Belfast Telegraph

Portadown boss McFall can smell more title glory

By Stuart McKinley

There can be little doubt that Ronnie McFall knows what it takes to win a league title.

Five times he’s ruled the roost in the Irish League, the first as far back as 30 years ago when he guided an invincible Glentoran team to the crown.

The other four titles in McFall’s collection have been won with his home town club, Portadown and 10 games into the Carling Premiership season there is a feeling around Shamrock Park that lifting the Gibson Cup is well within their capabilities, a decade after they were last champions.

The Ports are matching Linfield stride for stride at the minute and have been ever since a 2-0 win over the Blues last month, which came in the middle of a sequence of victories over Belfast clubs, with Glentoran and Crusaders also defeated.

And McFall can spot the signs that tell him his current squad can match the achievements of those from 1990, 1991, 1996 and 2002.

“We’ve got the quality, there’s no question about that,” said McFall, who takes his team to face Ballymena United tomorrow.

“The squad is small, but if everyone stays fit and we can avoid suspensions then there’s no reason why we can’t maintain a challenge all the way to the end.

“The ingredients are there and we’ve a very close knit group as well. The dressing room is excellent, the team spirit is good and there’s good banter among the players.

“Everyone is playing for each other and if one player is having a hard time others will work hard to help him out.

“As well as everything else you need that to be successful.”

If anything the Ports squad that won the league in 2002 was actually smaller than that which McFall is operating with currently, but what they lacked in quantity was made up for in the quality of the likes of Philip Major, Michael Collins, Dean Fitzgerald, Vinny Arkins and Gary Hamilton.

At present it’s Matthew Tipton who is the Ports’ talisman. He bagged two goals in each of those triumphs against the Glens, Blues and Crues, results which helped McFall win his second Carling Manager of the Month award this season.

And that’s after question marks hung over his future as Shamrock Park boss during a period of serious uncertainty in the early weeks of the season when boardroom disharmony and the decision of shareholders not to back ex-director Yalcin Cubuk as the new chairman threatened the very existence of the club.

Now, with former chairman Roy McMahon back at the helm, there is sense of things being settled both on and off the pitch.

“Myself and the players just concentrated on football,” said McFall.

“What was happening off the pitch didn’t involve them so they just had to forget about it and focus on their own jobs, which they did. There was no mention of it in the dressing room.”

Belfast Telegraph


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