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Promotion a must for Ports but return to the Premiership must be earned: Currie

By Stuart McKinley

Niall Currie knows exactly what he has to do as he faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career in his first full season as Portadown manager.

There is one target and one target only for the Ports boss - promotion back to the Premiership.

There have been major changes off the pitch - a new chairman, fresh faces on the board and supporters' groups uniting behind the new regime - and Currie knows that he and his largely overhauled squad must top off all the fresh wave of optimism by getting back up at the first time of asking.

"Yes, there is only one target this season and we know that," said Currie,ahead of today's opening Bluefin Sport Championship clash against Larne. "Promotion has to be the expectation.

"I knew it was going to be an uphill battle last season with what was going on at the club. A lot of credit has to go to the people who came in and helped clean up a lot.

"Now everything is so positive. We have a wonderful new board and they are working hard, the supporters are fully on board and hopefully we can get the crowds that will give us that 12th man all season. Now that everything is going well, we have to get our act together on the pitch."

Currie was only able to sign amateurs in January due to punishments for previous wrongdoings, but now he has netted a number of experienced faces.

Goalkeeper John Connolly and defenders Kyle McVey and Kyle Neill bring plenty of top-flight know-how, David McCullough, Andrew Kilmartin, Chris Lavery and Darren Henderson could probably have secured moves to stay in the Premiership and in Kevin Amuneke they have a former Nigerian international who has played across Europe.

"I think the squad is taking up a good shape," said Currie. "It's up to us now. We know the pressure and the expectations that there are always going to be at this club.

"All these guys know how big this club is and how big we want it to be again and we want people coming to this club for the right reasons. I think we have a great core, we've got great experience in the squad as well as good young lads, but more importantly good characters and good people."

Although the Ports are massive favourites to win the league, they will face a threat from Institute, who have lost promotion play-offs in each of the last two seasons, Balllyclare Comrades - who were third last season - as well as newly promoted Limavady United and Newry City.

Currie has four previous Championship successes on his CV. Having a manager who knows his way around the second tier is crucial.

"We know that this is a Premiership club, but we have no divine right to turn up and win," said Currie. "We know that we will be the big catch. Teams will thrive on coming to Shamrock Park and it'll be a cup final for them.

"It is up to us to understand that situation and this is what we're driving into the boys.

"Nobody is going to allow us to turn up and play. If we play to our strengths then with the quality that we have we can hurt teams."

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