In a managerial career spanning nigh on 30 years Ronnie McFall has see it all.
Or so he thought.
Just a couple of weeks ago the Portadown manager was in London collecting the MBE he was awarded in the New Year’s honours list from Prince Charles.
Celebrity ‘A-listers’ such as Kylie Minogue were at the same ceremony as McFall’s 20 years in charge as Shamrock Park were acknowledged by Her Majesty the Queen.
From the pomp and ceremony and protocol of royalty, McFall will have to adjust to no longer being in with the A-list of local football, with the Ports banished to the intermediate ranks after their application for the new 12-team Irish FA Premiership was handed in late and therefore not accepted.
It means teams who previously provided pre-season opposition will be up against McFall’s men in the fight for promotion and unchartered venues such as Killymoon Rangers’ Mid-Ulster Sports Arena home will have to be conquered.
It’s a far cry from Portadown’s glory days of the early 1990s when they won the league title for the first time, followed by the double a season later.
A number of near misses in both league and cup followed during the decade, with the inagural Premier League being lifted in 1996.
Trophies haven’t been collected with the same regularity in the 21st century, with the league in 2002 and the cup three years later all that have been added to the list of honours.
McFall isn’t content yet with what he’s won though and his sights are set on promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking as winners of the Irish FA Championship, with a run at being Premiership champions in his mind.
“We have got to get out of the intermediate league in the first year, there is no question about that,” said McFall.
“There is pressure on everyone at the club to deliver that. The fans have got to rally behind the team and I can assure them that myself and the players will be working hard to reward their loyalty and support by giving them senior football again next year.
“I always maintain that at the start of every season you set out to try to win the league and our target is to get back into the Premiership straight away and then our target will be trying to win it.
“Without a doubt there is another league title in me and I still have the hunger and desire to win it.”
The Ports’ exclusion from the top flight, which thanks to the delay in lodging the application was nobody’s fault but their own, does mean that the new top flight, which the top brass at the IFA hope will herald a new dawn for football in Northern Ireland, will kick-off next Saturday without one of the country’s biggest clubs.
“Every time there has been an issue where a club has threatened to take the IFA to court they have always said that football matters should be sorted out on the pitch,” said McFall.
“Yet when it came to the new league teams had to apply and where they finished the previous season didn’t matter.
“Our application was in late, we hold our hands up to that, but I don’t think that’s how the league should have been formed. The top 12 teams from last season who qualified for domestic licences should have made up the new league.
“If you look at our record over the last 20 years we have proved that we are one of the top three clubs in the country and in that time we have been the most successful club outside of Belfast.
“Also, because we aren’t a senior club we have been put out of the reserve league and that team has had to be disbanded. Nobody is going to tell me that is for the betterment of football.”