Belfast Telegraph

Boss Gary Smyth forced out as Glentoran investors move in

Axe falling: Gary Smyth has one more game at the helm
Axe falling: Gary Smyth has one more game at the helm
Paul Leeman

By Steven Beacom

Gary Smyth has revealed that he has been told by Glentoran that his last game as manager of the club will be against Cliftonville on Saturday.

It is another stunning twist in a season full of them at the Oval. This one, though, is going to take some explaining from the Glentoran board because Smyth is a legendary figure for the east Belfast outfit and hugely popular with the fans.

The Belfast Telegraph learned yesterday that Smyth, who took over from Ronnie McFall in January, was informed this week that he would not be in charge after the weekend. When contacted by this paper last night, he confirmed that was the case.

Another huge development surrounding the Glens is that sources close to the club indicate a takeover, which the board hope will see millions invested on and off the pitch, is set to be accelerated with an announcement expected in the coming days.

Few will see these events as a coincidence.

Quizzed on whether he was being forced out, Smyth said: "I haven't had any lengthy discussions with anyone (at the club) but did have a quick call to say I couldn't manage after March 31 and that was that."

Asked if he wouldn't be Glentoran manager after Sunday. Smyth replied: "Yes, exactly."

How did he feel about the situation?

"When Ronnie left the club and I was asked to take over in January, I was very proud to do so because Glentoran has always been my club but I didn't feel it was going to be on a temporary basis," said Smyth.

"I wanted to do my best for the Glens as manager this season and in the future - and I believe we have been making progress."

He's always had a reputation for giving straight answers to straight questions and even in his current difficult position, Smyth stayed true to that. It's one of the many reasons why he is so respected within Irish League football. Belfast native Mick McDermott is understood to be a key figure in brokering the big money takeover deal and there are suggestions he will form part of a new management structure.

McDermott worked as a fitness coach for Carlos Queiroz when he managed Iran in last year's World Cup finals.

Sir Alex Ferguson's former right man at Manchester United has since moved on to boss Colombia, taking McDermott with him.

McDermott has plans to come home. He has enrolled on the Irish FA's Pro Licence coaching course for the summer which is a key factor as it allows him to manage in Europe, while Smyth does not yet have the qualifications to do so as he is in the process of gaining his A Licence.

Despite a difficult season, Glentoran still harbour ambitions of qualifying for Europe next term. Smyth has guided them into seventh place in the Premiership table, which is where they need to finish to reach the European play-offs.

On Saturday, the Glens can move three points ahead of eighth-placed Institute by winning a rearranged league game at Cliftonville but for Smyth, it promises to be his final match in what he viewed as his dream job.

The reason, it seems, for the abrupt end is that the deadline for Glentoran to apply to play in Europe and be in accordance of all the requirements is this Sunday, March 31.

That won't make it any easier for Smyth or the fans to accept.

Smyth grew up as a Glentoran supporter and became a huge favourite at the Oval, starring as a central defender for the club, with whom he won everything that the domestic game had to offer.

A successful boss at H&W Welders, the Glens wanted him as manager four years ago.

They finally got their man - and another legend in Paul Leeman for good measure - last summer to work under McFall.

When McFall left in January, Smyth took over and has stabilised the team.

In their last outing, they secured their best win of the season, beating title chasing Ballymena United. It was a result that excited Glens fan,s especially with Smyth fielding so many gifted youngsters. The players, who enjoy Smyth's management, are aware of the situation.

Asked what happens after Sunday, Smyth said: "I've asked that question and been told I'm still very much part of the club but I don't know."

If Smyth goes, Leeman is likely to do the same. Hardly the way for two Glentoran greats to exit. Fans will rightly be asking some serious questions.

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