Belfast Telegraph

Teenage captain Luke Wilson striving to inspire Portadown back to the big stage

Top man: Portadown skipper Luke Wilson shows off his Championship Player of the Month prize
Top man: Portadown skipper Luke Wilson shows off his Championship Player of the Month prize

By Steven Beacom

Teenage captain Luke Wilson says Portadown enjoyed their taste of the big time against Glentoran in the Irish Cup and are hungry for more, with promotion to the Irish Premiership the ultimate goal this season.

Matthew Tipton's side lost on penalties to the Glens at The Oval in Saturday's fifth-round tie.

Now it is back to the bread and butter with an important league game at H&W Welders this weekend in the Championship.

The table-toppers, who are three points clear of nearest challengers Ballinamallard, will return to east Belfast buoyed by the news that 19-year-old skipper Wilson has been named Championship Player of the Month for December by the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association after a string of impressive performances.

Having cheered on the Ports as a boy, it would be special to lead the Shamrock Park aces back into the top flight, having been handed the armband by boss Tipton when he was just 18.

"I'm only 19 and to be captain of my hometown club is an amazing feeling," said Wilson.

"When the manager said to me I was going to be skipper it was a real surprise to me because I was so young, but he pointed out that while I may not be the loudest on the pitch, I show real determination, and if I can show that to other people in the team it can help us get results.

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"Tippy has great belief in me to help the team, which is great, and I try to lead by example on the pitch.

"I am a big Portadown fan and I was at matches since I was no age. My father was a supporter during the Portadown glory days.

"Him and my granddad both go to every game now.

"Granda was actually a Glenavon man but he supports me with Portadown now."

On the unfortunate Cup defeat at Glentoran and the remainder of the season, Wilson added: "We were disappointed to lose at The Oval but it was a learning experience for us at the same time.

"There was a big crowd at the game and our players thrive off that.

"This season when we have had a lot of support we have tended to get the results and hopefully that will continue.

"We would love to get up to the top flight, and playing against Glentoran has given us a taste for those types of matches, and hopefully we can drive on now as we want to experience those games on a regular basis."

Another man in form, Cliftonville ace Conor McMenamin, has snapped up the Premiership Player of the Month award for December.

The former Linfield and Glentoran player has been sensational for the Reds, scoring four times last month and inspiring them to the top of the table.

There is a strong case that McMenamin has been the most influential player of the season.

He credits Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin for his outstanding form.

"When Paddy took over, I finished last season well and started this season really well," said McMenamin.

"He is getting the best out of me. To hit four goals in a week against Crusaders, Larne and Coleraine was fantastic, and scoring winners over Christmas in front of big crowds is what you play football for so I'm delighted," said McMenamin.

"I love playing for Paddy and for Cliftonville and I was delighted when I signed a new long-term contract.

"Paddy has players in his team who like to get on the ball but we can mix it up as well. In the past we got bullied against Crusaders but we are now winning games every way now and long may it continue.

"It's always been said about Cliftonville that we score goals but we aren't conceding many this season which helps.

"The boys at the back and goalkeeper Richard Brush have been brilliant."

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