Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran's Stephen McAlorum back centre stage and ready to fire

By Graham Luney

Stephen McAlorum was booked only two minutes into his first team return after 11 frustrating months out injured. You could say normal service has resumed and let's hope so.

The midfielder relishes a full-blooded challenge and Glentoran have missed their captain's leadership and experience. But the fans are hopeful their warrior is back and here to stay.

A troubled season on the pitch sparked a managerial change with Gary Haveron collecting the Oval baton from Alan Kernaghan but McAlorum has had his own personal demons to fight.

A shocking cruciate ligament injury sustained against Cliftonville in December brought the former Donegal Celtic ace's career to an abrupt halt but now the 30-year-old is ready to embrace happier times after leaping off the bench against Coleraine last weekend.

And the Glens skipper plans to be back in the old routine, putting his feet in where it hurts to stop the opposition launching dangerous attacks.

"My game isn't going to change, I can't afford to let that happen," he says. "I break up play and make tackles. I'm 30 years old and I'm not going to slow down or change.

"If another injury occurred again that would be unfortunate but I'm not going to fear it. I've left no stone unturned in my attempts to get back onto the pitch and I hope to make the most of the rest of my career. I can assure the fans I won't be pulling out of tackles. I was booked just a few minutes after coming on on Saturday so that tells a tale."

Glentoran's 4-0 loss to then bottom Premiership side Warrenpoint Town in January was painful viewing for McAlorum and he struggled to keep a lid on his anger.

"I think you feel pretty low when you check the scores and particularly when the team hasn't done well and you are so desperate to help them," he added.

"One of the lowest points for me was the 4-0 defeat to Warrenpoint Town and that's when it hit home to me that the team was struggling and I could do nothing about it. All you can do is try to stay positive and do what fitness work you can to return as soon as possible.

"There was no point in me thinking negative thoughts. I had a serious rehabilitation period ahead of me and I needed to work hard and stay focused.

"There was cruciate and cartilage damage as well as a broken bone in the kneecap so it was a long period of treatment. But I've had a few games for the reserves and things are going well."

McAlorum says he's tried to numb the pain of not playing by training hard but it's been a tough road to travel. "When I have been training six days a week it has an impact on your family life and children but I'd like to thank my wife Orla for all the support and encouragement she has given me," he added.

"There were times when I would show frustration but she helped me get through it and she was a massive help.

"I came on for the last 20 minutes against Coleraine and it felt good to be back. Eleven months out is a long time and it has been frustrating but the time has also flown in for me as I have tried to keep myself busy by training and building my strength back up.

"It takes time to get up to match speed and then you have to deal with the niggly pains you get."

With the dark days hopefully behind him, McAlorum hopes there's a bright outlook for both him and the club under new boss Gary Haveron (left).

"What happened with Alan Kernaghan was unfortunate for everyone but Gary has come in and the boys have responded really well to him," added the midfielder ahead of tomorrow's trip to Glenavon.

"It wasn't a great performance from us on Saturday but we had went on a good unbeaten run and the boys are buying into Gary's ideas. He's a good man-manager and I like the way he works with the players.

"The injury list at the club has been significant and I don't think some people have fully appreciated that. All squads suffer some injuries but a lot of ours have been serious injuries including myself, Willie Garrett and Marcus Kane. But we haven't heard much complaining from the boys or the gaffer. The players that have come in have done well and it's up the players returning to fight their way back into the team.

"The priority for this club and the players is to restore pride. I don't think we can make bold statements, we have to show our quality and earn some respect.

"This club should not be struggling the way it has been but we have to get things moving in the right direction. Gary is putting his stamp and influence on the team and I am sure he will bring a few players in, players he has faith in to deliver."

With the Glens languishing in ninth position in the Premiership table, there's no time for the players to feel sorry for themselves. At least with McAlorum leading the charge again they will be more up for the fight.

Belfast Telegraph

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