Looking ahead to the Northern Amateur Football League awards night later this month, manager of new Premier Division champions Ards Rangers, Lee Forsythe, takes a moment to reflect on how differently things might have worked out for him.
“I remember going to Warrenpoint seven years ago, and losing 5-0 in the Irish Cup,” he states, with the sort of smile only a positive bit of hindsight can produce.
“That came after a run of one draw and nine defeats, and the committee had a vote on whether I got to stay on as manager. It was a 50-50 split, and the chairman’s vote carried. Thankfully he voted for me to stay.”
Forsythe’s under-pressure side subsequently delivered ten successive league victories to earn promotion from Division 1A into the Premier Division… and haven’t looked back since.
He might be able to laugh about it now, but the man who, at the age of 27, admitted to hearing opposition managers and supporters asking who this young upstart was on the sidelines in his first season in charge, still feels a sense of proving the doubters wrong.
You’d imagine that after two league titles in four years - the second along with this season’s Border Cup completing Rangers’ first ever double, not to mention a managerial career also including an Intermediate Cup final, two Clarence Cup finals, and a Premier Division runners’-up spot - there would be no doubters left.
Not as far as Forsythe is concerned.
He grins: “There were a few comments made when we lost 6-1 to Crumlin Star a couple of weeks ago, so when we get our hands on that trophy, that will be a nice reply to them.
“I just feel that this club never gets the credit it deserves. Everybody always harps on about Crumlin Star, Immaculata and Albert Foundry, but everyone seems to write us off.
“No-one was talking about Ards Rangers at the start of the season, and I’m sure it will be the same at the start of next season. I hope so.”
In the much loftier surroundings of the Barclays Premier League, Chelsea have been coming in for some recent criticism for the manner in which they have wrapped up this season’s title race, with some even calling the champions’ performances “boring.”
Needless to say, Forsythe isn’t comparing his side to Jose Mourinho’s men, but he does see some similarity with the perceived criticism levelled at his own team.
“I’ve read comments from other managers saying that we’re a long ball side, and that we don’t play entertaining football,” remarked the Rangers boss. “Well, we have scored 127 goals this season (with one game left to play), so if that’s boring, I’m happy to settle for that.
“If we beat Derriaghy on Tuesday night (tomorrow, Drome Park, 6.45pm), we will equal the highest ever points total of 63 by Newington, with a better goal difference.”
Of course, there will always be new targets. Next year it will be all about doing what the great six-in-a-row Killyleagh YC and three-in-a-row Newington sides did, in retaining a top flight title.
In doing so, they would mark yet another landmark in an era which constantly seems to be breaking new ground for this proud Newtownards club.
Thankfully for their supporters - and their committee - they have a manager and a group of players hungry enough to do just that.