Belfast Telegraph

Portadown boss Ronnie McFall to pick successor when time at Portadown ends


By Stuart McKinley

For a long time, Portadown manager Ronnie McFall has been known as the Sir Alex Ferguson of the Irish League.

Now he will follow the example of the former Manchester United boss by helping the club select his own successor.

And the first steps to appoint a new man appear to have been taken, with former Portadown defender Pat McGibbon returning to the club in a backroom role.

Shamrock Park fans will just be hoping that whoever McFall ultimately recommends is more successful than David Moyes, who lasted less than a season at Old Trafford after taking over from Ferguson.

In a statement released yesterday, the Ports didn't specify when a new manager would be in place, but with McFall's current contract running out at the end of the season it would seem that his record-breaking reign will be allowed to reach its natural end next summer after more than 30 years in charge.

He can then leave with the respect and dignity that his status at the club merits, rather than being ousted by those who want him out after winning just two of their last 10 Premiership games.

The club statement read: "Ronnie has recognised that the time is approaching for the Board to be thinking about a possible successor and has kindly offered to help in the process and facilitate a smooth transition."

He may not have a knighthood, but an MBE isn't bad. The other comparisons between McFall and Ferguson go deeper than the simple fact that the legendary former United boss walked through the doors at Old Trafford just six weeks before the Ports became Ronnie's Reds in the winter of 1986.

Both men won their first trophies at their respective clubs in 1990 and went on to lead them to unprecedented success.

Major glory had always evaded Portadown before McFall took over, but the days of glorious failures and near misses ended when they won the league title in 1990.

They surpassed that feat 12 months later when they became the first club outside Belfast to win the league and cup double.

In total, McFall has won four league championships with his hometown club and the Irish Cup three times, with 16 other trophies lifted along the way.

That includes Mid-Ulster Cup victories when, at times, the Ports and local rivals Glenavon were two of the strongest teams in Irish League football.

Perhaps McFall's most significant triumph, however, was bringing the club back into top-flight football in 2009 after administration errors saw them fail to gain a Premiership licence a year earlier.

Like it was with Ferguson, emulating McFall's achievements will be no easy task for his successor.

Having the master groom the new man is something that Manchester United had in mind, but in the end Ferguson handed the whole thing over to Moyes rather than showing him the ropes for a season.

Officially, McGibbon has been brought back to the club where he started his career more than 25 years ago as a physiotherapist. It's not a red herring or a bluff, McGibbon runs his own physio practice in Craigavon.

The club statement announcing McGibbon's appointment does, however, say that he will "initially fill the vacancy left following the resignation of the club's physiotherapist".

The use of the word 'initially' leaves things hanging nicely.

McGibbon's presence in the dressing room, beginning with tomorrow's Premiership game with Coleraine, will allow for a get-to-know-you period with the players and for all parties to find out if he is the right fit.

As well as his sports injury qualifications, McGibbon is a Uefa Pro Licence coach who has worked at Monaghan United as well as managing Lurgan Celtic and Newry City and only a couple of days ago he pulled out of the running to become the new Glentoran manager after applying for both that and the vacant Derry City job.

Appointing ex-Northern Ireland internationals is in vogue at present - think Warren Feeney taking over from David Jeffrey at Linfield in May last year.

A Manchester United connection is a bonus, like David Healy taking the reins when Feeney left Windsor Park last month and now the possibility of McGibbon being in charge at Shamrock Park in little over six months' time.

After 18 months out of the game after leaving the Blues - the first break he's ever had since joining none other than Manchester United as a 16-year-old - Jeffrey will also be a contender for the Shamrock Park job.

If the Ports want someone with experience and a track record then look no further. Whoever McFall recommends for the job, the Board would do well to listen.

Belfast Telegraph


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