Belfast Telegraph

If only our game had more players like Glenn Ferguson

By Graham Luney

Ballymena United move in mysterious ways. You would have expected the club to kick on after they won the County Antrim Shield last season.

Surely the confidence gained from that fairytale moment – the first piece of silverware grasped by the club in 23 years – would have resulted in the Sky Blues shooting up the table.

Bizarrely, the Braidmen have failed to build on that trophy success.

Now it's impossible to escape the irony of one of the greatest strikers in the history of Irish League football struggling to get his players to hit the onion bag.

Friday night's 1-0 loss at Ballinamallard means that Glenn Ferguson's side have not scored a league goal in more than five hours of football.

There have been disappointing league defeats to Glenavon, Ards, Cliftonville, Linfield, Warrenpoint Town and now the Mallards.

United lie in 10th position with only 10 points. Second from bottom Warrenpoint, who held Portadown at the weekend, are two points behind Spike's men and have them in their sights.

On the long journey back from Fermanagh, Ferguson will have had plenty of time to analayse where his plans came apart at Ferney Park.

So with us now being into the sacking season, are the Sky Blues going to change their manager?

There are far too many intelligent people at United for any kind of crazy knee-jerk reaction like that.

Ferguson knows it's a results based business and he must try to fix the problem. Meanwhile, I think most of the rest of us are looking on with a clear understanding of how lonely and difficult a job managing a football club is.

It's not easy. We may all think we can do it, but we're talking nonsense most of the time. Ferguson spent most of his playing career in dressing rooms that were packed with players who have a winning mentality, players who knew what it takes to win matches, cups and league titles.

Just as Manchester United legend Roy Keane discovered when he went into management, not all the modern day players are willing to sweat for the cause in the way he did.

Ferguson has been searching high and low for players who can improve his side but where are they? I'm starting to feel this is a question which is taking on increasing importance in the Irish League.

Just as we ask where is the next David Healy coming from at international level, we should be asking where is the next 21-year-old Glenn Ferguson going to come from?

Is our production line breaking down? Other than Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley, how many other young players are breaking through that look capable of becoming heroes and legends?

There are plenty of talented players in the Irish League and the standard of the game is much higher than many critics claim but I'm looking for fresh faces who can really hit the big time.

We are constantly told that Glentoran are one of the biggest teams in the country but where is their modern day equivalent of Cleary, Caskey, Morrison, Macartney, Jameson? Surnames are only necessary when you've made it into the hall of fame.

Linfield legend Ferguson isn't the only manager hunting for born winners like these legends but it's a painstaking search.

Life was very different 20, 30 and 40 years ago. Sometimes I think that if George Best was given access to an iPhone, Xbox and PlayStation he might never have ventured along the road to greatness with a ball at his feet.

Maybe before we start hammering managers and call for them to be sacked, we should acknowledge that players need to take responsibility for their performances. They can retreat into the shadows while the manager is left to explain why they bottled it.

Ferguson is still learning the managerial game and let's not forget his side are only two games away from retaining the trophy they won last season.

Finding players who possess the right talent, attitude and winning mentality is the shared goal but I fear that mission has never been more difficult.

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