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Portadown boss Niall Currie homing in on success but there will be no quick fix

By Stuart McKinley

A few weeks ago I wrote under the headline 'It's difficult to comprehend how one club can continue making so many high-profile mistakes'.

That was in late October after Portadown played Robert Garrett in a win over Ards when he should have been serving a suspension.

That followed a ban on signing professionals and a 12-point penalty for making undisclosed payments to players and getting suspended from all football activity for failure to pay a fine in time. Ports fans were left wondering just what could go wrong next, particularly when losing another three points over the Garrett error was the last thing they needed.

Now, however, the club has got it right.

Making the right appointment to succeed Pat McGibbon was key to the very existence of the club and making Niall Currie the new manager is the smartest move they've made in a long time.

The Ports could have gone for a former fan favourite in 1991 double winner Paul Doolin; a boss with vast experience, albeit not in the Irish League, in Roddy Collins; or a young, hungry and enthusiastic coach for the 21st century in David Johnstone.

We'll never know how well those three would have done, but stuck at the foot of the Premiership table and still on a minus points total at the halfway stage of the season, now is not the time for sentiment, experiments or inexperience.

Instead the Ports have gone for exactly the manager that they need for the situation that they are in.

A manager who knows all about the lower half of the Premiership table is where it's at for the Ports now if they are going to defy the odds and maintain their top flight status next season.

There is a bit of a standing joke around the Irish League about how many players Niall Currie signs in every transfer window. Far from a scattergun approach though, if you look at Ards he has steadily improved his squad, brought in players who are better than what he had and shown the mean streak that managers need by moving on those who have served their purpose.

Most importantly for Portadown, if the fight for survival is lost they have the perfect man in place to get them back into the Premiership as quickly as possible.

Currie has won the Championship FOUR times and, if needs be, he'll be more fancied to make it five next season than any of the other contenders for the job.

18 months ago Ards chairman Brian Adams was coming under pressure as the team struggled in the top flight. Asked would Currie's future be under consideration if they went down he said: "Why would I even think about sacking the best man to get us out of the Championship?"

He was proved right, and there isn't another manager better equipped to do the same job for Portadown if they do end up in the second tier.

Coming from Portadown and being a boyhood Ports fan doesn't mean anything in terms of how well Currie will do the job - let's face it, if it was that easy then everyone could be a manager. What it does mean, however, is that Currie will place extra demands on himself to deliver.

Ronnie McFall was the same in that he was a born and bred Portadown man who set himself high standards, but the targets for Currie are very different.

No longer are Cliftonville, Crusaders, Glenavon, Glentoran, Linfield the big games for the Ports.

The ones they have to win now are against Ballinamallard United and Carrick Rangers if they are going to stay up - points against the top teams are a bonus.

Long term Currie will be targeting trophies with the Ports, but that is a LONG way off.

He and Portadown need to think short term, see where they are at the end of the season, work to either make sure they aren't in another relegation battle or ensure a return to the Premiership at the first time of asking and then build gradually.

That might not be what the fans want to hear, but it's going to take a few years for Portadown to be anywhere near where they were a decade ago, and if Currie can improve season-by-season as he has done at Ards, then it could be worth the wait.

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