I'm not trying to make light of current Glentoran woe: Spike
Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson has hit back in an extraordinary war of words with fellow Irish League legend Roy Coyle.
Glentoran Director of Football Coyle was critical of former Linfield hero Ferguson in his Sunday newspaper column in relation to an interview conducted by the Ballymena boss about attracting new players to the Showgrounds.
Ferguson had stated that he could offer new recruits good facilities, first team football and payment of wages.
Coyle saw this as an unnecessary dig at Glentoran, who as part of their ongoing financial difficulties have had major problems paying their players on time.
Indeed late last year the players refused to train after the club failed to pay their wages.
Coyle told Ferguson to stay out of Glentoran's business, but the legendary goalscorer known as Spike says the ex-Glentoran and Linfield boss was out of order for having a go at him.
Ferguson said: "I see that Roy Coyle has offered me some advice in his Sunday newspaper column. Well, I think Roy should be put right on a few issues.
"Firstly how I try to encourage players to sign for Ballymena is my responsibility. If I want to highlight that we have good facilities, can offer first team football and can pay their wages that is my prerogative. The reason I said that is quite simple – it's because that's what my club and me as a manager can offer to new players." Ferguson added that he gains no enjoyment from seeing the east Belfast club struggle financially.
"Roy seems to think that I have had a go at his club Glentoran in regard to their current financial situation," said Ferguson.
"I for one would not wish that on any club and have always said during my time as a player and manager that Irish League football needs a strong Glentoran.
"I certainly haven't mentioned to any player that they would be better to sign for Ballymena instead of Glentoran because of the financial situation.
"In any case I think it is common knowledge about the difficulties that they are having as it has been highlighted in the press, on television and radio.
"My message to Roy is that I have NOT had a veiled pop at his club.
"And in terms of advice, yes he has a lot more experience as a manager and is in a position to offer advice to managers like myself who are not long in this side of the game, but the one bit of advice I don't need from him or anybody else is to focus on what is happening at my club.
"I am totally focused with what is going on at Ballymena United and have no notion or intention of getting involved in the business of other clubs, so I'd say to 'Roy, don't flatter yourself'."
Once upon a time of course in the late 90s, Coyle, when he was boss at the Oval, tried to sign Ferguson from Glenavon but the Northern Ireland front man opted to move to Linfield in a £55,000 deal – still an Irish League record transfer fee.
Ferguson turned out to be the instrumental figure in Linfield's domination of local football under David Jeffrey.
Now manager of Ballymena, he inspired the club to their first trophy in decades (the County Antrim Shield) earlier this season and recently agreed a new two year extension to his contract.
Currently in eighth place in the Danske Bank Premiership, Ballymena have not given up hope of finishing in the top six. Ironically Glentoran are in sixth place at present.
With all the financial problems it has been another turbulent campaign for the Glens. It is understood that several players, unhappy with how things have been handled, are considering leaving the club in the summer, despite the best efforts of Eddie Patterson, who has done a decent job in highly unsatisfactory circumstances.