Belfast Telegraph

Belief can inspire Mallards to shock success: Anderson


Back home: Whitey Anderson has flown in from America to cheer on the Mallards
Back home: Whitey Anderson has flown in from America to cheer on the Mallards
Whitey Anderson with Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

By Graham Luney

Former Ballinamallard United manager Whitey Anderson insists the Fermanagh men can produce one of the greatest Irish Cup shocks - provided they have belief.

The Mighty Ducks are hoping to become only the third second-tier side to rock top-flight opponents in the May showpiece after Dundela overcame Glenavon 3-0 in 1955 and Carrick Rangers humbled Linfield 2-1 in 1976.

Given the Mallards' poor start to the season, it would arguably be the biggest achievement of them all.

United have already made history by progressing to the decider for the first time but they are determined to clear one more giant hurdle.

Crusaders, who have embraced a new full-time culture this season, are red-hot favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2009 but Anderson is refusing to believe the Fermanagh fairytale has run its course.

The 57-year-old, who still coaches youth teams and is a life member of the Mallards, was manager of the Ferney Park men for more than 10 years before stepping down in 2016.

He steered United into the Premiership but they are now a Championship side as they prepare for the Windsor Park glamour game.

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Anderson has been following the "mind-blowing" progress of Harry McConkey's men in domestic football's premier knockout competition and he returned home from America, where he is currently coaching, yesterday so he can attend the historic game.

"Who knows, it's a two-horse race now and anything can happen in a Cup final," said Anderson. "Ballinamallard have momentum and their Cup run up to this point will fill them with confidence.

"Their form has been excellent and they aren't conceding a lot of goals in their competitive matches.

"Their preparation will be second to none and they will hope their game plan works.

"You can earn a bit of luck sometimes.

"There is no pressure on Ballinamallard, that's for sure.

"The players will believe they can win it.

"I always stressed as a manager that you can win any game and Harry will have the players believing they can do it.

"Of course they can win it, but it won't be easy.

"Ballinamallard do have experienced players and lads with youthful exuberance who might play their own game and not worry about it.

"It's an intriguing final and if you don't believe you can win it there's no point in playing the game.

"I've no doubt the lads will be prepared and it won't be straightforward for Crusaders."

Anderson views this Irish Cup final journey as a huge reward for everyone who has worked tirelessly for the club.

"I think it's a great reward for all the people at the club who have worked so hard over the years," he added.

"If you reach the final you deserve to be there, it doesn't matter what team you are.

"I thought it was mind-blowing.

"I can remember getting to the Premier League in 2012 and that was a unique situation.

"It was special to bring Premier League football to Fermanagh for the first time in 125 years.

"This is also unique. It's the biggest day in local football and a great occasion.

"Since the club was reformed in 1975, a lot of people who worked for the club are still there.

"It will be an emotional and proud occasion for everyone.

"The players and fans must enjoy the day because it will live long in the memory.

"Win the final and it will never be forgotten.

"It was mind-blowing getting into the final and I'm not sure how you would describe European football if that happened!"

Anderson will decide in the summer whether he wants to prolong his American adventure or pack his bags again.

"I originally came out to Michigan in 2017 and I've been in and out for two years," added Anderson.

"Another opportunity arose in South Carolina where the weather is far warmer.

"I'm here until June and will then weigh things up whether to stay or return to Northern Ireland.

"I'm with a local club called Nasa in Charleston, a lovely part of the world.

"The plan is to coach high school boys' teams and do a bit of coach education.

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be here, it's something different and a new lifestyle.

"It was a big challenge for me to go back to youth soccer and although I only intended to go across for a few weeks, things developed.

"I'm now looking forward to seeing a few good friends on Saturday.

"It will be a special and emotional occasion for everyone connected with the club."

Belfast Telegraph


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