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Portadown boss Currie now relishing challenge of hottest seat in the game

By Stuart McKinley

For a moment it seemed like Niall Currie was going to go all Jose Mourinho. Sitting proudly displaying the Portadown Football Club badge on his tie, the new manager spoke of his pride at taking over the club he supported as a boy and his passion for it.

A broad smile broke across his face as he recalled his memories of standing on the terraces as a teenager watching the historic first league title triumph in 1990.

The new manager has a strong desire to turn back the clock and bring those days back to Shamrock Park, despite being far removed from the battle for the Gibson Cup at present.

Staying in the Premiership is the first task. And a big one too given that they are currently 13 points adrift at the bottom of the table.

The 44-year-old knows what he has let himself in for and he has the inner belief to take on the challenge, both short and long term.

"I think it's going to be really difficult until the end of the season," said Currie.

"We all realise that it's going to be a massive ask - but not impossible - but long term I think I'm the man.

"I can only do my best, but I think I am good. It's up to me to prove that to the supporters, but the supporters know where my heart is."

Currie didn't quite go as far as branding himself as a 'Special One', but keep Portadown in the top flight this season and it'll be others who will call him that.

He could have settled for the easy life. Ards are almost certain to stay up, while that is far from being the case with Portadown. Currie was also working for a chairman he described as being 'wonderful to me' and thanked Brian Adams after 'he did the right thing by letting me come home to Portadown'.

There was one thing pulling him to Portadown though.

"Heart," he said.

"It's as simple as that.

"It doesn't make sense mentally to anybody. I've been called bonkers, nuts, but it's just this club, the memories I have of being at this club and watching this club in the glory years with my friends.

"It's the pinnacle for me. I dreamt of this when I was starting out in my managerial career. Twelve years later it's finally happened.

"I'm probably mental for doing it. It's a massive challenge and I love a challenge. I have been at Ards for five and a half years and maybe I need rejuvenated again. Maybe it had become comfortable as well because I knew I was in a good place there."

Now Currie has taken on what he himself thought was an impossible task right from the moment that a 12-point deduction and a ban on signing professional players was imposed on the Ports in the spring as punishment for making undisclosed payments to players.

Currie believes he could save the Ports from relegation if he was allowed to sign pros, but fighting with his hands tied behind his back is much more difficult, and ultimately he wants to get the fans singing again.

"It's death by a thousand cuts," he said.

"Even when the penalty came out the first thing that came into my thoughts, as a manager of another club at that stage, was 'how do you survive that?'

"You are so limited in terms of what the market is in the Premiership. There is a huge difference between amateur players in the Championship and in the Premiership.

"We're on a sticky wicket with this transfer embargo. If there was no transfer embargo I would say right now we'll survive, but we are limited to what we can do and bring in.

"We've everything covered. Worst case scenario is covered and we have contingency plans in place, but we want to be positive and have a real rattle.

"It's a massive job, but if it goes right - and we think it can go right - and you can turn this club around then you can have thousands sitting in the stands. Get the club back to getting thousands through the doors.

"I remember big crowds, this town can bring massive crowds and I think we can get them back.

"The main thing is the potential. It might be a long road, but we'll give it everything we have. At least having a bit of passion again and let's get some songs from them."

Currie inadvertently let slip that he already had two players lined up to sign on when the January transfer window opens.

That's a month away, but Mark McAllister will be back in the squad at training tonight after being dumped in the reserves by former boss Pat McGibbon and he could play on Saturday away to Cliftonville.

"I think if you get a motivated Mark McAllister you have one of the best strikers in the country," said Currie.

"I don't think we can afford to put a player like that out in the cold.

"He's a quality footballer and we need all the quality footballers we can get."

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