Belfast Telegraph

Portadown's Ronnie McFall got it spot-on over Darren Murray transfer saga

By Graham Luney

If you're wearing a hat at the moment, take it off for Ronnie McFall and Portadown.

The Ports have played a blinder in the transfer saga of the summer and the outcome has surprised us all.

I know our domestic game never fails to serve up a few shocks but Darren Murray's decision to withdraw his transfer request is a fascinating twist in the intriguing tale.

A few weeks ago it looked like Darren's Portadown career was over but manager McFall pulled off a masterstroke, demonstrating all the qualities and experience which explain why legendary Linfield boss David Jeffrey calls his pal the 'Godfather of the Irish League'.

It's amazing how the mood music changed at Shamrock Park.

Darren's soundtrack of the summer, as he dreamed of a new beginning, could have been The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?' or more likely, Engelbert Humperdinck's 'Please Release Me.. Let Me Go'.

In the case of McFall, it was more like The Eagles' Hotel California.. 'You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!'

When a player expresses a desire to leave a club that is usually what happens, but not always.

Two high-profile examples would be former Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard who was pursued by Chelsea and Wayne Rooney when he wanted to leave Manchester United, claiming he was unhappy about playing in midfield.

In the case of Raheem Sterling, his relationship with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers broke down. Fast forward to today and United goalkeeper David de Gea appears to have his heart set on a move to Real Madrid - so much so that boss Louis van Gaal thinks he cannot do a proper job for United.

A manager not being able to rely on one of the best goalkeepers in the world? It's a funny old game!

Cliftonville have earned a lot of prizemoney in the last few seasons but I'm quietly confident they cannot afford a huge £12m signing-on fee if Darren is prepared to see out his contract with the Ports!

When Murray emailed a transfer request and gave an interview explaining his reasons for wanting to leave Portadown it seemed a separation was inevitable.

Darren said a switch to a Belfast club such as Cliftonville or Linfield would give him a better chance of sealing a professional deal across the water but I'm not convinced that argument holds much water.

Yes, Rory Donnelly, Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley earned a move from the Reds but that was because they are special talents, regardless of the colour of their jersey.

Ironically, Darren is on a trial with Inverness this week after just completing one at Morton and several English and Scottish clubs are monitoring him.

All this on the back of his performances for Portadown.

Darren's agent, Gerry Carlisle, has excellent contacts in the game so he knows clubs will be fully aware of his talents.

And like Glentoran's Jordan Stewart the lad can be confident that if he keeps working hard and improving he will be rewarded.

But I've got to applaud Ronnie and the Ports for the way they have dealt with this issue.

They could have given Darren the cold shoulder but, instead, they made it clear to him how much they wanted him at the club.

Ronnie had to play it tough.

The chances of him bringing in a striker of Murray's quality is virtually zero and selling the player to Cliftonville would only strengthen one of their biggest rivals for silverware.

McFall's managerial career started at Glentoran back in 1979 and the longest serving boss in European football may walk off into the sunset at the end of this season.

He wants to leave on a high and a 23-year-old striker, if he can't secure a move to England or Scotland this month, can help him do that.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph