Oran Kearney wants his Coleraine men to stay on big stage
Oran Kearney will send his Coleraine team into battle with Linfield tomorrow with the message that they have to compete with the Blues if they are to move to the next level.
Kearney has been in charge at the Showgrounds for just over five years and in that time he has carried out a major overhaul of the squad while also progressing up the Premiership table at a time when the club is still recovering from financial meltdown in the late 2000s.
They comfortably made the top six for the first time in three seasons, but matching their fourth-placed finish of 2012 - which was Kearney's first full season in charge - is a big ask with Glenavon currently eight points clear and only four matches to go.
Having spent five years as a player at Linfield, Kearney has the mentality that you always have to be looking for the next challenge and the next one for him and his team is to be regulars in the top four and in the mix for trophies.
"It's been a rollercoaster five years, but I feel there has been a massive progression. It's clear," said Kearney.
"There has been a huge transition both on and off the pitch in the last five years and one which I take a great deal of pride in and one that I feel we have really stabilised and we really have a future now.
"We have the most amount of local players that we have ever had and there is a real identity about the club these days.
"We are into that final part now where we need to be winning big games and getting big days out - that's the next thing that we have to aspire to.
"We have to try to get to the next level and that's not easy.
"There is one way to do it and that's by spending money, but we don't have the capabilities to do that."
Kearney has earned credit for blooding youngsters Lyndon Kane, Brad Lyons and Jamie McGonigle and turning them into regular starters.
He has also put faith in Rodney Brown, Mark Edgar and Chris Johns, bringing the latter two to the club after they came home from England.
The Bannsiders boss, however, isn't hiding behind any suggestions that he can't win anything with kids and is challenging those young players to go on and be successful.
"We have three or four lads who are 18-years-old, when they are 19 or 20 hopefully they'll have enough to go and kick on," said Kearney.
"We have to build it this way, we have not other choice.
"I don't think it will be years away, I think with every year the young lads are getting older and if we look at them in two or three years time they are going to be fantastic players at this level, but it's not about two or three years time - I might not be here then - it's about doing enough to keep moving forward and progressing."