Belfast Telegraph

Even Jamie Vardy didn't believe Leicester could win the league: Glenavon coach plays down surprise title talk

Goal alert: Mark Sykes and Aaron Harmon celebrate against Ballymena United earlier this season
Goal alert: Mark Sykes and Aaron Harmon celebrate against Ballymena United earlier this season

By Graham Luney

Paul Millar says he's excited by the blend of youth and experience at Glenavon but he insists eyes will remain focused on the glittering prize of European football.

The Lurgan Blues are sitting pretty at the summit of the Danske Bank Premiership ahead of tonight's showdown at Ballymena United in front of the BBC cameras.

Even the most optimistic Glenavon fanatic would not have predicted such a sensational start but Gary Hamilton's men are resilient and ruthless in equal measure.

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In these surprising scenarios, there's always a danger of expectation levels soaring to ridiculous heights, but assistant boss Millar says a dose of realism is required as winter fast approaches.

Of course, the Mourneview Park aces may continue to blow away opponents and lead the chasing pack, but it's vital they don't get distracted by any fresh hype.

"I wouldn't even say this is the best squad of players we have had in my time here. We've had big squads and not qualified for Europe," said Millar.

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"Now we have a great mix of players, it's the best we have had. The young, hungry players really impress me. We played Loughgall this week in the Mid-Ulster Cup and we had James Taylor, Gary Muir, Sammy Clingan, Conor McCloskey, big Niall Grace and young lads. You've got a team with Sammy who has nearly 40 Northern Ireland caps and a schoolboy in the same side. We won 3-2 after being 2-0 down.

"It's a good group of boys. People are frustrated when they don't play but they are good pros and encourage each other. I think everyone is surprised by the start we have made. Who can honestly say we can win the league? The season Leicester City won the league you wouldn't even find Jamie Vardy believing that.

"We've had a great run. We finished third last year but there was a big gap to the top two. Getting into Europe helped us strengthen but never in a million years would I have thought we would be in this position.

"We are looking at it from a realistic rather than a defeatist point of view. We want to see how far we can get away from third position. That's vital for European qualification, everything else is a bonus. We have lost one match against Linfield and we should have beaten them but big Roy Carroll was outstanding. Other games, like against Newry City, we could have lost but as a team we've done well. This Ballymena United game is massive for both teams. A win would leave us 13 points clear of them while they could cut the gap."

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