Every Thursday, frank, funny, fearless and always on the ball on the Irish League
Saturday, November 30, 2013. It's a date that probably won't mean a lot to many of you, but for Oran Kearney it is something of a red letter day.
His Coleraine side, which he inherited two years earlier, were on the crest of a slump and a miserable 2-1 defeat to Warrenpoint Town meant they were at crisis point, in the middle of a losing run that was getting out of control and slipping headlong into the danger zone.
After the game, the Bannsiders boss, a man who always wears his footballing heart on his sleeve, pondered whether enough was enough and if it was time to throw in the towel.
How glad Coleraine fans, many of whom were calling for his head, must be that he didn't, thanks in no small part to a wise man from Bushmills (not a sentence that has often been used) in chairman Colin McKendry.
Fast forward almost four years and, in perfect A-Team fashion, don't you just love it when a plan comes together? Coleraine went top of the Danske Bank Premiership table with, yep, you guessed it, a 2-1 win over Warrenpoint Town.
I'm not saying that they are now arriving in a black van with a red stripe, welding stuff together and Eoin Bradley proclaiming that he won't be boarding a plane back to Kilrea until someone sneakily hands him a pint of Ballyrashane's finest, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... an understanding chairman.
As a schoolteacher it is no surprise that Kearney has given the kids a chance. That and given the Bannsiders' somewhat adventurous past on the financial side of things which means that the purse strings are now tied up a good deal tighter.
McKendry has played a pivotal role in that transformation too, getting to the stage now where the club is advertising for an Operations Manager (I think I'll apply) to bring it to the next level).
One of the key criteria set for the role is 'ensuring that communication between departments is ongoing and utilised to maintain an environment of continuous improvement'. That's the manager/chairman's relationship in a nutshell, no whispering campaigns or daggers in backs.
Of course there's more to it than that, you don't win anything with kids, by all accounts, so the hiring of William Murphy as Kearney's right-hand man was inspired, while Bradley's nous, know-how and cuteness (not in a fluffy sense) is making the boys become men.
The conveyor belt of talent is impressive, home-grown and plucked from neighbouring areas. The likes of Jamie McGonigle, Brad Lyons, Ian Parkhill, Ciaron Harkin and Lyndon Kane are flourishing, with the likes of Steven Douglas and David Ogilby there to keep an eye on things.
"It's not just about bringing young players into the club, it's about bringing in good young players - that's the difference," said Kearney when that horrible run in 2013 was replaced by a surge of form and a Manager of the Month award.
But what really was telling then was that he paid special tribute to one man - his chairman.
"I'm just thankful Colin didn't listen to the negativity that was floating around our club at the time, otherwise I wouldn't be picking up this award," said Kearney.
"As frustrating as it was, I did speak to him after a defeat by Warrenpoint. But I hadn't even the door closed when he told me, 'Don't go there'. He said it was not an option."
Coleraine's perfect start to the new campaign continued on Tuesday night with a 4-1 win over Larne in the BetMcLean League Cup, and next they will be up against another team who have made a cracking start to the season, Glenavon, another club with a strong chairman who has thrown his weight behind his manager.
Too many chairmen are too quick to press the panic button, chopping and changing at the drop of a hat with no clue as to what they want and how they are going to get there. Glentoran anyone?
That's why I'm so pleased to see Gary Haveron get off to a good start this season, a young manager with a thankless task in resurrecting the Glens, while life hasn't started completely ticketyboo for Barry Gray at Cliftonville, but they both need time.
So, a message to chairmen and their boards - remain calm, give them the time they need and if all else fails, send a black van with a red stripe up to Bushmills immediately.
Now I am not here to gloat… however, facts are facts and, as they say, Martin McGaughey, Glenn Ferguson, Peter Rafferty, David Healy, your boy took one helluva beating last week!
Yes, as predicted last week trying to predict anything in the Danske Bank Premiership is like trying to elect a US President, it really isn’t as easy as you think, as myself and Linfield midfielder Stephen Lowry showed.
Our miserable efforts resulted in a 4-2 win for yours truly, my bacon saved by Coleraine’s 2-1 success over Warrenpoint Town, and never before have I cheered a Bannsiders’ winner more!
Stephen correctly predicted Glentoran would pick up a point at Glenavon and Coleraine would win, but that was as good as it got, while my other point came from tipping Carrick to see off Ballinamallard.
Hopefully Crusaders’ defender Howard Beverland can show us how it’s done this week, with the usual three points for a correct prediction and a point for the right outcome.
As always, and the Crues aren’t in action anyhow, the player doesn’t forecast his own team’s game.
Coleraine v Glenavon
You’re looking at two very in-form teams in the league at the minute; teams who have a lot of firepower up front and players who threaten from lots of different areas. There’s very little between them, so I’ll go for a draw.
Beverland prediction: 2-2
Weir prediction: 2-3
Ballymena Utd v Cliftonville
I better be careful with this one as I’m not flavour of the month with Cliftonville fans at the minute!
On the first day of the season they were free-scoring against Ards but the issue with them is conceding goals.
But with Rory Donnelly (left) signing now they are going to score lots of goals and Ballymena haven’t hit the ground well and are conceding a lot too.
The arrival of Rory Donnelly may bring a bit of a lift or a reaction from the squad and I think Barry Gray has already made comments that he is willing to listen to offers for players, so you would think they will come out with a point to prove and that’s normally a high-scoring game down there.
Beverland prediction: 2-4
Weir prediction: 2-2
Glentoran v Warrenpoint Town
Glentoran have made, I suppose to some people out there, a surprisingly good start. A lot of people, given their pre-season displays, probably thought they would struggle and I know that while they have played Glenavon this season already, they have to play a number of big clubs yet.
By all accounts Warrenpoint put in a very good performance at Coleraine and were unfortunate not to get something from that game.
The sending off made a big impact as Darren Murray was doing really well for them and causing all sorts of bother. I could see them struggle to score goals without him but if he’s available against Glentoran they would have a much better chance.
Beverland prediction: 2-1
Weir prediction: 1-1
Dungannon Sws v Ballinamallard Utd
Dungannon are missing their key centre man in Andy Mitchell and Jamie Glackin is with me at Crusaders now so that’s a goalscorer and a man who brought a lot of assists to the team gone.
But they got a win against Ards while Ballinamallard will try and grind out a lot of results this season though with home advantage and the good football they play down there, I’ll go for Dungannon.
Beverland prediction: 2-1
Weir prediction: 1-1
Carrick Rangers v Ards
At this stage there isn’t a whole lot between them but again playing at home could swing it.
Beverland prediction: 2-1
Weir prediction: 3-1