Glentoran are aiming to be a force at the top, insists McDermott
Twelve months ago, Glentoran supporters were eagerly looking forward to the new season having put up with years of false dawns, disappointments and financial worries. Legendary players Gary Smyth and Paul Leeman had joined the coaching staff and were primed to work under Ronnie McFall.
Such has been the dramatic events at The Oval since, McFall, Smyth and Leeman are no longer at the east Belfast club.
Yet here we go again for a new campaign and hope springs eternal once more for Glentoran fans. This time it's down to a takeover by Welsh/Iranian businessman Ali Pour and promises of upwards of £1.5m in investment.
That has already started. Manager Mick McDermott, who, along with coach Paul Millar, was part of Pour's consortium, is overseeing the installation of a new gym at the club and a modernised home dressing room. The medical room will also be upgraded, while a major cleaning operation is taking place on the terraces and in the stands at The Oval.
Walk around the famous old stadium and there is a sense amongst staff that this time the optimism might be well placed. Time will tell, but for now at least there is an upbeat feeling about the club, and Glentoran supporters deserve that after years of heartache.
Last season with McFall leaving in January and Smyth taking over as boss only to be replaced himself by McDermott at the end of March, the Glens made the headlines for developments off the pitch. Smyth and Leeman left the club in controversial circumstances and felt pushed out, though McDermott insists he would have liked both to stay in some capacity.
Then, after 96% of shareholders had voted for it to go ahead, came the takeover, with McDermott revealing at the weekend that on occasion the deal was close to collapse.
No wonder then that the Glens boss wants to make headlines on the pitch this season. They start the league campaign away from home at Glenavon on Friday night.
"We have some financial stability now and I want to stabilise us on the pitch, and that will give us the platform to go on from there," said McDermott, whose only defeat as Glens boss so far was in the Europa League play-off final against Cliftonville.
"Can we finish in the top six or top four? I don't know, but that's the target.
"Whether we are playing at Windsor or Seaview, we have to be competitive. We want results, but if we don't get results the other team will have to earn it.
"It's important to show the players that this club can be up at the top. When they start to believe that, they can then drive themselves forward. That's what we are trying to create."
The Glens plan to go full-time and that will start this season, with the manager stating around 10 players will be in a full-time training group.
The Oval outfit last won the title in 2009. Asked if they can be champions again, McDermott said: "I'd have to say yes. You can't go into any job like this and think we are just going to be comfortable just competing.
"Linfield are doing well in Europe this season, and with all the money coming in, if they spend that wisely they could really set themselves up. I think themselves and Crusaders are clear favourites.
"Cliftonville look really strong and Ballymena will be up there. Can we stick close to them? I don't know, but if we could stay close to the pack for the final run-in you never know what will happen.
"This is a long-term project. Upwards of £1.5m will be invested and who knows what that can lead to. I'm sure money generated will be re-invested. It's not like there is a piggy bank there and we break it open and take more and more.
"There is a structured plan over the next few years to put money in and for us to be a success on and off the pitch."
Quizzed on the pressure of the job due to that investment, he offered a candid reply: "I feel no less pressure than any manager in the league. I know if I don't get results I won't be here. I'd be the first to walk out the door.
"I'm not here to say I'm the manager and I have a few years contract come what may. If we finish ninth I'll put my hands up and pack my bags. This is not about me, it's about the club and I'm relishing the challenge.
"I'm all in. If you are not all in you might as well be all out. I've told the players 99% in is 100% out. Don't come here if you are partially committed."
McDermott's message to the fans?
He said: "Football is about the players, the fans and the community. I think if the community here, and I mean the supporters who have been regulars at The Oval and those who have been a bit distant for whatever reason, get behind this project it could be really, really exciting. I want them to help the club any way they can and together we could be in for some special times."
Manager: Mick McDermott
Captain: Marcus Kane
Last season: Seventh
Ins: Thomas Byrne, Patrick McClean, Marijan Antolovic, Hrvoje Plum, Jonny Frazer, Cameron Stewart
Strikers must fire in quest to steady the ship
There has been so much upheaval at Glentoran in recent years, everyone involved at the club now needs to steady the ship. A top-six finish would be very much welcomed. The fans could also do with a cup final to savour. Boss Mick McDermott inherited three fantastic strikers in the shape of Curtis Allen, Robbie McDaid and Darren Murray. They will be key this season. How extremely gifted youngster Paul O’Neill fits into the manager’s plans will also have a bearing on how the Glens do.