Belfast Telegraph

We'll keep moving in right direction, insists Singleton

By Graham Luney

Glenavon are faced with a problem - but it's problem every football side wants to have.

An astonishing seven league wins on the spin near the end of last season steered the Lurgan Blues to third position in the Danske Bank Premiership and it was enough to secure European football and the riches it brings.

For clubs like Glenavon who haven't been able to splash the cash like other sides every financial windfall is gratefully accepted.

The players, under the guidance of manager Gary Hamilton, were outstanding last season - in fact outside of champions Crusaders they were the most improved side in the top flight. Plenty to be proud of then so what's the problem?

The problem is raised expectation levels - now they want to stay in the top three and keep putting pressure on the big boys.

There's a feeling that Hamilton's men are at a crossroads.

Can they push on, match the best and challenge for the ultimate prize - the league title - or will they stumble and take a step back?

If we assume that Cliftonville, Portadown and Glentoran will raise their game, the 2014 Irish Cup winners are going to have to keep their foot on the pedal.

Left-back James Singleton, one of the outstanding performers of last season, says the club will show ambition, without setting ridiculous targets.

"We won seven matches in a row at the end of last season and managed to force our way into the European picture," said Singleton.

"That was a memorable end of the season and we deserved our European place.

"I think after that experience we have to be aiming for a top four place again and if we can start to take on and beat the top six sides we will have a reasonable chance of achieving that.

"You never know what can happen in this game but finishing third was an incredible achievement. I don't think anyone is thinking about the title and Gary (Hamilton) certainly won't be.

"Crusaders have set the benchmark and they will take some stopping. But the top four is where we want to be and I think we should be very optimistic because this club has finished as low as eighth or ninth in the league but we have a different mindset now.

"Good young players are being given a chance and there is enough quality and ambition at Mourneview Park to see us enjoy another successful season."

Hamilton has brought in Joel Cooper, Andy Hall and keeper Jonny Tuffey as he looks to keep the Lurgan Blues competitive in the top half of the table.

"Jonny Tuffey has come in from Linfield and he's a great signing for us, a quality keeper and great talker in the dressing room," added Singleton.

"With all the domestic and international experience he has in the game he's a great man to turn to while Joel and Andy are fantastic addditions.

"When you have Kevin Braniff, Mark Patton and Eoin Bradley causing defences' problems you always have a chance and I think the future is bright for us."

The Lurgan Blues, who finished third last season, know that a Europa League play-off has been introduced for the sides who finish third to seventh.

European football will be even tougher to grasp.

Manager: Gary Hamilton

Captain: Kris Lindsay

Key Man: Kevin Braniff

Big arrival: Jonny Tuffey

Big loss: William Murphy

Last season: Third in the Premiership and Irish Cup sixth round

Ins: Joel Cooper (Ballyclare Comrades), Andy Hall (Bangor), Jonny Tuffey (Linfield)

Outs: Alan Blayney (Ballymena United), William Murphy (Retired)

Verdict: Will be in the hunt for Europe

Belfast Telegraph


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