Belfast Telegraph

Glens heading back to the top: Smyth

 

By Graham Luney

Gary Smyth has returned to Glentoran for a fifth time, and this time he really does mean business.

The Danske Bank Premiership's sleeping giant needs awakened from its slumber and Smyth, who has left his role as H&W Welders boss, is relishing that huge challenge.

It's a bold new management team that hopes to spark the Glens into life, and two Oval legends - Smyth and Paul Leeman - are at the heart of it.

Both have agreed three-year deals, Smyth as assistant manager and Leeman in a senior coaching role ensuring the club's production line is in fine working order.

Former Portadown boss Ronnie McFall remains as manager because the new arrivals need to gain their A Licence qualifications to manage in the Premiership.

Smyth and Leeman will begin those courses in the coming weeks.

While Leeman will work with the Under-20s and Glentoran Academy to identify and nurture young talent, Smyth and McFall will make sure the first team are in the best possible shape to steer the club back into the top six and challenging for major trophies again.

Kieran Harding, who along with McFall joined the east Belfast side in February after the departure of Gary Haveron, will be joint assistant manager with responsibility for first team coaching.

But it's a particularly proud moment for Smyth and Leeman who bleed red, green and black.

Glentoran wanted to recruit the pair in 2015 but without success. This time they have struck gold.

"The timing is right now, it didn't feel right the last time but I'm two and a half years wiser now with more experience as a manager," insisted Smyth, who made 364 appearances for the Glens.

"It's going to be a long road ahead to get the club back to where we believe it should be, but we aren't a million miles away and I'm confident we can make progress.

"Everyone will have an input in the new structure, it's not a one man band and we believe it can work well.

"We will be starting our A Licence badges in the next few weeks, which you need to manage in the Premiership, and that's the goal.

"I can't wait to get going now because it's been a long finish to the season with the Welders, and it's actually the fifth time I've come back at Glentoran because, as well as three times as a player, I was coach and manager of the Under-18s before going to Distillery with Tim McCann.

"Ronnie has been Portadown manager for most of my career and of course he managed the Glens too. He's got all that Irish League experience and you've got to tap into that."

Smyth says he's now ready to embrace a "new positive era" at Glentoran after five great years at the Welders.

He added: "After 13 years here, I know the club and what's expected and I'm ready for the challenge.

"Glenmen have got used to losing and that's not something anyone here should accept. The first thing we need to do is get some stability into the team. If we make ourselves hard to beat and stop conceding goals easily then that will breed confidence among both the players and supporters and give us something strong to build on.

"So we need to come back after the holidays and immediately get the boys fit and confident, ready for the start of the season. Then we can develop more of a winning mentality at all levels of the club. I never accepted defeat at any point in my career. It ruined my week and it's important we get to the point where everyone feels that. I've committed long term to the club and I want to make Glentoran supporters feel proud of our club again."

McFall was adamant his remarkable Irish League managerial career was going to come to an end this summer, but Glentoran still need him.

The former Portadown boss has all the coaching badges needed to manage in the Premiership and in Europe, so his presence in Glentoran's new management team was essential if Smyth was to return to The Oval. McFall came out of retirement to assist the club while they searched for a successor to Gary Haveron but now he finds himself still at The Oval, helping Smyth and Leeman to make the right calls.

"When the Chairman (Stephen Henderson) raised this possibility a couple of weeks ago to stay on to help stabilise the club I was only too happy to do so, and I'm also happy to have Kieran here," explained McFall. "As manager, one of the big priorities is to provide the best possible grounding for Gary at Premiership level.

"He's a Glenman through and through and he's done the right thing getting a good base of experience before coming back to the club.

"He's done very well at the Welders and he's clearly ready to step up to the Premiership and to Glentoran.

"Opportunities like this don't come along that often, and with a three-year contract signed at this great club we'll do everything we can to help him bed in this season."

Meanwhile, the Welders have appointed Norman Kelly as their new manager, with David Rainey as his assistant.

Belfast Telegraph

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