Belfast Telegraph

'For the love of the club': Albert Watson on why he was so excited to return to the Irish League


Homecoming: Larne’s Albert Watson spent many happy years with Ballymena United
Homecoming: Larne’s Albert Watson spent many happy years with Ballymena United

By Ian Cahoon

Albert Watson is ready to put sentiment to one side as he returns to Ballymena on the hunt for three points.

Watson spent the best part of a decade at the Ballymena Showgrounds across two spells. The first began as a 16-year-old, before he returned to the Braid in the second half of last season following a successful spell at Linfield, before moving on to North America and Iceland.

He returns to the club tomorrow to lead a Larne side who are battling it out for a top-six place, and that means his only focus is on collecting three points.

"I was at Ballymena for nine years before I went to Linfield. I remember making my debut very clearly as a 16-year-old, away to Institute," he recalled.

"Everyone at Ballymena was brilliant to me, all those years I was there and the half a year I went back last season.

"There are people who do things for Ballymena who don't ask for anything, they do it for the love of the club.

"It's very similar at Larne, and the people they have around the club, and it was part of the reason I was so keen to come back to the Irish League. I'm looking forward to going back. I might get a bit of stick during the match, but that's all part and parcel of the game.

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"Hopefully we can go there and get a result, that's the main thing."

The Invermen are in the middle of an indifferent run of form, with four defeats and a draw in their last five outings.

However, they go into the Showgrounds showdown in sixth place, ahead of Ballymena on goal difference.

Watson insists that any pre-season talk of a title challenge from outsiders was wide of the mark.

"We came into this league and people said 'you're going to do this or you're going to do that'," he observed.

"Listen, you don't walk into a league and do this or that. You have to earn the right, and we haven't done that yet.

"Ballymena came second last year and they have found that tough to replicate so far this year.

"That's because this is a tough league, with so many teams beating each other. We've only played 12 games so far, just about the first round of fixtures.

"There are a lot of new players here, so they've had a look at everyone now, apart from Linfield.

"We think we're there or thereabouts in terms of how we've done against the top teams, especially going away to Crusaders and Coleraine. It's fine margins at the minute."

Meanwhile, Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has said that "negativity on social media" motivates him to prove people wrong.

Hamilton was speaking on the latest edition of BBC Sport NI's Irish League Behaviour podcast.

The Lurgan Blues boss said: "I want to prove I'm still the same manager I was for the last eight years.

"I love reading social media, I love reading the negativity because I want to prove people wrong," he added.

Ballymena Utd


Danske Bank Premiership

Ballymena Showgrounds, Tomorrow, 3pm

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