Belfast Telegraph

Time's up for Nacho Novo as Glentoran plan for the future

 

By Graham Luney

It was a marriage that appeared too good to be true and there wasn't even a honeymoon period as the romance faded.

Nacho Novo's arrival at Glentoran last summer was one of the most high profile signings in Irish League history but the Rangers legend, then aged 37, couldn't roll back the years.

The Glens announced last night that the striker was leaving the club and it came as no surprise.

Perhaps he underestimated just how physically demanding our game is, as in the early exchanges it was clear the Spaniard was off the pace and needed to build his match fitness.

Away from the pitch Nacho was warmly welcomed by the east Belfast community and they 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 showed his caring nature and despite everything that he had achieved in the game he remained committed to giving something back to the community.

He is keen to pursue a coaching career and was always prepared to offer advice to the Glens' younger players but, despite showing glimpses of his finishing power, he couldn't produce the performances that justified the club's big investment.

You could argue that all signings are a gamble and in Novo's case, it was a big one that backfired.

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.

Glentoran commercial director Simon Kitchen and Nacho's agent Bill Peden were instrumental in making the transfer happen and Oval chairman Stephen Henderson admitted: "This signing would not have been possible without the most generous financial assistance from key sponsors and supporters."

A video posted by Nacho Novo (@nnovo10) on

But unflattering images emerged regarding his weight as the man who joined the Glens following a spell Carolina Railhawks in the North American Soccer League, was playing catch-up and a lack of match fitness prevented him from displaying his trademark finishing touch.

A sickening death threat must have taken an emotional toll on the player but he dealt with it in a courageous manner.

A hamstring injury resulted in him returning to Rangers for treatment and his season hit a new low in January when he was shown a red card for an attempted headbutt on Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell.

A six match suspension near the end of the season would have ended his Oval career early, but the Irish FA Disciplinary Committee reduced the ban to three games with immediate effect and also suspended half of the sanction for a period of six months.

Oval chief Gary Haveron said the club had to let Novo leave because it was travelling in a different direction, committed to investing in young talent.

"We are building the squad and going in a different direction," said Haveron.

"Nacho had come to the club with a vast amount of experience but he is 38 now and we want to go down a different road.

"I want to move forward with a young, energetic team with plenty of pace.

"I felt we have been one-paced and predictable at times and we need to inject more energy.

"The young players deserve a chance and we have also missed out on European money which affects the budget.

"Although I am assured by the club that money will be available for the right player, it will be spent wisely. This is an unfortunate time of the season when players are released and I wish Nacho all the best.

"He did come to the club at a considerable cost and the club does need to tighten its belt and every penny counts.

"My priority is the future of the club and assembling a group of players that can get around the park quickly.

"Nacho worked hard and was professional when he was with us, but if we are to move forward as a club, we need to freshen things up and nurture the young talent in particular.

"Those young players need to blend together with senior ones but a manager will be judged on his signings and I intend to bring good players to this club."

The man who made 253 appearances for the Gers, scoring 72 goals, may now hang up his boots. Glentoran are looking to the future and the new arrivals at The Oval this summer will need to help restore some pride at this sleeping giant.

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