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Portadown legends call on fans to help steer the club to calmer waters

By Graham Luney

Published 14/10/2016

Only way is up: Portadown legend Richard Clarke saddened by the club’s fall from grace
Only way is up: Portadown legend Richard Clarke saddened by the club’s fall from grace

Portadown legends Philip Major and Richard Clarke say the club's fans have a massive part to play in digging Pat McGibbon's men out of their deepening crisis.

The mid-Ulster side are in serious danger of saying goodbye to their Danske Bank Premiership status after losing two battles with the Irish FA Appeals Board.

A 12-point deduction for making irregular payments to players will remain in place, while Coleraine were awarded a 3-0 victory from the postponed Premiership fixture between the clubs in August when the Ports were suspended from all football activity for non-payment of a fine.

The huge points deduction was imposed after they were found to have paid former player Peter McMahon while he was registered as an amateur and it means the Ports remain rooted to the bottom of the Premiership on minus six points, 10 points adrift of Carrick Rangers.

Portadown were also fined and hit with a transfer embargo, preventing the club from signing players on professional terms until June 2017, after irregularities were found in payments made to former striker Gary Twigg.

Major and Clarke are stunned by the club's fall from grace but they hope supporters can somehow keep the faith.

Major, who won four league championships with the club, said: "I feel for the players and particularly the fans as they are usually loyal to the club through the good and bad times.

"They turn out every week, including when the club was in the Championship, so they bear the brunt of this mess.

"While I feel for Pat, he must have had some awareness of what he was walking into and I like the way he has managed the club. He has made big calls like in the Sean Mackle and Mark McAllister situation. Portadown's problem was that so many top players left.

"This isn't the Portadown team of 10 or 20 years ago and they may not have the quality to stay in the Premiership.

"If there is a positive in this depressing story there is perhaps an opportunity for the club to bleed a few young players and they can help shape the club's future. I'm concerned about Portadown's future in the Premiership but it's a provincial club that puts the town on the map and, like Glentoran, you don't expect it to die as too many people care about it."

Clarke, who steered Portadown to one league title and two Irish Cups triumphs, said he hoped the fans would not walk away. "I've spoken to a number of fans and they feel naturally very frustrated and disillusioned. There's one thing after another which is disheartening for them," said the Dergview boss.

"I can only hope that Pat can somehow galvanise his players to come out fighting on the pitch and turn things around. They could be playing against us in the Championship next season, but hopefully that doesn't happen and they can turn a corner. Even if the club could secure a play-off spot to avoid relegation, it would offer some hope.

"You can understand why people say it is a shambles and it hurts me to know that a club that was so successful when I played there is in this difficult period. It's hard to understand how this fall from grace could have happened as chairman Roy McMahon is a good man.

"I spent close to 17 years at Portadown so it's a special club in my eyes and I always look out for their results. I know the fans are annoyed but hopefully they don't walk away from the club. I hope they get behind Pat and the players."

Belfast Telegraph

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