Carrick will rely on hope and home comforts to avoid relegation: Currie
Carrick Rangers should not be in the Danske Bank Premiership this season. They are one year ahead of schedule.
Put that down to manager Niall Currie, who is a master of winning promotion to the top flight, and his committed players, who showed immense character last term.
Larne were always going to go up from the Championship, but Currie's old club Portadown were supposed to follow them, not Carrick. Rangers finished second in the regular season and defeated third-placed Portadown to earn a promotion/relegation play-off with Ards.
Currie's team were underdogs but showed bite and bottle to beat Currie's old team home and away.
How the vociferous Amber Army revelled in the success after losing their Premiership status to Newry in the play-offs the year before.
Carrick's promotion was hugely impressive and perhaps Currie and his side didn't receive all the credit they richly deserved for their efforts.
They certainly will this season if they stay up because that will be viewed as an even bigger miracle.
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Home form at the Loughshore Hotel Arena will be vital.
So too Currie's man management skills, the experience of inspirational Mark Surgenor and how new signings like Kyle Cherry and Willie Faulkner blend with players like Caolan Loughran, who was so influential in the promotion success.
Loughran and Lloyd Anderson made their loan deals permanent in the summer.
"We achieved something last season which was remarkable, and the players and everyone at the club deserve immense credit for that," said Currie.
"We weren't expecting to win promotion and we did it one season ahead of schedule, and now we'll give the Premiership our best shot.
"For me, this league is becoming a seven or eight-team league with teams stretching away from the rest.
"Some of them are full-time and others train three or four nights.
"We are in a situation where we do two training nights per week because that's all we can afford at Carrick.
"I'd love to get our boys in for an extra night but that's not possible.
"For us, this season we are looking at being in our own two or three-team league.
"If we pull off a miracle and pick up points against the big boys, that will be a bonus. We know it will be difficult for us but we will go into the season with hope.
"What I love about Carrick Rangers Football Club is that there is a realism here. The big objective is to stay in the league and surprise people, but we appreciate that clubs like ours can now go five or six games in a row without a win and no one would be shocked at that.
"The other side of the coin is we have a bunch of players full of enthusiasm determined to do all they can to stay in the division. Our biggest strength is how we do at home.
"Whatever happens this season will depend on our home form."
Manager: Niall Currie
Captain: Mark Surgenor
Last season: Second in Championship (won promotion play-off)
Ins: Mark Carson, Mark Kelly, Willie Faulkner, Kyle Cherry, James Ferrin, Adam Gray.
Outs: Craig McMillen, Jake McNeill, Caolin Coyle and Ryan Waide (they were on loan last season).
Not letting heads drop will be crucial in bid for survival
Carrick are favourites for relegation. Niall Currie knows it. So too his players. There will be spells during the season when they won't be able to buy a win. The trick will be to keep heads up and when they face sides like Institute, Warrenpoint and Dungannon, who will also be in the bottom six, to take as many points as possible. That way they may have a chance of staying up. Do that and it will be stunning achievement for Currie and Carrick.