Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson has failed with an audacious bid to bring Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer David Healy to the Irish League.
With the Sky Blues still searching for a striker and Healy not yet able to fix himself up with a new club after leaving Rangers, Ferguson had wanted to throw his former international colleague into the line-up for Saturday’s Premiership opener against defending champions Linfield.
And while Ballymena and Healy may have been in the right place at the right time for each other, the 33-year-old hitman is expecting to be playing elsewhere by the time the weekend comes around.
“I made a call to David to see if he would be interested in coming to help me out,” revealed Ferguson. “Unfortunately it’s not going to happen.
“I thought there might be a chance that he would fancy a few games just to get himself into shape, but he’s hoping to have something sorted out with a new club within the next few days, so he had to say no.”
Ferguson has been hunting high and low for a frontman since he took over at the Ballymena Showgrounds in January and stepped up that search when it became clear that Gary McCutcheon would leave for Crusaders at the end of the season.
Having drawn a blank he is now giving up to focus on the players already in the squad, with every other area of the squad being strengthened this summer, after the signings of goalkeeper Stuart Addis, defender Johnny Taylor and midfield pair Gary Thompson and David Cushley.
“I’ve been looking for a striker and having spoken to a few other managers I know they have been too, but there’s nothing out there,” said Ferguson.
“I’m not going to use that as an excuse, we’ve got to work with what we have and get the best out of the players.
“The good thing about losing Gary McCutcheon is that we’re not longer relying on one person to score the goals.
“The responsibility has to be shared around now and others will have to step up.
“We finished strongly last season, but in the last few games we were up against teams that didn’t have much to play for and starting again against Linfield and then Crusaders — we couldn’t have asked for a tougher start.”
Ballymena, however, can claim one record before the season even starts.
An extension to their deal with McBurney Transport makes it the longest running shirt sponsorship agreement in British football after the club’s initial deal with the haulage firm began in 1987.
And United now has the third longest running shirt sponsorship deal in world football, beaten by only PSV Eindhoven (Philips, 1982 -present) and Celta Vigo (Citroen, 1986-present).
e NORTHERN Ireland under-21 international Michael McClellan is expected to sign for Portadown before their Premiership opener against Lisburn Distillery on Saturday.
The 19-year-old striker was released by Preston North End at the end of last season.
e COLERAINE manager Oran Kearney has signed striker Mark Gillan from Ballymoney United and defender Stuart McMullan.