Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Time will tell if eastern promise can take Glentoran back to the top but treatment of Smyth and Leeman leaves a bad taste

Glenman: Gary Smyth and the obligatory picture of holding up a scarf at the Oval
Glenman: Gary Smyth and the obligatory picture of holding up a scarf at the Oval

By Billy Weir

I will hold my hands up straight away and admit I don't know Mick McDermott. I have never met him and, if I am being honest, had never heard tell of him until last week.

Mick is the new manager of Glentoran and good luck to him. He will need it.

The key part of that line is 'new manager of Glentoran'. It is a well-used sentence, far too well used if we're being honest, as this once-proud club lurches from one crisis to another with the long-term prospects of a lemming on the edge of a cliff who has spent the last few weeks training with Tom Daley.

Since Ronnie McFall's first tenure as boss came to an end in 1984, the Oval hotseat has been warmed by no fewer than 13 backsides, including his again for a brief spell last season and part of this.

More tellingly, though, since the turn of the decade when the late, great Alan McDonald stepped down in 2010, there have been seven new managers all holding the scarf above their head and getting that picture taken beside that board in the tunnel.

Scott Young, Eddie Patterson, Alan Kernaghan, Gary Haveron, Ronnie again and, finally, Gary Smyth have all been and gone and now a man with next to no experience of the domestic game, managerially certainly, has come in thanks to a bulging bag of gold from a mysterious man from the Middle East.

There is no confirmation as to whether Mick also has huge sacks of frankincense and myrrh at his disposal but the funny thing about when things seem too good to be true is that they often end up being just that.

I really hope I am wrong. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing a strong Glentoran battling for honours once again.

If someone comes along offering to wipe out your debts, pour in funds to help take you along the professional route and improve the crumbling edifice that is The Oval, then, on paper, it is a no-brainer.

I don't know the whole ins and outs of the deal, we have to take these people at their word, but I don't care how much of a no-brainer it is, you can't treat people of the quality of Smyth, Paul Leeman and Kieran Harding this way.

Three of the finest gentlemen it has been my privilege to deal with in my far too long covering the game; men who always had time for a word and who are dyed in the wool football men.

Smicker and Leeper are Glentoran legends. There are some consoling words coming out of the boardroom that the arrival of McDermott need not spell the end of their time at the club but the way this deal has come about leaves a very bad taste.

Everyone knew that neither man, as yet, had the necessary Uefa piece of paper to take the club into Europe so when they took over from Ronnie earlier in the season it was taken as read that Glentoran had washed their hands of playing continental football next year.

In fairness, that is far from guaranteed. They sit seventh at the moment but face a hell of a fight to finish there.

And that is just to get to the play-offs. Then they would face two games against teams in the top six with two wins required to try and justify bringing in McDermott, who starts his licence in the summer.

Given the Glens have won only one match against a top-six team all season, it is a tall order and, given how they have been treated, it speaks volumes for Smyth and Leeman that they continued to take training and managed the team in Saturday's defeat at Cliftonville.

No one would have blamed them had they said 'sod that for a game of soldiers', shoved two fingers up and stomped off, but it says so much about them that they stayed on and showed their love for the club.

Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson has spelt out why the decision was taken.

"The ambition of this club and the expectation of our shareholders and supporters can never fall below striving for European qualification each season," he said.

Strange then that they were muddling through this season without a manager in place to do that.

There was a fair deal of eyebrow raising when Kenny Bruce came in to Larne with his Purplebricks millions but that has been an unqualified success thus far.

However, Kenny is a Larne boy, born and bred, has ambition coupled with a genuine desire to see his hometown club and his home town flourish. This can't be levelled at the new regime at Glentoran.

McDermott said: "The timing of this investment couldn't be better; Crusaders and Larne have gone full-time and Linfield have recovered after a relatively poor few years.

"The investor is confident that we can deliver for Glentoran at the very highest level and bring full-time football to The Oval."

An olive branch has also been held out to Smyth and Leeman to stay on.

Chairman Henderson said: "It is part of our plan to give Gary and Paul the breathing space to acquire the qualifications required."

Personally, I would be telling the board to shove that branch right up their Persian Gulf, but they are more gentlemanly than me.

Keeping them on board would be a very good move on McDermott's part. They know the club inside out, have the fans on their side and have a wealth of knowledge on the game that no amount of money can buy. Rarely, though, does a new manager come in and keep the old coaching team in place, so we'll have to wait and see what happens there.

From the players' point of view, it is an awkward one too. What part will they play in this revolution? There is a promising crop of kids coming through, but with immediate dividends wanted on investment, who knows what awaits them.

It is rarely boring at Glentoran Football Club. A man from the east trying to invigorate the men from the east. Will it work out? Well, it would take a much wiser man than me to answer that one.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph