Belfast Telegraph

Ban threat leaves Nacho Novo facing inglorious end to Glentoran dream

By Alex Mills

Nacho Novo's Glentoran romance could end tonight when he goes in front of the IFA's Disciplinary Committee. The 38 year old former Rangers idol is in the dock on an 'attempted' head-butting charge that dates back to January 14 when he was dismissed following an incident with Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell at the Oval

Novo was originally handed a six-match ban, which was appealed by Glentoran.

However, with only five Danske Premiership games remaining, the little striker now faces a date with destiny. Although Glentoran boss Gary Haveron is adamant his man is innocent, the Spaniard's season hangs in the balance.

He joined the East Belfast club last summer, with a consortium of Supporters' Clubs contributing to his wages - reckoned to be close to £1,000 a week.

But it hasn't been an easy ride. Novo's Glens appearances have been hampered by injury, suspension and indifferent form and it is hard to see him being offered a renewed deal, despite his popularity and local community work.

He indicated earlier this week that coaching may be his next step along the ladder as he applied to become Rangers' new boss Pedro Caixinha's number three at Ibrox - but wasn't even afforded an interview.

Novo, who turned 38 on Sunday, admitted he was 'gutted' at not being considered - he was nudged out of the reckoning by former team-mates Barry Ferguson and Alex Rae.

But Novo countered: "As a player, I always had a hunger and still do. If a job comes up, I will give a lot of my time to it. I want the best job I can get."

“I feel for him,” said Haveron. “Nacho is an honest guy. He came here after a long lay-off... he hadn’t played much and he knew himself that he wasn’t in proper condition.

“But he has got his head down and worked hard. He’s now a different player. He’s a different shape and he’s got a buzz about him.

“I would love to have had him at the start of the season the way he is now.

“He brings a lot to the table, but he has had this charge hanging over his head for an incident that happened at the start of the year.

“It was never an attempted head butt,” claimed Haveron.

“Why it has taken so long to get to this stage is beyond me. It has dragged on and on. We’ll certainly be putting our case across, because it was a nothing incident.”

Should the original six game ban be upheld, Novo’s only chance of playing in front of the Glentoran fans for the final time would be if the club manages to claim a place in the European qualifier at the end of the season by finishing seventh in the league table.

Novo caused a real stir when he arrived in the Irish League at the start of the season, one of several big-name arrivals in the local game, including Roy Carroll and Sammy Clingan at Linfield as well as Paddy McCourt at Glenavon.

Novo had been a cult figure at Rangers after arriving from Spain via spells at Raith Rovers and Dundee. He landed at the Glens following a stint in the US.

“I feel for him,” said Haveron. “Nacho is an honest guy. He came here after a long lay-off... he hadn’t played much and he knew himself that he wasn’t in proper condition.

“But he has got his head down and worked hard. He’s now a different player. He’s a different shape and he’s got a buzz about him.

“I would love to have had him at the start of the season the way he is now.

“He brings a lot to the table, but he has had this charge hanging over his head for an incident that happened at the start of the year.

“It was never an attempted head butt,” claimed Haveron.

“Why it has taken so long to get to this stage is beyond me. It has dragged on and on. We’ll certainly be putting our case across, because it was a nothing incident.”

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