Belfast Telegraph

Club focus: Grange Rangers

By Keith Bailie

This season has been something of a horror story for Grange Rangers and their manager Stephen King.

After a difficult season, there was no twist in the plot on Saturday, when Grange were relegated to Division 2C, losing 4-1 to Portavogie Rangers.

The odds were always stacked against 29-year-old King. He took the Grange job in October with the club rock bottom of the division after a string of first team players had quit the club. King and his newly-assembled team fought valiantly against the drop, but finally succumbed on Saturday afternoon.

Reflecting on the defeat, King said: "Things didn't go our way, unfortunately. It was 1-1 at half time and we were playing really well, but in the second half, we scored an own goal and conceded a penalty, and ended up losing 4-1. I really didn't feel it was a 4-1 game, but silly mistakes cost us and in many ways, that's been the story of the season.

"Obviously it was disappointing to be relegated, but I'm proud of my players because they fought so hard to keep us in 2B. We didn't get our first win until the ninth game of the season, so I think we did well to keep it alive for so long. We just need to learn from our mistakes and come back stronger. Sometimes you need to take a step backwards to go forwards."

Looking back on his first six months in charge at Grange, King said, "I took over in October. It was a tough time for the club because we were bottom of the league and we had just lost 10 first team players. We basically had to rebuild them team mid-season, which is far from ideal.

"Anyone who has watched us play will say that we have improved, we just had such a bad start it was always going to be an uphill struggle.

"Next season will be different because I will get a full pre-season with the team, which will give us a chance to gel. Although nothing is signed, I'm hoping to have six new players on board for next season.

"I've got some good players here, but we've not got much of a squad. I want to have a strong bench so I can make tactical substitutions, that's a luxury I don't have at the moment.

"I'm a young manager and this is my first job. I know 2C is a difficult division, but I think you'll be able to judge me better this time next year. We've been up against it this year, with so many players leaving."

King has already bolstered the club's credentials by brining in former Kidderminster and Linfield left-back Jonny Harkness. The former Coleraine man is the club's new assistant manager, although he has pulled on the jersey on occasions.

King explained: "Jonny and I played in the Foyle Cup together at Under 13 level, so that shows how far we go back. I was delighted when he agreed to join the coaching staff, as he's played in the Irish League and professionally in England. He has a lot of experience that he can bring to the dressing room and the players enjoy working with someone of his calibre."

Despite this week's relegation, King is already looking forward to taking on 2C. The young manager said: "I can't wait to get started. We will work hard over the summer and in pre-season to improve our squad. We're all looking forward to a new challenge."


CLUB: Grange Rangers


GROUND: Foundry Lane


MANAGER: Stephen King

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