Oran Kearney fully understands that his status as a favourite among Ballymena United fans has probably gone forever.
The former Sky Blues midfielder was always warmly welcomed when he returned to the Showgrounds as a Linfield player — having turned down the Blues on more than one occasion before he signed for the Windsor Park club.
He’ll be back at the Warden Street venue this evening, but that warm welcome will probably turn into a hot reception, now that he is the manager of Ballymena’s bitter rivals Coleraine.
Kearney only took over as boss of the Bannsiders at the weekend, less than 48 hours after David Platt had been sacked and being thrust into a derby just three days later is a baptism of fire that he is relishing rather than fearing.
“I don’t think I could go to Coleraine and expect anything else than being treated as the enemy,” said Kearney.
“I am sure there will be a few comments, but that’s what happens in football.
“Given our recent run this game has come at a perfect time because, as the old cliche goes, the form book goes out the window in derby games.
“It’s all about who wants it the most and I want to start off with a win.”
Kearney became the youngest manager in the Carling Premiership when he was appointed by Coleraine, but a career in coaching is something that he has been planning for since taking his Uefa ‘A’ Licence at just 21-years-old.
It came a little bit quicker than expected though for the Ballycastle-based schoolteacher, whose playing days at Linfield were prematurely ended through injury.
That happened at the end of the 2008-09 season and by the time the following campaign kicked off he was in charge at Championship side Limavady United.
Leaving the Roesiders for the Bannsiders, however, was an easy decision.
“When a Premiership club comes in for you it’s a no-brainer really,” said Kearney, who became a father to twins just six months ago.
“Things aren’t good at Coleraine, otherwise the job wouldn’t have come up, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there are some very good players there.
“It’s rare that a manager takes over a club that is in a good position, so confidence is going to be low.
“My personal goals are first and foremost to guarantee our safety in the Premiership.
“That may take us within reach of the top six, which would then become an aim, but I am used to winning and I want that to continue.”