Belfast Telegraph

'He'll always be with us': Carrick Rangers welcome Jerry Thompson's family to first game since much-loved player's funeral

Carrick fans' tribute banner at the team's first game since Jerry Thompson's funeral.
Carrick fans' tribute banner at the team's first game since Jerry Thompson's funeral.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie has told the family of the late Jerry Thompson that his club will always be there to support them.

Thompson was 24 when he died suddenly last Tuesday and his family were in attendance on Saturday afternoon as his team-mates got back onto the football pitch against Glentoran for the first time since his funeral.

The players of both teams, as well as the match officials, entered the pitch with t-shirts featuring Thompson's name, squad number 21 and the #ItsOKnottobeOK message.

A minute's silence was observed by both teams and officials, arm in arm with each other, while supporters applauded in tribute during the 21st minute of the match.

"We did our very best to look after Jerry's family and make sure they had a great day," said manager Niall Currie.

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The Carrick players t-shirts paid tribute to their former team-mate Jerry Thompson.

"We'll be there for them, anything they need. I spoke to Gerard's mummy and daddy and told them we'll be here. We'll be here forever for them and he'll be part of us forever.

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"He wasn't at the club for very long but it's not about the time, it's about the impact that he made. They should be very proud of him, such a genuine, absolute gentleman of a man. He just wanted to listen and get better.

"They're a wonderful, very loving family and the pain they're going through is all I can think about.

"We're all suffering here but it's nothing compared to what his family's going through and what they have ahead of them. Seeing his wee son there today in his Nike tracksuit with the Carrick Rangers badge on it was wonderful.

"It's an absolutely heart-breaking, devastating situation."

Now that they're back playing Premiership football, Carrick will have to look forward to the remainder of the season and the manager knows that now more than ever, the squad will need to support each other.

"I'm trying to get help off the players," he said. "I want their energy and enthusiasm. I'm going through a tough time and so are the players but it's nothing compared to Jerry's family.

"We have to find ways of doing things right and getting through this. I need my players around me and I can be there for them. That's the only way to get through this.

"We know Jerry loved us and we loved him back. He had found his home with us and it's an absolute tragedy."

On Saturday afternoon, Currie's side lost to Glentoran only via a Navid Nasseri wonder-strike.

"Fair play to the players, they were superb," he said. "They played the way Jerry used to play - with their hearts on their sleeves. I'm very proud of them.

"Everybody deals with situations differently but they gave us everything. It was a 50:50 game. We matched Glentoran in every way and a bit of brilliance was the difference. You know you're doing something right when you see Glentoran bringing the ball into the corner and playing for the time. That's credit to my boys.

"We have to learn how to pick something up when we deserve it, like today. As long as the boys put that level of commitment in we'll be OK but we do need some more players in, there's no doubt about that."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call Lifeline, the 24/7 freephone counselling helpline on 0808 808 8000

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