Club focus: Shankill United
With three Irish League legends on their coaching staff, Shankill United have no excuses for slacking in 2014.
The Belfast side have former Linfield man Jamie Marks as their manager, with the assistance of former Glentoran striker Justin McBride. Their coaching staff also consists of former Cliftonville and Portadown midfielder Michael Collins.
While all three stars have won the Irish League, manager Marks says there is only so much they can do for the players.
“We've got a lot of experience on the bench and we try to pass that on to the team, but sometimes it can be hard work getting our message across to the players.
“The good thing is the players want to learn and they're prepared to work hard. Justy has been working with the strikers and Mickey helps out in any way he can. He coaches and even plays on occasions.
“It's great to have their help but at the end of the day, we can only do so much talking. It's up to the players to do the job when they cross the white line. We can't play for them.”
Marks joined Shankill last season, after leaving his last club Harland & Wolff Welders.
“I was playing away at the Welders when Jackie Pollock and the committee approached me. I'd always been an Albert Foundry man, but I knew the Shankill lads well, so I saw it as a good opportunity.
“I'd already been working on my coaching badges, so it was a natural step for me. To be honest, I've learnt more in the last 18 months than I did in my whole time playing. Now I finally know what Big Davy (Jeffrey) was giving off about all the time.”
Last season, it looked as if Shankill United would be relegated to 1A, but a late burst of form saved them from the drop. This year, they've improved and they currently sit in mid-table.
Marks said: “This time last season we were fighting relegation, so we've come a long way in a short space of time.
“We've been improving things slowly but surely. We've a young team so we've had to work on their concentration, particularly when they don't have the ball, as it's easy to switch off in those situations.
“Unfortunately I think our players are too easily pleased. They think that if they get a draw or lose by one goal to a top side, then it's a good result. That's not the correct mentality.
“I've been telling them that I believe they're capable of getting results against anyone in this league, they just need to believe it themselves.
“We're mid-table now but there is no reason why we can't push on and finish in the top five. We are out of all the cups and we've games in hand, so we can focus on climbing the table. Some teams just see the last four months of the season out, but I want us to kick on.
“I know my boys work harder than anyone else on a Tuesday and Thursday night, and I'm hoping our extra fitness will help us at the tail end of the season.”
Shankill United are a relatively recent addition to the Amateur League. Since they re-branded themselves in 2007, they've climbed the divisions, but Jamie Marks believes that they journey has only just begun.
“We're doing things bit by bit. We've excellent facilities with our floodlights and our 3G pitch and we've our youth teams already producing players for our firsts and seconds.
“The Shankill area deserves a good football club, but it's not going to happen over night. It's a long term project and I think we are moving in the right direction.”
Name: Shankill United
League: NAFL Premier Division
Founded: 1971 as Harland & Wolff Sport. Shankill United since 2007
Ground: The Hammer
Colours: Yellow and Black
Gaffer: Jamie Marks
Club Man: Secretary, Jackie Pollock
Belfast Telegraph Digital