As new boss Gary Smyth takes the Glentoran hotseat ahead of the new season, here are five things that he'll have to sort out at The Oval before his side kick off their new campaign...
No matter what anyone thinks, Glentoran are still one of the best supported clubs in the country and their fans crave success. This is a club which has won the league title 23 times and Irish Cup on 22 occasions. It still means a heck of a lot to many people and the Irish League is a much more appealing product when the Glens and Linfield are fighting it out for honours. When their fans turn out in big numbers, all clubs reap the benefits. Success is guaranteed to no-one but the supporters expect the players to sweat for the cause and give it everything they have. Gary Smyth and Paul Leeman were like that as players and if they can inject that passion into the squad then the Glens might just blow the storm clouds away. Fans are often accused of being fickle but they can’t be fooled and the Oval faithful have suffered enough. You couldn’t meet two nicer guys in football but on the pitch they were both warriors. It’s time the Glentoran players showed more fight and pride and here are two men who can inspire the next generation of heroes.
The Glens aren’t in a position to throw money around and the harsh reality is that disappointing form has seen their pulling power drop. The long process of appointing a new manager has also allowed rival Danske Bank Premiership clubs to strengthen their squads and the pool of available players is dwindling. The club needs to follow the Coleraine model — find quality young talent and nurture them into impressive Irish League players. Leeman’s role in this area is crucial but it’s important to remember that this is a long term investment and plan. Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey likes to refer to ‘baby steps’ and the Glens must learn to jog again before harbouring dreams of winning marathons.
Will the Glens win the league next season? That’s highly unlikely and yet Glentoran managers and players should reach for the stars. It’s time for this institution to stop feeling sorry for itself, look in the mirror and say ‘yes, we can be great again’. Smyth should set the players targets and say we can win silverware. It’s time to look up, not down. Glentoran have no divine right to win anything, let along a league title, but they’ve got to try and work towards that. That is their ultimate goal and the fans are desperate to see their side challenge for the top honours again. It might not happen next season but you’ve got to keep chasing your goals or you won’t achieve them. Dream big because this is a club which should always do that.
Smyth and Leeman have both expressed a desire to secure more coaching qualifications. That will be necessary if they wish to remain in charge of Glentoran in the long term. This appointment should now hasten that process and any Glens boss should possess a Uefa A Licence and Pro Licence, mirroring the club’s ambition. Despite their glittering careers as players, Leeman is a rookie coach and Smyth has never managed in the Premiership. It will be a harsh learning environment for both but they will be able to confide in Ronnie McFall who is staying on in an adivsory role. Ronnie came close to helping the Glens qualify for the Europa League and he deserves huge praise for assisting the club in its hour of need.
Glentoran bosses have failed to see eye to eye with the club’s Board and that’s never a good working environment. This is a two way street and the Board must listen to Gary and take into consideration any concerns he or Paul has regarding the squad, training facilities or anything else the management team prioritise.. Everything needs to be in place to give the new managerial team very chance of tasting success. The Board should be pleased they have made the right appointment but the hard work starts now and Gary will need the right support and commitment to get this club moving in the right direction again. The Board has come in for some fierce criticism and in the past their decisions weren’t perfect but it’s important to remember that they are also supporters who share the desire to bring success to Glentoran. The fans won’t argue with this appointment.