The F Factor: Haveron is on a mission to make Glens feared again
Billy Weir: Every Thursday, frank, funny, fearless and always on the ball on the Irish League
I'll put my hand up straight away and admit to being one of the leading members of G.A.S. No, not what you may be thinking, rather the Gary Appreciation Society, an exclusive club dedicated to all things Haveron.
He was a manager's dream. By his own admission he wasn't the best player in the world but, dreadful cliché that it is, he always gave 100 per cent and has gone down in folklore at Ballymena United for his tackle. Please, stop sniggering at the back.
Get onto YouTube and search for 'Gary Haveron Linfield tackle' and you will see a crunching effort that startled sheep dandering on top of Slemish and is still talked about in hushed tones by the Sky Blue faithful.
He is a journalist's dream. As a player he always stopped for a word, well, several thousand of them, and he's no different as a manager. Courteous, informative and with passion for football cascading from every pore, he is doing something weird - he has people talking about Glentoran again.
And in a good way, not the never-ending saga of crisis following crisis, managerial turmoil, squabbles and wobbles. And how does the nicest guy in football want to repay us all? By getting nasty and making The Oval a horrible place to come.
"I said whenever I got this job that I felt Glentoran had lost the fear factor. I played in a generation when Glentoran turned up and it was like, 'Will we take a draw now?' and you probably would have done," he said.
"Linfield had that fear factor too, and I suppose the Crues have it a little bit as well when you would take a result before a ball is kicked, but I felt we had lost that as a club and nobody feared Glentoran anymore.
"They may not fear us yet but I think they'll start to respect us."
It's hard not to respect them at the moment, and there was a magnificent moment during Saturday's 3-1 win at Ballymena when he took the brave decision to take off James Knowles only 11 minutes into the second half.
The midfielder was less than enamoured with the decision and made the unwise move of showing his displeasure when passing his manager and stomping towards the dug-out only to be stopped in his tracks and given the Haveron hairdryer treatment, before he slumped off crestfallen to consider the error of his ways.
Personally I like it when a player does take the hump and I imagine, inwardly, Gary does too as it shows there is a bit of fight and passion in there, and that can only help the team going forward.
Of course he couldn't show that, and it was bizarre to hear an opposing manager being told, 'Well said, big Gary' by the home fans when delivering a rollicking to a visiting player, but like I say, he'll always be a hero down Slemish way, sheep and supporters alike.
The Glens are not the finished article, they're nowhere near it yet and Gary is acutely aware of that, but Saturday was telling. They won by battling and not playing that well, something that Glens teams in recent years haven't been able to do.
"When I was applying for the job, I came here to watch a game when I was in the interviewing process and they were 1-0 up at half-time and got beaten 4-1, I think that maybe tells a tale of how far we've come in a very short space of time," he said after Saturday's game.
Making The Oval a fortress is also on his list of horrible things to do.
That will be given its sternest test thus far when Coleraine come to town on Saturday, but after all the doom and gloom and predictions of a miserable season ahead, the Glens are up there again and that can only be good for the game as a whole.
And talking of horrible bosses, no finer example of winning mentality came across town on Saturday from David Healy.
You have to spare a thought for Jordan Stewart trotting off the pitch, more than content with his day's work, three goals notched up and thinking just how do you get a Size 5 ball to balance on a mantelpiece?
Not so fast. He was brought quickly back down to earth by Linfield manager Healy, a man who is no stranger to bagging a hat-trick at Windsor Park, although in fairness he was only playing Spain and not up against Ballinamallard.
"The gaffer is a hard taskmaster. Yes, he was delighted with the hat-trick, but he was talking about the chances I missed rather than the ones I scored," said Stewart.
With managers like these, you start to feel sorry for the players. Or maybe not.
Billy tackles... Curtis Allen
In the words of Henry Kelly, ‘I’m back in the game’, after seeing off the challenge of Ards’ winger Jonny Frazer at the weekend.
A 6-4 win for yours truly, thanks to a perfect 2-1 prediction of Dungannon Swifts’ win over Warrenpoint Town, plus wins for Linfield, Glenavon and Coleraine, but fair dues to Jonny as he also correctly called a 3-0 win for the Bannsiders against Carrick Rangers.
