League title at least two years away for Glentoran, says Hamilton
Gary Hamilton says he has no regrets about leaving Glentoran to take on a tough managerial role at Glenavon — and he has predicted his former club will struggle to win the title for at least another two seasons.
Eyebrows were raised when the former Northern Ireland international swapped east Belfast for Lurgan in December.
The 31-year-old, despite still being a class act on the pitch, couldn’t resist the opportunity to become a player-manager with the club he supported as a boy.
By agreeing a two-and-a-half year contract at Mourneview Park he signalled his desire to guide Glenavon away from the relegation zone.
Glentoran remain one of the biggest supported clubs in Ireland despite their well documented financial troubles and their proud tradition is littered with tales of trophy success. But Hamilton waved farewell to a ‘Big Two’ adventure in the full knowledge that he was taking on a tough assignment in mid-Ulster.
At Mourneview today he is likely to play against his old club, now under the guidance of former Cliftonville boss Eddie Patterson. While the former Portadown striker has enough issues to address at Glenavon, he can also appreciate the size of the task Patterson has just signed up to.
And despite the Lurgan Blues being only a solitary point clear of basement battlers Carrick Rangers, Hamilton won’t look back in anger.
“I’ve taken the path that I wanted to go down and I’ve no regrets,” he said. “I don’t mean any disrespect to Glentoran but I don’t believe they will be in a position to win the league for at least another two years.
“A cup win is always a possibility because you can get a good draw and win a few games in a row but a league title is a totally different scenario and they have some ground to make up.
“Some of their players will be out of contract at the end of the season and they are facing a transitional period. Players are playing for their futures and that’s why we’ll expect a tough game against them, but they are rebuilding there and it takes time.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Glentoran but this was a challenge that I relished. Becoming a manager at my hometown club was killing two birds with one stone if you like. I always wanted to be a manager.
“I’ve won the league and cups with Glentoran but I was looking for something different. Eddie (Patterson) and myself are trying to get the best out of the players we have but he won’t be expecting to get involved in a relegation fight in the future.”
Hamilton expects the Glens to be firing on all cylinders.
“When a new manager comes in players lift their performances as they will be fighting for their futures,” he added.
Kyle Cherry is not eligible to play against his parent club and in the current climate Glenavon would be unwise to smuggle him onto the team-sheet!
“I have sympathy for Ballymena United and ‘Spike’ (Ferguson) in the Alan Davidson case because it’s a strange rule to me,” he added.
“So a player can join a club and assist in a league campaign, which might result in a title win or European qualification, but he can’t play in a cup competition?”