David Jeffrey: Gary Hamilton is putting family first at Glenavon with his proud community service
Every club in the country wants to portray themselves as family orientated.
It’s a great image for sponsors and only enhances the gate on a Saturday afternoon.
Yet during my time at Linfield, Ards and Larne as either a player, coach or manager I saw most Irish League clubs try their best, but ultimately fail to tempt large numbers of families into their grounds.
The traditional football support of adult males was very much the norm.
Glenavon, though, have bucked the trend, certainly on my experience at Mourneview Park last weekend.
Having been invited to the game by a couple of close friends, I watched the Glenavon v Linfield match in the Lurgan Blues end, behind the goals.
Apart from being a fantastic spectacle of a match, what pleased me the most was the number of young fans in attendance.
There was even a mother holding a baby no older than, I would say, 12 weeks.
Lads of five, six and seven years of age were scattered amongst the home support, many of them having a great time kicking a ball about at the bottom of the stands.
Wives, girlfriends and mums were thoroughly enjoying the occasion.
There were plenty of teenagers involved in good natured banter, many of them copying the chants of the older supporters and it just came across as good fun. A terrific atmosphere that emphasised football at Glenavon was for all.
I was most impressed.
As a manager of football your priority at a club is usually focused on the playing staff and making sure you secure a win out on the pitch.
But I could see clearly that Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has a stamp on everything at Mourneview, including making sure his beloved club remains family friendly.
It’s been well documented that he grew up watching Glenavon, going to the games with his family and it was an experience he fondly remembers.
At a break during the game, home supporters were encouraged to donate a few pounds to help injured starlet James Singleton through his time out with a broken leg.
The person going round with a bucket wasn’t a steward or board member, but one of Hamilton’s players — Kyle Neill. Kyle’s presence and interaction with the fans, from what I could see, encouraged the supporters to dig deeper into their pockets for James.
When I asked Gary after the match who organised the collection, he simply said it was himself.
Gary had invited me to come and have a chat with him post match and I was pleasantly surprised as I walked ‘back stage’.
The ladies of the club had put on the most magnificent spread for members, players were mingling and there was a real community feel.
It’s been often said that Gary has improved the club immeasurably on the pitch but, from what I could see, he, and, of course, the board that includes chairman Adrian Teer, has done just as good a job off it.
Glenavon are playing really good football and in Daniel Kearns they have a terrific player. Last week against Linfield he was outstanding — his touch, vision and movement were all top drawer.
He gave a totally committed performance and even in the 92nd minute he was still chasing down a Linfield player. A manager loves that.
Now the question is can Glenavon afford to keep him as his deal is up in January? I would certainly be pulling out all the stops to make sure I had enough money in the kitty to keep him at Mourneview Park.
He’s really enjoying his time in Lurgan which comes as absolutely no surprise to me as Hamilton has created a culture where players and coaches want to come to the club.
William Murphy couldn’t speak highly enough about Glenavon when he was there, Lee Doherty was the same while Bryan McLaughlin is thoroughly enjoying his time there and goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey tells me how well the club is run.
Players are given decent contracts, payments are on time and it’s simply an enjoyable place to play your football.
No wonder the late, great Sunday Life football writer Gordon Hanna was a supporter of this fabulous club.
Glenavon are certainly indicative of the man he was.
Belfast Telegraph Digital