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Nacho Novo can fire Glentoran into Europe as parting gift to fans

By Graham Luney

It was one of the most high profile signings in the history of Irish League football but although Nacho Novo's Glentoran adventure failed to start with a bang, he can still sign off in style.

A six-match ban for an attempted headbutt on Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell in January would have brought Novo's Glentoran journey to a bitter end but he lives to fight another day after the Irish FA disciplinary committee reduced the suspension to three games with immediate effect and also suspended half of the sanction for a period of six months.

The Rangers legend will miss Danske Bank Premiership clashes away to Ballinamallard United, Dungannon Swifts and Carrick Rangers but he will be available for the final two league battles with Portadown and Ards at The Oval as well as European play-off clashes should the Glens qualify by finishing in seventh position.

The Spaniard's sensational arrival at The Oval last summer made everyone with even the slightest interest in Irish League football sit up and take notice but it was a glamour move that failed to live up to expectations and Glentoran are expected to part company with their highest earner at the end of the season.

It's been a campaign of huge frustration for Novo but at least he now has a shot at ending his Glentoran journey on a positive note.

Oval chief Gary Haveron welcomed Novo's reduced ban and outlined how the club will make a decision on the 38-year-old's future.

"It would have been bitterly disappointing for Nacho to get a six-match ban and for his season to end in that way," said Haveron.

"He is 38 and it's important to remember that. I think Nacho maybe had retirement on his mind but after the move to Glentoran it was important for him to get fit again and he never really had a pre-season to get into good condition. When you are a bit older it is harder to lose weight.

"I'm sure it has been frustrating for him but he has battled on and is finishing the season strongly. We will sit down at the end of the season and discuss what the club does. It's not just a club decision in that he is our highest earner and there are other representatives with a sponsorship or a financial commitment.

"Given what Nacho has achieved in the game as a professional, the club needed to spend money to bring him here but we will sit down and discuss everything at the end of the season."

Novo, still adored by Rangers fans after six hugely successful years at Ibrox, was warmly welcomed by the community in east Belfast who got to know a man with a warm personality and generous heart.

His decision to distribute gifts to sick children at the Royal Victoria Hospital before Christmas underlined his caring nature and despite everything that he had achieved in the game he remained committed to giving something back to the community.

Novo is also hungry to establish a career in coaching and the emerging talent at Glentoran tapped into that passion for youth development. The Glens had signed someone who really wanted to make a difference at the club but while he remained a popular figure away from the heat of the battle, on the pitch the fireworks never came.

Sponsors, businesses and supporters' clubs dug deep to make the move happen, with the striker rumoured to be on close to £1,000 a week, but that significant investment did not produce results. Glens fans hoped Novo would hit the ground running but soon after his arrival he became a figure of ridicule for opposing supporters as unflattering images emerged regarding his weight and a lack of fitness and injury curtailed his progress.

After Alan Kernaghan quit as manager following the disastrous League Cup defeat to Annagh United, Novo wanted to step into a management role at The Oval but the club turned to Haveron.

The man who made 253 appearances for the Gers, scoring 72 goals, was also interested in a coaching role at Ibrox, however the Scottish giants overlooked him.

But Novo's playing days aren't over yet and he has been given the chance to sign off his Glentoran adventure in style.

Belfast Telegraph

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