How do you get over an 8-0 hammering? It’s not something that managers have to ponder on a regular basis. Teams don’t generally hit eight goals on a week-to-week basis.
Just 11 months into his managerial career the task of lifting his players off the floor has landed in Glenn Ferguson’s lap after his Ballymena United team were handed a serious tanking by Cliftonville last Saturday.
It was a low point for Ferguson, but such is the ever changing nature of football, he could be just days away from hitting a major high.
Lesser men may prefer a home game against a team that is struggling at the foot of the table as they try to put the wheels back on the wagon, but Ferguson has a tougher skin than that and he won’t be daunted by the prospect of back-to-back games with Linfield — even if the first one is at Windsor Park and the second, next Tuesday is a final, with the County Antrim Shield up for grabs at The Oval.
“Going to Windsor Park doesn’t worry us,” said Ferguson, who was 11 years at Linfield as a player.
“It’s not a place I wouldn’t want to go, even on the back of an 8-0 defeat.
“If you can’t play at Windsor Park you can’t play anywhere and our players should want to go there and play in a big stadium.
“There are also cup final places up at stake so there is an incentive there for the players to go and perform, but first and foremost there are three points to play for and if we are going to stay in the top six ahead of Linfield we need to get them.
“Our aim at the start of the season was a top six finish and to get to a final. We play Linfield in the County Antrim Shield final on Tuesday night, so we’ve achieved that. “
If there is a secret to beating Linfield, or Ferguson has retained some inside information from his time spent at Windsor Park, then he’s not telling anyone.
He’s led Ballymena to one league win over the Blues already this season, a Jamie Davidson brace gave the Braidmen a 2-0 victory.
Since that, however, Linfield have been back to the Showgrounds and won 6-0 in the IRN-BRU League Cup.
“When we beat Linfield on the opening day of the season we were in a similar position to we find ourselves in now, with players injured and suspended and we managed to beat them,” said Ferguson, who will be back at Windsor Park for the first time as a manager.
“There is no magic formula, we went and got about them, got in their faces and made it difficult for them.
“We still need to play well and for Linfield to have an off-day if we are to beat them again, but we won’t fear them because we want to win the game and maintain our position in the league — which is above them.”
It’s been said many times in the past that anyone finishing above Linfield will be champions, but currently there are half a dozen teams better placed that the Blues.
“That could still be the case,” said Ferguson.
“I can see them going on a run and moving up the table very quickly and winning the league is still within their capabilities.
“If they don’t win it they’ll definitely finish second or third.”
After heavy defeats some managers send out the same players, laying down a challenge and giving them the chance of redemption too. Others rip it up and start again and the likes of goalkeeper Dwayne Nelson and his defensive colleagues will be fearing for their places today.
“I’m not in a position to make wholesale changes, but I may not have done that anyway,” said Ferguson, who has half-a-dozen players on his absentee list ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“We’ve competition for places, some players have been waiting their chance and it’s important that they get that chance.
“I will be looking for a reaction from those who get a second chance — there has to be a reaction.”