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Glentoran are back and will challenge for big prizes, says Morris

 

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Glory days: Glentoran assistant boss Paul Millar and midfielder Hrvoje Plum celebrate the big Boxing Day win over Linfield

Glory days: Glentoran assistant boss Paul Millar and midfielder Hrvoje Plum celebrate the big Boxing Day win over Linfield

Glory days: Glentoran assistant boss Paul Millar and midfielder Hrvoje Plum celebrate the big Boxing Day win over Linfield

Glentoran player/coach Elliott Morris believes the club are now ready to challenge for the big prizes in domestic football.

One of the most loyal and dedicated servants in Irish League football has seen it all at The Oval, from title glory to a takeover, from Irish Cup joy to near financial meltdown.

But the sleeping giant in east Belfast has been reawakened under new ownership with Mick McDermott and Paul Millar directing operations in a more full-time environment.

Following Ali Pour's takeover, debts have been tackled, facilities at The Oval improved and investment in the playing squad has transformed the Glens into a very different animal… one to be feared.

After living through so much doom and gloom, Morris, who made his first appearance for the club back in August 2002, wants to stay put and savour this exciting new era, even though his new role is primarily a coaching one.

The former West Brom youngster has appeared between the sticks only five times this season, but he's long overdue a rest following his incredible 736 games for the club.

Set to turn 39 in May, he knows he's not the future of the club, but, like the supporters who have been starved of championship glory since 2009, Morris can smell success once again.

"Glentoran need to challenge for the big trophies and we now believe we have a squad that is capable of doing that," said Morris.

"In fact, other teams know that as well, and the days of the Glens being well beaten at The Oval are virtually over.

"Every team in the league knows the Glens are hard to beat now. I believe we are the best team in the league, on current form.

"It's been 10 years since I have been able to say that at this stage of the season, but we are realistic as well.

"Our targets were to do better than last season, but we have gone above and beyond everyone's expectations.

"I can't say the Glens will win the league but the mindset is we have 14 games left and we want to win them. We are unbeaten in 15 games, but winning the title is a tough ask at this stage of a three-year project we are on.

"Our focus is on the next game rather than the title, but we are in a fantastic position."

Glentoran's competitiveness, not only on the pitch but in the transfer market, is lifting the excitement level around Mersey Street to new levels.

Players will want to join a big club flexing their muscles again, with attractive full-time contracts on the table.

But don't ever think the club has simply become a cash machine. You need real football men, with immense knowledge and skills, to drive the project forward, and that's manager McDermott and his assistant Millar.

Morris added: "I think we are all surprised by our progress but at the start I didn't know Mick.

"Now I know him, I understand his mindset and how his positivity rubs off on everyone.

"He comes into a room and he has that aura about him which means people want to impress him. Him, Windy (Paul Millar) and Ali (Pour) must take immense credit for strengthening the squad.

"Players used to leave the Glens under a cloud with complaints they weren't getting their wages, or there were complaints about the training facilities. Other players at other clubs were hearing that, and what chance did the Glens have when they were hearing the bad stuff?

"You can't hide from the fact that it was true and it wasn't easy to recruit. Now the club has more finances to rebuild but it won't spend money recklessly.

"And Glentoran can now be more effective in the transfer market. Key players are re-signing and the club can offer good deals. Players can see this is a club on the up.

"If I was a supporter, I would be buzzing at how the club wants to bring in talent from abroad as well as at home.

"This is the first year of a three-year project and I'm so excited to be on this journey after so many years of not challenging."

As for making fewer first-team appearances, Morris isn't bothered. He said: "I'm 39 soon and still involved in the first team. If you had told me that when I was 19, I would have been happy."

All the transfer news coming out of The Oval is now positive. Hrvoje Plum, Marijan Antolovic and Chris Gallagher have agreed contract extensions, while Andrew Mitchell and defender Caolan Marron have joined the Glens from Glenavon, with Calum Birney heading for the Lurgan Blues. Striker Darren Murray has joined Carrick Rangers on loan.

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