Gary Haveron: Our league is moving in right direction
Gary Haveron is loving life back in the top flight of local football - and the Carrick Rangers manager believes he has returned to a league that is in much better health than when he left it.
In a playing career that took him to Lisburn Distillery, Coleraine and Ballymena United before dropping down to the amateur ranks - as well as spending time in England with Wolves and Bolton Wanderers as a youngster - Haveron has seen it all.
And that is why he is happy to back those who are pushing the profile of the Danske Bank Premiership, with attendances at most grounds continuing to grow.
Haveron doesn't expect sell-outs every week, but he does recall packed houses in the not too distant past and can see that happening again in the future
"I remember playing in the Irish League and kick-offs having to be delayed because so many fans were still trying to get into the ground at three o'clock," said Haveron, who takes his team to play Portadown tomorrow.
"I would love to see things get back to that. It will probably take a while, but for the bigger games, maybe later in the season when there is a lot at stake for the teams involved, I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen.
"Crowds are definitely up. That's not just an opinion, the figures are there to prove it.
"The Northern Ireland Football League has done a good job in trying to make the game more attractive.
"They have helped to promote the game and anything that can be done to give Irish League football a higher profile has to be a good thing."
Going to Portadown doesn't faze Haveron - and not only because the Ports are on a four-game losing streak in the league, with 13 goals conceded in those games.
Carrick's best results have come away from home, with eight of their 11 points coming on the road.
"We have a reserve team now that we are back in the Premiership and one of the consequences of that is that I can work with a bigger squad," added Haveron.
"The challenge for me is to keep everyone happy, which isn't easy.
"It is good because everyone wants to play at the highest level and they are pushing each other to get into the team."