Niall Currie says Jerry Thompson's memory will drive Carrick Rangers on but urges politicians to sort funding 'disgrace'
Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie says the memory of Jerry Thompson will drive his players on for the rest of the season and beyond.
Currie knows that tomorrow's league match at home to Glentoran will be an emotional occasion.
It will be the first time Carrick have played since the funeral of 24-year-old Thompson, whose sudden death last week was heartbreaking for his family and devastating for all connected with the club.
Having joined Carrick in the summer, the former Cliftonville, Larne, Donegal Celtic, Ards and Portadown player had been in inspiring form under Currie and was named man of the match a fortnight ago in a 3-0 victory over Institute at the Loughshore Hotel Arena.
Tomorrow Jerry's family will be at the venue, where tributes will be paid.
In a touching and thought provoking interview, Currie, renowned for forging strong bonds with his players, said everyone at the club was determined to do Jerry proud.
"It will be a very, very emotional day. Jerry's family will be at the club and we are going to remember him," said Currie.
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"There will be tributes on the day and we want to show how much love we had for a special young man. We know how much he loved us because his daddy has told me this was his best time ever.
"The memory of Jerry will drive us forward this season and beyond. We will always have Jerry in our hearts and will give everything that we can on the pitch for him on Saturday and for the rest of the season just as Jerry did every time he played for Carrick Rangers.
"It's devastating that he is not with us and it's still hard to believe but we have to go on now and make him proud of us and if there is anything we can do for his beautiful family we will do it."
Thompson's family attended Carrick's training on Tuesday night. With them was Portsmouth star Gerard Storey, brother of Jerry's partner Samantha.
"Gerard moved from Portadown to Portsmouth earlier this year. On Monday night we got a message asking if he could train with us because Jerry had previously told him it was some craic at Carrick," explained Currie.
"He came and trained with us on Tuesday and brought his whole family who are wonderful people. Gerard is home and has an extended break over Christmas with what has happened and will train with us in that period which is lovely. We are very proud to have Gerard with us."
Speaking about the desperately difficult last week, Currie said: "We were all in shock at Saturday's funeral and then you look at Jerry's wee mummy and daddy and his family and you see the pain they are going through and the suffering they have ahead and it breaks you, it really breaks you. The whole thing is heartbreaking to be honest. Our hearts are completely shattered.
"What we are trying to do for the players is make sure they are okay and let them know help is there. The club has been brilliant. We have talked to the players and said to them if there is any help you need, be that speaking to your mum, dad, your granny, girlfriend, ourselves or whoever, just make sure you don't close doors.
"I've been trying to get my head around football again and the players are the same. It's very difficult but we have to get each other through this.
"I have a good family and good friends and we have a great bunch of boys at the club and a great backroom staff so we will gather together and be there for one another.
"Football-wise we won't know how the boys are until they start the game (tomorrow). Then we will see where everyone is at."
There has been much discussion about how football can help with mental health issues since Jerry took his own life earlier this month.
Currie is adamant that politicians need to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive and make more funding available to raise awareness about an issue that has affected thousands of families here.
"I think this country can do a lot more relating to mental health," stated Currie.
"The resources put into mental health in Northern Ireland are a disgrace. For one this is a country coming out of conflict and then there are the other pressures of life. When you see the suicide rates in this country it is heartbreaking.
"This is why the whole Stormont thing is totally unacceptable to me and I'm sure to many others. Decisions need to be made and proper resources need to be put into mental health. It needs far, far more than is going into it. I hope the Irish FA and NIFL get involved in helping too with mental health."
He added: "There should be no holding back on resources with regards to mental health because it is such a serious and important issue."
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call Lifeline, the 24/7 freephone counselling helpline on 0808 808 8000