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King working on restoring a winning mentality at Islandmagee

By Martin Mawhinney

Published 21/02/2016

Islandmagee manager Stephen King
Islandmagee manager Stephen King

It may have taken Islandmagee until the weekend to land their first league win of the season – but the club’s new manager Stephen King is determined to ensure that is merely the first step on the road to a much happier future ahead at Wilbourne Park.

The Islanders have suffered a difficult season so far in the wake of Stephen Donald’s decision to step down after nine years in charge at the end of the previous campaign. Indeed, King is the club’s THIRD manager of 2015/16, and has even revealed that he turned the post down when it was offered to him back in November.

However, after a second approach last month, King admits he had a change of heart – and is glad that he did.

The Islandmagee boss stated: “I was enjoying things in Division 2C as manager of Grange Rangers. It was a similar idea, a rebuilding job, things were going well and I wanted to be loyal to them.

“But after I turned the Islandmagee job down the first time, I found myself always looking out for their results, so it made me feel honoured when they came back to ask again.

“I’m only 30, but I am ambitious, and these types of opportunities don’t come around every day. I am basically moving up seven divisions, but there is no pressure on me. There may have been a bit more of that on the last two managers, but now the season is maybe a write-off. ”

That may initially sound defeatist, but King is anything but – a fact surely underlined by masterminding that landmark 3-2 victory at Derriaghy CC over the weekend. It is simply a sense of realism, considering the Islanders have only nine points and nine games remaining to get themselves out of the bottom two, when the teams above them have almost double the number of games left.

King continued: “It’s a massive job. I probably didn’t realise just how big until I arrived. Everyone seems to have an interest in how we are getting on, I keep seeing people commenting on forums and social media… I haven’t been used to so much attention before.

“I won’t accept anything (in terms of relegation) unless it becomes mathematically impossible to stay up – but my first aim is to make us competitive again. Before I came here, Islandmagee were losing games 8-0, 7-1 and 9-0. Results have been getting much better, and even before the weekend we got a 0-0 with Derriaghy and the league leaders Ards Rangers were only 3-2  up against us until the 80th minute (the game ended 5-2 ), so there have definitely been signs of improvement.

“The thing is, among our last nine games, we have to play Immaculata twice, and Albert Foundry, Shankill United, Crumlin Star, Crumlin United and Ards Rangers – all teams that will be fighting for the title. It will be really tough, but we will keep battling. ”

The dream scenario would be to retain Islandmagee’s place in the top flight, but ultimately, King wants to attract players to the club that share his vision and drive to restore it to its former place as one of the main contenders in this ever-competitive Premier Division – even if that means fighting their way back up from Division 1A.

He added: “We have got to rebuild the squad, along with what’s already there. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I want to have Islandmagee up at the right end of the table again.”   

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