Glenn Ferguson completes the circle as Ballymena United boss today when he takes his side to derby foes, Coleraine — the only team he has yet to face as Sky Blues manager.
And in doing so it will bring him face to face with a man who he knows well and one with whom he shared many triumphs when he and Oran Kearney were at the heart of one of Linfield’s most successful and formidable teams of recent times.
There are no trophies on the line this weekend though and friendships will prevail come win, lose or draw, but with the Bannsiders riding high, there is nothing more Braidmen would love than to bring their rivals from up the A26 down a peg or two.
Recent history is not on Ferguson’s side. United have failed to beat Coleraine since October 2009 — a run of nine games — and the fixture has been particularly sweet for former Sky Blue midfielder Kearney, the Ballymoney man making his bow as Coleraine boss with a win against the old enemy.
Last season, three more victories followed, including a 5-1 demolition at Warden Street, and while there will be plenty of people keen to hype up a game that sees sixth take on second, Ferguson is too worldly wise to get carried away by hysteria or hyperbole.
“It’s just another game to me,” said Ferguson with the wry smile of a man who has seen and done it all on derby days. When I was at Linfield, people used to highlight Glentoran, but it’s just another game. You just get three points. Obviously for the fans, they get the bragging rights, the players get a wee lift because of that and there’s a better atmosphere about the place, but as a manager it is just another game to prefer for.
“You try and work on their weaknesses and nullify their strengths and that’s what we’ll work on. We’ll get a report on them and we’ll do our homework.”
And homework preparation is all-important when you’re preparing to lock horns with a school-teacher, although it’s unlikely that Spike will be bringing an apple for sir when he lands at Ballycastle Road.
“I know Oran very well, played with him and I’m good friends with him, as we are with a lot of managers in the league now, but we’ll put that aside going into the game and try to get a win,” added Ferguson. “They’re on a good run so hopefully it’ll be a decent game. There’s no hiding, and it’s no secret that we’re in desperate need of a No.9, we’re playing boys up there who, to be fair, are trying their best, but we need a natural goalscorer.
“It’s frustrating and there are plenty of teams looking for them but there’s none out there unless you have an embarrassment of riches to pay them and the guys who do come available are looking too much money.”
Ferguson and Kearney in their pomp would set you back a tidy penny or three, but nowadays it’s a different challenge for the pair but one that the striking legend is relishing against a man who he always felt was destined for the dug-out.
“He was very analytical when he played the game,” he revealed.
“He’s a schoolteacher and he loves the game like us all and wanted to stay involved so it was no surprise when he stepped in and he’s doing a great job. There’s other players out there that who I think will step into a job when their times up but it’s our time at the minute.
“Six or seven years ago there was a merry-go-round of managers from one club to the next and I think it was time for an overhaul or a change of faces. With myself, Oran, Gary Hamilton, Darren Murphy and other so-called younger managers, there’s a good atmosphere among them and outside of big Ronnie (McFall) who’s heading for his pension, everybody is pretty young!” It promises to be a cracker, let derby battle commence.