Belfast Telegraph

Nacho Novo Glentoran deal spices up Irish League... now Novo and other big signings must shine

By Steven Beacom

Nacho Novo's stunning move to Glentoran has got people talking.

And not just the usual suspects who discuss summer Irish League transfers in pubs, supporters clubs or online.

Others with no interest in going to the Oval, Solitude or Seaview and more keen on watching games in England and Scotland are suddenly checking out the 2016/2017 Danske Bank Premiership fixture list.

Former Rangers idol Nacho has certainly spiced things up.

And he's not the only one.

New Linfield players Roy Carroll and Sammy Clingan are big names too as is Paddy McCourt who will wear a Glenavon shirt in places like Ballinamallard and Dungannon in the coming season.

All three have excelled for Northern Ireland as well as at club level at different stages and remain popular figures here for what they have achieved in their careers.

Who knows, maybe another famous face will arrive on the scene to join the fab four before the Irish League kicks-off on Saturday week.

Perhaps Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey could persuade his old buddy Ally McCoist to come out of retirement! That's a joke by the way.

Mind you, when word spread that Novo was going to the Oval most people thought it was a wind-up too.

Make no mistake about it, these are exciting times for the Irish League compared with the apathy which has smothered local football down the years.

Novo, Carroll, Clingan and McCourt aren't the only top guns for hire to come and play Irish League football.

Legendary Newcastle and England striker Jackie Milburn joined Linfield in 1957 for instance - a bit like Wayne Rooney signing for the Blues today - while a few years ago Keith Gillespie turned out for the Glens. Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill also had a spell at the Oval when his playing career was winding down.

He was a major influence on the youngsters in the dressing room and you hope that the fab four follow that lead.

They can be inspirational figures for their team-mates, especially the kids and make them become better players, improving the Irish League in the process and potentially helping more teenagers make moves across the water.

If they see our game as a chance to take home easy money and stroll about the pitch as if they own it, however, that's where problems can start amongst frustrated team-mates and angry fans.

I've known Carroll for decades and believe he will put 100% effort in. Clingan and McCourt are genuine characters too.

And Novo's attitude impressed when he was unveiled as a Glenman in east Belfast earlier this week.

It is the fitness factor for the outfield players that would be the biggest concern.

Novo is 37 now and while given his previous record you may think he'd take the Irish League by storm, he won't do that if he is huffing and puffing around the pitch.

He must get match fit and quickly. Defenders like Crusaders skipper Colin Coates won't stand on ceremony allowing him time to entertain the masses.

On an estimated £1,000 per week, financed by various Glentoran supporters clubs and private firms, the ex-Ibrox striker will have to prove his worth, as will Carroll, Clingan and McCourt, who aren't playing for peanuts, with both Linfield and Glenavon using the cash gained from European qualification to pay for their services.

All four will bring more spectators to games with Novo in particular adding extra money at the turnstiles, but if they aren't performing, the turn-on of seeing a star like Nacho will very quickly become a turn-off.

And it wouldn't do the Irish League any favours either.

Let's hope having Nacho and the others in our game proves to be as tasty as it appears.

Belfast Telegraph


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