Eddie Patterson will send his Glentoran players into the heat of a Big Two battle today with the message ‘you don’t get any trophies for beating Linfield.’
And while Patterson will be doing his utmost to deliver an early blow to the Blues’ defence of the league title, he already has something for the Oval faithful to cheer.
Stuart Elliott is due to seal his return to the Oval 12 years after leaving the club for Motherwell — all that remains is for the former Northern Ireland international to put his signature on the contract.
He will be at the Oval and the 34-year-old is expected to be presented to the crowd before kick-off — just the type of thing that will get the Glenmen going for a clash with their Belfast rivals.
Four times the teams met last season and four times the Glens took the spoils — keeping four clean sheets to boot — but when it came down to silverware it didn’t matter one iota as it was the Blues who marched off with the major prizes, winning a sixth double in seven seasons.
Patterson wants more than just derby delight. Glentoran fans might have enjoyed that quartet of victories over the team they love to hate, but they only saw their own side win 12 more games in the other 34 league outings last season. Linfield won 27 games.
“We had four wins over Linfield last season, but you’ve got to beat the so-called lesser teams as well to get silverware,” said Patterson.
“While it was great for the club and for the fans to beat Linfield on four occasions it didn’t win us a trophy.
“Yes, Glentoran want to keep the record against Linfield going and we want to get a result in this game, but it’s results against the other teams that count.
“Linfield proved that, by going on to win the league even though they didn’t win a Big Two match during the season.”
Glentoran fans have been casting jealous eyes across the city for longer than they care to remember. Their league title triumph in 2009, which broke Linfield’s sequence of double wins, is the only major trophy to have rested in east Belfast since 2005. The County Antrim Shield and League Cup don’t have the same sparkle as the Gibson Cup or Irish Cup.
Big Two wins feel good only for a while, the feeling of being a champion lasts all season and the memory of that feeling is starting to fade among even the most diehard of Glenmen, but if Patterson can maintain the promising start that his team has made to the season then the signs are there that he can put some kind of silver lining on this season to make up for the recent disappointments.
“We dropped too many points, both at home and away, last season. We weren’t in the top five and that’s not acceptable,” said Patterson.
“Before you run you have to walk and before you walk you have to crawl. Right now we’re just getting off our knees and there is a long way to go.”
Elliott will sign just a smidgen too late for him to be included in the squad to face Linfield, but he will be in the frame to pull on the green, red and black colours again when the Glens face Ballinamallard United on Tuesday.
“We’re waiting on the paperwork for Stuart being completed and if it isn’t done before the weekend then that’s when we’ll get it finalised,” said Patterson.
“We have agreed terms and it should now be simply a matter of filling in the paperwork and submitting it with the Irish FA.
“Bringing Stuart Elliott back to Glentoran is a massive signing for the club, but we’re close to securing Calum Birney, John McGuigan, Jim O’Hanlon and Martin Murray on long-term contracts and that will give the club a massive lift too.
“Stuart stands on his own as a quality signing, but the young players are just as important because they are the future of the club.”