Glentoran leave the Oval: 'It will be emotional to say farewell but we can savour new home comforts'
Published 24/12/2013 | 08:00
We have accelerated our pursuit of the new stadium. We needed to focus on other things such as assuring the long term financial security of the club and supporting our manager as he rebuilds the team.
Our supporters have fully understood that and recognised what we have needed to do and they have been very supportive of the team and the board.
When our supporters stand and applaud the team off the pitch even after they have suffered a defeat, it is fantastic to see. Our fans appreciate good football. Eddie (Patterson) has been heartened by the support he has received and the big positive for us is that we can now focus more on the new stadium.
A committee, consisting of people within and outside the club, was established to explore this possibility and there has been significant progress in the last two months.
There has been significant conversations with potential partners and a lot of work is going on. There is a real focus and speed with regard to what we are doing. We are close to what is a good, positive news story for this club.
We must present a strong business case to the Irish FA and Government but it's important any external partners also appreciate the full value of the project. What we want is a stadium that serves the team and supporters well but also the community too.
Our simple criteria for the new stadium has been to find a new home and be debt free, to remain in east Belfast and thirdly, to develop income streams outside of football as well to give us the best chance of delivering what we want.
Nothing is set in stone in terms of the size of the stadium – this is where you look at the models that have been successful. It needs to be fit for purpose, a family friendly stadium that serves the needs of the team and community.
We can all recall the times we stood on the hill and watched great Glentoran teams as well as the great Eusébio of Benfica.
But I also love the craic in the forecourt area, meeting other supporters and talking about the past, present and future.
I'm the club chairman but I'm a working class boy from Paxton Street who still thinks I belong on the terraces.
When I was a boy my brother-in-law David Livingstone and his two brothers brought me down to the Oval and it was the days when the great John Colrain (pictured) was lighting up the place. Even at that age you appreciated the great history of the club and the stadium.
The Oval could be sold off and it may become social housing, of benefit to the community, but it would be nice to give something back. It will be emotional to say goodbye to the stadium as it is a place which evokes not just footballing memories but memories of families and friends coming together.
We belonged to something special at the Oval. It was our club and our community but we can prosper in a new home.
We have had to make some terrible decisions. They have been uncomfortable decisions for a board to make because they affect people's incomes and livelihoods. We have made people redundant and we have cut wages dramatically.
Everyone knows we over-invested in the playing staff and that got us into financial trouble. The ambition to win titles was so strong that the long-term best interests of the club were neglected.
The club and the manager had to build from the bottom up and we are doing that successfully while realising that we cannot spend recklessly like we did in the past. This is a club that nearly closed it's doors.
Eddie has a track record of developing young players and he has been doing that with the help of an incredible Academy we have. Our sponsor Paul McClean has also given us and continues to give us incredible support, going the extra mile to back us and that has been a great relationship which I hope continues.
Of course we are not the finished article but we are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, to a new stadium.