Belfast Telegraph

McAlinden is eager to steer Carrick clear of a relegation scrap

By Graham Luney

At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much hope or optimism surrounding Carrick Rangers. Many pundits and fans have them relegated before a ball has been kicked in anger, and even the fixture list had a joke at their expense by sending them to the home of champions Linfield in their opening Danske Bank Premiership fixture tomorrow.

There can only be one outcome, but if Carrick are going to ruffle a few feathers this campaign they might as well start now with the biggest statement they could ever make.

Former Cliftonville ace David McAlinden relished a challenge as a player, and this first taste of Premiership management must get his competitive juices flowing again, but he knows there's an uphill task ahead.

With valuable managerial experience gained at Larne, the new Carrick boss is ready to test himself in the top flight and he's determined his men won't be lambs to the slaughter.

"This is an exciting challenge for me and one I am relishing," said McAlinden. "When I parted company with Larne it was time to refresh and recharge, but this was an opportunity to help a club I have a great affinity for, loved playing for and it's been an ambition of mine to manage in the Premiership.

"It was an opportunity I could not turn down. It's a difficult task but it's got me going again and I'm really enjoying it so far.

"Pre-season has gone well but there has been a big turnaround. There needed to be as last season wasn't good enough. If we are going to progress then we need to bring players to the club and we have done that. What matters is the 38 matches and we are looking forward to the challenge.

"What must not happen is we go through the same emotions as last year.

"I don't think we will win the league but, while staying realistic, we have got to go out and try our best in every game.

"We will see where we are after 10 games and review the season. The targets will remain in the changing room but it will be time to assess things after the first round of matches.

"There's no better or bigger challenge than facing the league champions on the opening day.

"In one way we have nothing to lose. Linfield are the best side in the country and have set the standard in the league but these games will not define our season.

"We've got to earn more points than last season and not let ourselves slip into the same scenario where we are fighting for our top flight future."

Carrick Rangers

Manager: David McAlinden

Captain: Mark Surgenor

Last season: Play-off

Prediction: Relegated

Verdict: David McAlinden and his boys face a tough assignment but they will not roll over for anyone.

INS: Chris Trussell, Martin Maybin, Gavin Taggart, Mark Edgar, Denver Gage, Stuart McMullan, Dale Malone, Michael Smith, Harry Doherty, Michael McKenna, Mikel Suarez (loan from Crusaders), Andrew Mooney, Sean Fogarty.

OUTS: Daniel Kelly, Brian Neeson, Martin Murray, Kyle McVey, Glenn Taggart, Stephen McCullough, Johnny Wilson, Nathan Hanley.

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