Glentoran remain on course for huge investment from a wealthy businessman after Mick McDermott was confirmed as the club's new manager last night.
McDermott, who was assistant coach of Iran at the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup, has taken on the full-time role but the Glens hope Gary Smyth, Paul Leeman and coach Kieran Harding will remain part of the new management structure.
Smyth is working towards his A licence and the Glens had until yesterday to apply for a licence to play in Europe next season.
McDermott, who is starting his Pro Licence coaching badges with the Irish FA in the summer, had the opportunity to join Carlos Queiroz, his Manager at Iran, as Assistant Coach of Columbia for this year's Copa America in Brazil but opted to remain with his family in Belfast and embark on a Glentoran rebuilding job.
The 45-year-old's appointment is a major step in the process which should see a significant cash injection coming to the club, wiping out remaining debts and allowing a full-time culture to be implemented.
Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson stated: "The ambition of this club and the expectation of our shareholders and supporters can never fall below striving for European qualification each season.
"It's the responsibility of the management and players to put us in that position through their efforts on the pitch but it's the responsibility of the Board here to ensure the club achieves eligibility off it.
"The proposal from the investor is now close to meeting the legal standard to be placed before our shareholders for approval. So, we needed to ensure the 31st March IFA licensing deadline was met. Clearly the timing was not of our choosing, but we are all delighted that a coach of Mick's experience and connections will be part of the exciting developments ahead for Glentoran."
McDermott added: "This is a very exciting time for me and for Glentoran. It has been widely reported that a substantial investor wishes to make a very major investment in the club and I'm delighted to be a part of that.
"Negotiations with the Glentoran Board are at a very advanced stage and we're all looking forward to taking the proposal to the club shareholders for their approval within the next few weeks.
"The timing of this investment couldn't be better; Crusaders and Larne have gone full-time and Linfield have recovered after a relatively poor few years; other teams such as Ballymena have strengthened and are pushing for European places. The investor is confident that we can deliver for Glentoran at the very highest level and bring full-time football to the Oval. We'll return the club to a trophy winning place here in Northern Ireland but also make a mark in Europe - the goal being to win in Europe, not merely qualify. The club has a great tradition in European competition but now there are so many opportunities for a forward-thinking club to progress in Europe and strengthen even further by doing so."
Former defender McDermott spent much of his playing career in America and has held coaching positions at some of Asia's biggest clubs including Al Ain FC in Abu Dhabi, Esteghlal FC in Tehran and Al Nasr FC in Dubai.
The immediate challenge he faces is steering the seventh placed Glens into Europe via the Europa League play-offs. McDermott added: "I'm aware of the difficulties the Glens have faced in recent years but as a Belfast man I'm also aware of how big the club is and what it will mean to the supporters, volunteers and the East Belfast community when we see the club restored to where it should be and where it needs to be. I want to play a very full part in the community and work with the supporters and the investor wants to do the same if the proposal is secured.
"In my career so far, I've worked and coached under 14 different managers and learned a lot from each. I've been fortunate enough to work alongside some fantastic men, including Tite, the current Brazil manager; but for the last few years I've been with Carlos Queiroz including the 2014 World Cup qualification and the 2018 Russia World Cup as Assistant Coach. Working with Carlos has been like a football PHD as he is one of the most demanding coaches in World football. I was planning to going with Carlos to Colombia, but I've returned to Belfast with my wife and four children and I just couldn't turn down this exciting and challenging opportunity to rebuild this club - it is a massive project for me and for everyone involved in the club."
Glentoran Chairman Stephen Henderson added: I'd like to put on record my sincere thanks to Gary Smyth and Paul Leeman for all their efforts since returning to the club and to Kieran Harding for his work as First Team Coach. Under very difficult circumstances they have carried themselves with total dignity and professionalism and I know they will continue to do so as part of the new management team.
"It is part of our plan to give Gary and Paul the breathing space to acquire the qualifications required."