The big question on the lips of every Glentoran fan ahead of this evening’s Big Two battle at the Oval surrounds whether or not Gary Hamilton will be playing against Linfield.
There was no such doubt last season as Hamilton spent the campaign on-loan to Glenavon, with his career at the Oval looking all but over.
The transformation from being an outcast to becoming an automatic choice has been amazing and that’s why the Oval faithful want to see October’s Carling Player of the Month on the pitch this evening rather than sitting in the stand nursing the toe injury that saw him withdrawn at half-time as the Glens drew 2-2 with Crusaders on Saturday.
And last night manager Scott Young defended his decision to first place Hamilton on the transfer list before banishing him to the reserve team and then later send him to Mourneview Park.
Had Hamilton been in the Glens first-team they may have had more than the County Antrim Shield to show for their efforts last season, with his recent run of form one of the reasons behind the fact that a win tonight would see Young’s men move to within four points of Linfield at the top of the table.
“I made the decision with Gary on the basis of what I’d seen the season before, when he would admit himself that he wasn’t playing at his best and I did what I did with the best interests of Glentoran Football Club first and foremost in my mind,” said Young.
“I had Andy Waterworth, Matty Burrows and Daryl Fordyce all score 20 goals last season, so it wasn’t like we were short of goals.
“Gary has come back and I am delighted with him.
“He has been a breath of fresh air — and I wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true.
“I am proud of Gary and I have told him that.
“It’s not easy to come back and try to win the fans over again — although you’ll never win everyone over,” he said.
Young can win favour with the fans if his team defeats Linfield tonight.
Many Glens supporters would forgive him for anything provided they beat the Blues.
“One thing I learned very quickly as a manager is that it’s totally different to playing,” added boss Young.
“As a player you look after yourself and you’re only responsible for yourself.
“Everything is on your shoulders as a manager and the responsibility is huge.
“If things go well you get the plaudits, if not you get the criticism.
“That’s just the way it is and you have to be big enough to take it.
“If we win against Linfield there will be a lot of people in east Belfast going to work on Thursday morning with smiles on their faces.
“As the manager you’re responsible for that and it’s a massive responsibility but you shouldn’t be trying to manage Glentoran or Linfield if you can’t take the pressure.”Glentoran v Linfield, The Oval (7.30pm) Sky Sports 1