Islandmagee boss Rollo backs his players to improve
As a man who began the summer with just one player on his books, Islandmagee manager Davie Rollo should be reasonably happy to have amassed five points this season.
However the man who took charge of the club from long-serving gaffer Stephen Donald believes there is room for improvement from his entirely new-look squad, and he also feels his players will prove it.
No-one knows better than Rollo just how large the size of the task he has taken on at Wilbourne Park. He played there under Donald, and even began his managerial career there as the second team manager.
“I knew (when I first accepted the post) that it was a massive job. I initially thought I didn’t want it. It is a full rebuilding job.
“Ducky (Donald) did a fantastic job here. He was down to the bare bones in the end, and when two of those retired, six followed him to Wellington Rec, three went to Barn United, one went to Shankill and one went to Larne Tech, I was only left with one player - Andy Thomas.
“I now I have signed up 47 players, although probably only about 35 of them are footballers really - some of them have never played in the Premier Division.
“I know the quality of the players we have lost, the Andy Phillips, Dee Loughs and Michael Moores. I know, because I played with them. But this is a fresh start. My team are all very young, all around 19 to 22-year-olds - the oldest is 27, but the team spirit is good and I know we can get better.”
The fact that the Islanders were unbeaten in the first four Premier Division games this season gave them the platform to build. However, that statistic can be flipped on its head to reveal a much more unsettling statistic: they have managed to go their first ten league games without a win.
Under such circumstances, there should be no pressure on the Islandmagee manager, but it is clear that after 12 years playing at Wilbourne Park, this is a club dear to his heart, and one he will be fighting tooth and nail to keep where he feels they belong, in the Premier Division. Any pressure that is there will be for the standards he sets for himself and his players.
These players are doubtless in the midst of a huge learning curve, but as long as Rollo continues to see progress in all areas of the pitch, he will be more than happy.
In former Bangor Amateurs goalkeeper Steven Cummings, Islandmagee have one of the most exciting prospects between the sticks in some time, but the manager has stressed the importance of his front-line making an early impact on games at the other end.
He said: "The boys have to realise that, at this level, if you don't score goals, and you concede one, that can be it. Very often there is no way back after that.
"People have said I am on a hiding to nothing here, but I have never considered relegation in any of the clubs I have been at. I do feel I have good enough players here to make sure that we don't have to think about it this season, either.
"We have been getting written off since I took over. They were saying we wouldn't get any points, but we drew our first four games. Hopefully we will be able to prove the doubters wrong all over again."