Belfast Telegraph

Club Focus: Woodvale

By Keith Bailie

Tommy Leeman has always been a winner.

From his early playing days with Glentoran in the 1980s until his time as a coach, the passionate football man has always had a combative streak. Leeman is now the assistant manager of Amateur League outfit Woodvale, but just because he now operates at a lower level doesn't mean he has changed his style.

He explained: “It doesn't matter what the match is...I want to win.

“I coach at Woodvale and I play for Glentoran Legends, and I treat them both the same.

“The Legends games are just charity matches but I always want to win. I'm competitive. If you don't play to win, then it's just social football, and that's not for me.”

His current club Woodvale are second in 2A. Leeman believes the east Belfast club are capable of claiming the title.

“We've had a good season so far and I still think we can win the division. It's a competitive league with five or six top class teams. Rosemount are on top at the moment but there are still quite a few games left to play.”

Leeman has coached in the Premiership, the Championship and in Junior football. He believes 2A is one of the toughest leagues in the domestic game.

“2A is one of the most difficult divisions to get out of as only one team goes up. There are a lot of ambitious clubs in the division as everyone wants to move into Intermediate football so they can play in the Steel & Sons Cup and the Irish Cup.

“I think there are five or six clubs in 2A, who could compete at the top end of 1C. I don't think there is much difference between 1C and 2B.”

Tommy Leeman is still a popular figure at The Oval. He's saddened by Glentoran's current plight, but he believes the grand club will return to its former glory.

“It's a tough time for Glentoran at the moment. It's tough for me and the rest of the Legends team to see because we all love the club and we want to see them win. But it's all changed. They just don't have the money any more, and even at Irish League level financial clout is key.

“I don't think it's good for the Irish League, because Glentoran are a massive club. Linfield and Glentoran will always be the two biggest clubs, regardless of the league table.

“But if you look at the squad you'll see there are guys like Jay Magee and Calum Birney. Young lads who play for the shirt. It's going to take a while but I think Glentoran will improve and get back to winning trophies.

“I went to the last Big Two game and I was shocked. It was the smallest crowd I've ever seen at the derby. It's very different from my day, but then so much has changed since then. There is much more football on TV and so many other things for people to do.

“When I was a kid you went to the game and then you came home and tried to re-live the game with your mates in the street. Kids have more options now, with the internet and computer games.”

Leeman was also a popular figure at Ards, where he played for the club in the 1993 Irish Cup final. Although Ards look set for relegation, Leeman believes they should stick with manager Niall Currie.

“I spent six years at Ards and I loved every minute of it. Castlereagh Park had the best playing surface in the league and the fans were magnificent. I've got some great memories of Ards.

“But a few years after I left the ground was sold and the club has never been the same since. It's incredible the club are still going, really.

“I hope they stay in the Premiership, but if not I hope the club stand by Niall Currie. I think he's done an excellent job and if they go down there is nobody better to bring them back up.”

While his two old clubs are struggling in the Irish League, Leeman's season may well end in glory, as Woodvale will push Rosemount and Suffolk all the way, at the top of 2A.


Name : Woodvale

League : NAFL 2B

Founded : 2003

Ground : Claredon Sports Facility

Colours : Orange and Black

Gaffer : Frank McAllister

Skipper : Thomas Dickson

Sharpshooter : Robert Black

Hard Man: Graham Aston

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