But it was still a one-way ticket to Loserville for him, and next up, fresh from scoring his 934th goal against Ballymena United (or it just seems like that) is Glentoran striker Curtis Allen.
The usual rules apply, predicting the results of the five Danske Bank Premiership games that the Glens are not involved in, with three points for getting the result spot on and one for the correct outcome.
Warrenpoint Town v Linfield
Warrenpoint is a tough enough place to go, especially on a Friday night, but I think with the quality that Linfield they will win. A lot will depend on whether Darren Murray will play or whether he’s suspended. Without him I can’t really see Warrenpoint scoring.
Allen prediction: 0-3
Weir prediction: 1-4
Carrick Rangers v Cliftonville
Cliftonville are struggling a wee touch and conceding goals and Carrick are struggling a bit too and maybe not getting as much luck as they had hoped. I think it will be a tight enough game and Carrick would be happy enough with a draw if you offered it, but you expect Cliftonville to click in sooner rather than later with results as I think they’ll have too much for them.
Allen prediction: 0-2
Weir prediction: 1-3
Crusaders v Dungannon Swifts
This should be a tight game too, especially after the Crues drawing last week against Ards, but Dungannon aren’t a bad side and have a bit of quality there, and on the 4G pitch it probably suits Dungannon to play a bit. But you’ve got to expect Crusaders to bounce back after drawing.
Allen prediction: 3-1
Weir prediction: 4-2
Glenavon v Ards
Glenavon are doing really well, and Ards are a bit in and out although they had a good result last week against the Crues. I think they’ll go there and try and make it hard for Glenavon, but the way Glenavon play and the intensity they put in I think they’ll come away pretty easy enough winners. Andy Mitchell has started really well and to be honest they can score goals from anywhere. You have to go there and try and attack them because if you sit back at all you’re going to struggle, and it’s one of those games where you have to try and go and win.
Allen prediction: 3-0
Weir prediction: 2-1
Ballinamallard Utd v Ballymena Utd
It’s a tough enough trip to Ballinamallard even though they’re struggling but Ballymena need the points too. I think if Ballymena produce what they did against us last weekend they will have enough to win but I think it will be close.
Allen prediction: 1-2
Weir prediction: 1-3
Season standings: Weir 2 Players 2
Out on the wing
Record breaker Ben is a name to remember
REMEMBER the name… Ben Wilson, as Clive Tyldesley might have said had he been at Ballycastle Road on Tuesday evening as Coleraine edged out Moyola Park to reach the final of the North West Cup.
It didn’t look to be the case as Park led 2-0, only for Wilson to make his own little piece of history by halving the deficit late on, and in doing so at the ripe old age of 15 became the Bannsiders’ youngest-ever goalscorer.
For the record, Coleraine equalised ever later and then won in extra-time to book a final date with Limavady United thanks to a goal from Steven Douglas, and I stand to be corrected but I believe the Bay City Rollers were No.1 when he turned 15 — only joking Dougie!
But watch out for Ben, the Derry schoolboy is very highly-rated and yet another of Kearney’s kids to keep an eye on.
All aboard for goals but mind the gap
The Toals Co Antrim Shield certainly produced plenty of goals on Tuesday night.
No fewer than 37 goals were scored but, perhaps rather worryingly, there wasn’t a sniff of a shock, with Championship sides only managing three goals in the six games against top level opposition.
Amateur League outfit Crumlin Star bagged two against Glentoran but elsewhere there were more blanks than a Territorial Army dominoes championship, which makes you wonder is there a huge gap growing between the top two divisions?
Swifts’ Ryan delivers on and off the pitch
IT was quite a weekend for Dungannon Swifts captain Ryan Harpur — on and off the pitch.
Not only did the midfielder score a goal for the Stangmore men in their win over Warrenpoint Town, he had some even better news when he became a daddy.
He and wife Jenna took delivery of a beautiful baby girl, Margot, on Monday, weighing in at 6lb 7oz and we wish all three of them well.
As for Ryan, well, you can take the footballer out of the delivery room but not the other way round, as his reaction was, as you would expect, ‘over the moon’.