shouldn't aim high, especially if we can add to the squad.
“When I came home from England Cliftonville were in a similar position but now they are right up there fighting every year.
“They had a bad night on Tuesday but they are still a quality side.”
Hamilton believes any criticism of Reds boss Eddie Patterson is foolish and knows all too well Glenavon could be in the firing line for a backlash.
“This is probably a terrible time to play Cliftonville because they will all think they have a point to prove,” said Hamilton.
“The fans probably won't be happy with Eddie Patterson despite what he has achieved for them but stupid things are said when you suffer a big defeat.
“The players will also want to prove they are no failures. I remember losing 6-0 to Coleraine last season and I have never been as embarrassed in my career so I know they'll be up for it.
“Having said that, we need to set down a marker and show we are good enough to be where we are in the league.
“The performance against Linfield maybe surprised a few people but not us and we need to get back to winning ways. We know what we can do and now we have to do it consistently.”
Quinn, meanwhile, is hopeful that home comforts will prove the difference as Glenavon bid to finally overcome the stage fright which has dogged them on their previous Sky Sports outings.
A 3-0 hammering at Coleraine was followed up by a similar outcome against Crusaders last season and, just three weeks ago, the Lurgan side slipped to another loss at Seaview — 1-0 this time — to make it three losses and no goals live on the big screen so far.
“I’ve really been looking forward to this game on Sky Sports and hopefully the weather will be fine and we’ll get a good game of football,” said Quinn.
“We are under a certain amount of pressure to perform because we haven’t done ourselves justice in front of the Sky cameras on our previous three appearances.
“Now we’re at home we’ll be looking to put on a good show for our fans and a display of the kind of football that we are capable of.
“If we can put in the kind of performance that we did at Windsor Park on Tuesday night I’ll be very pleased.
“We have a couple of wee niggly injuries at the moment but we hope they will be okay and we’ll be along the same lines from Windsor.
“The five lads who were on the bench on Tuesday plus Sammy Stewart all had a run out in a 1-1 draw up at Solitude against Cliftonville Olympic on Saturday.”