Belfast Telegraph

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall must rally his troops says

By Scott Young

Ronnie McFall is an Irish League legend. One of the greats of football in Northern Ireland. I have always had respect for him, but years ago the truth is I didn't like him.

Back then I was playing for Glentoran and he was, as he is now, manager of Portadown, one of our fiercest rivals.

The Big Two derby between the Glens and Linfield was THE game to be involved in. Our meetings with the Ports weren't far behind though.

There was no love lost between the teams, most of the matches boiled over and there was a sense that it wasn't just points at stake, there was pride in getting one over THEM.

We hated each other and I always felt some of that ill feeling came from Ronnie.

He may have been a successful manager of Glentoran years before, but I was under the impression we were the team he loved to beat more than the rest and it made for some explosive contests between two very good teams.

There is still rivalry between the teams now, though it is nowhere near what it was because both clubs have become also rans in the title race when back then we were in the thick of it.

In this new column for the Belfast Telegraph, I will tell people how it was, how it is, give my opinion and hold nothing back, hence the reason I have no problem in writing that when his team were going toe-to-toe with mine, I couldn't stand Ronnie McFall.

Things have changed since. I have got to know him much better in recent years and I have become very fond of him. He is a straight talker, a winner and a nice guy and someone who you can learn a lot from given his incredible experience in the game.

At present I feel for him.

On Saturday in the defeat to Crusaders, some Ports supporters unfurled a banner at Shamrock Park calling for him to leave the club he has managed for almost 30 years. There were boos and jeers in his direction.

I've been through something like that myself, and no matter how thick skinned you are, that abuse and criticism will get to you.

Ronnie McFall will know exactly what is going on and he will know he is under severe pressure from a section of his own support. It's not the first time some fans have wanted him out. After all, he hasn't been successful for all 30 years of his time at Portadown, but that doesn't make it any easier to take.

The problem for Ronnie will be if results continue to be poor, that small section will grow and the boo boys will become greater in number and even louder and negativity will flow right through the club.

Last week the Portadown board made a point of saying that Ronnie would be staying until the end of the season. I believe they took that stand to show a man who has won league titles and cups galore for the club the respect they felt he was due, but it did strike me as surprising because what happens if Portadown keep on losing?

The statement certainly didn't stop the booing on Saturday and it didn't stop the team from losing either.

I watched the Ports a couple of weeks ago against Cliftonville and the longer the game wore on the more I thought Portadown were not playing like a Ronnie McFall team.

They lacked passion and character and their quality individual players didn't turn up. I wasn't impressed by their fitness levels either.

Obviously McFall is under scrutiny, but I would say that it is time we looked at his under-performing players. They could do a lot worse than look at themselves in the mirror and ask 'did I really give everything I've got today?'

Anyone who says Portadown don't have the players any more is talking rubbish. They have quality and experience and it is about time they started showing it out on the pitch. Players like David Miskelly, Keith O'Hara, Robert Garrett, Michael Gault and Gary Twigg are all big characters. They should be pulling everyone together saying it's time we started performing.

The only way out of this mess for Portadown is to start winning. They have played 14 league games this season and lost seven of them. That's nowhere near good enough. The fans and manager deserve better.

Ronnie has done so much for Portadown he deserves time to try and ride this storm out, until the New Year at least, but if the team keeps losing and more and more fans start calling for his head, if the board won't make a decision, he will have a huge call to make himself.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph