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Serial winner as a player, watch Gary soar now that he's home

 

By Steven Beacom

As a young boy, Gary Smyth used to cheer Glentoran on from the Oval terraces.

Later he would become a distinguished defender for the club. He played in three different spells for his beloved team and showed his class on and off the pitch, be it stopping opposition strikers or attending functions run by passionate supporters.

With a magnetic pull, Gary kept returning to east Belfast and the Glens continually wanted him back knowing they had made a mistake letting him go in the first place.

He also played for Glenavon, Ballymena United and Crusaders, where he was respected by team-mates and fans alike, but his heart always belonged to Glentoran.

That's why it was such a tough decision for him to turn down the chance of becoming manager at the Oval in 2015. Staying with Harland & Wolff Welders in the division below proved to be a wise choice, though, as he learnt his trade and became adept at getting the best out of players in the autumn of their careers and those just starting out.

He'll need that experience in the years ahead.

Smyth finds himself back at the Oval now - as part of a new managerial set-up.

The 48-year-old with green, black and red blood running through his veins couldn't say no this time.

In modern football, regardless of if you enjoyed a successful 20 year playing career, you need coaching badges to be a boss at a certain level. In the Danske Bank Premiership, managers need a Uefa A License and in Europe, a Uefa Pro License is required. Smyth has a B License which is why he will be part of a new management structure in which someone else has the necessary qualifications.

Smyth, however, will be the key voice in the dressing room with a licence to thrill the long suffering Glens fans.

The appointment process of a new boss at the Oval has been somewhat of an embarrassment.

It started in February when Gary Haveron was sacked and the legendary Ronnie McFall stepped in until the end of the season.

Since then, number one target Rodney McAree decided to stay at Dungannon Swifts and Glentoran great Colin Nixon turned the job down to remain at Ards. Both landed new three-year deals at their respective clubs.

Steve Lomas, Nacho Novo, Bob Malcolm and Darren Murphy, now on David Healy's coaching team at Linfield, were amongst those interviewed as Glentoran followers grew more impatient at what they felt was a lack of progress in filling the Oval office hotseat.

After all that, the Glens may have just recruited the perfect man for the role, so credit where credit's due. If another huge Oval favourite Paul Leeman, as has been suggested, comes in alongside Smyth, you'll be hearing the phrase 'dream team' around east Belfast.

What is certain is that Smyth has a steely determination to lift Glentoran. He will also endeavour to bring everyone together at a club that from the outside in recent years has looked as if it was falling apart.

Gary Smyth was a serial winner as a player and knows what is expected at the Oval more than most. With patience, hard work and finance to sign the quality players required, he has the ability to make his club a competitive force again.

Belfast Telegraph

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