Stephen Carson has pleaded with local football fans to get off their armchairs and help save the domestic game.
Premiership giants Glentoran are fighting for their survival and they aren’t alone as it is understood the Irish FA have received a financial SOS call from at least nine of the 12 top flight clubs under pressure to cough up from the HM Revenue and Customs.
It’s a treacherous road that the Bannsiders have already travelled down so no-one needs to lecture Carson on the difficulties of maintaining form on the pitch when financial storm clouds are overhead.
But the Glens were supportive when the Coleraine ship hit choppy financial waters and the Northern Ireland international hopes the east-Belfast giants win one of the biggest fights in their history.
“I think the Northern Ireland public needs to support the clubs more,” said Carson. “No matter what people say about the standard, it’s the best standard of football being played in this country at any time.
“When I was in England, at Barnsley the players played on a Sunday and all the local players that played on a Sunday went to support their club on a Saturday and you were getting 10,000 fans every Saturday in a town which isn’t much bigger than Coleraine or Ballymena.
“I think the communities need to support their club better while the players should be realistic about what they earn. Good players who work hard should be rewarded, but within reason.
“If we can get more money from the government and improve facilities to attract more kids and families, we will continue to cre
ate a family-friendly game for the fans.
“Being selfish about it, the 12 teams in the Premiership need the money to keep the game thriving.”
Rather than negative headlines sparking negative performances, Carson believes Glentoran’s players will come out fighting while the club’s future hangs in the balance.
“When things were not going well off the pitch at Coleraine I felt it galvanised us and the same can happen at Glentoran,” he said.
“It’s at those times when you show character and come out fighting. You can show spirit and it shows the type of mentality you have as a person and player.
“Glentoran were very good to us when we were nearly down and out. I’m sure people will say the Rory Patterson saga didn’t improve relations between the clubs but I hope people sort it out.
“I’m not saying anyone should get preferential treatment but the Irish League needs Glentoran. “There was poor financial management at Coleraine but it’s not always right to simply blame players because if people are willing to pay you money, you will take it.
“Players in the Irish League are not greedy players but they get paid what the club feels they are worth.
“But the league as a whole needs to look at the wage structure and what is sustainable.”
l Ahead of tomorrow’s game at Seaview between Crusaders and Coleraine, Chelsea icons Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Charlie Cooke will be at the Shore Road venue tonight for a special charity function.
Kicking off in the Social Club at 8pm, tickets cost £10.