Kerr has plenty in Reserve for new Ards Rangers role
Jackie Kerr may be the only Ards Rangers player to have featured in all three of their Premier Division title-winning seasons - yet he still feels there is so much more he can give to the club.
Indeed, after playing a key role in the first team’s latest title success last season, the right-back has only recently made the move into reserve team football… and all at the age of 42.
Coupled with that transition, he has taken up first team gaffer Lee Forsythe’s offer to take charge of the second team, as part of a managerial reshuffle at the club.
And, although he’s only been in the post a few weeks, Kerr is already beginning to appreciate the unique challenge of a second-string player-manager.
He said: “I used to hear second team managers complaining about this and that, and now I understand the link between the first and second teams. The role of the seconds is to bring players through to the firsts.
“Lee would ring me on a Saturday morning, and tell me he needs this player or that player, or that a player I didn’t know was available is at the last minute. You need to be ready to adapt to whatever the situation is.”
The fact that Kerr and Forsythe have such a good friendship (the returning Kerr was one of Forsythe’s first signings) helps in this ever-changing environment, and his position as the first team assistant for the last three years will also stand him in good stead.
And while Kerr’s priority is to provide his former boss with the best possible resources, he is also determined to make Ards Rangers II a force in their own right. At present, the team is languishing near the foot of Division 3A, with just one point from six games. (CHECK!!)
“It’s not good enough for the second team of the Premier Division champions,” admitted Kerr. “This year, the aim has to be to get us stability and to remain in the division, and take it from there. My vision is to get good links between ourselves, the first team and the Under-17s.
“Ards Rangers Juniors are a great set-up, but if there was one negative, it’s that there haven’t been enough players coming up through the system.”
As he looks to change that, Kerr will use everything he has learnt up to this stage in a career, which has spanned the likes of Crusaders, Bangor and Dundela, as well as his two successful spells at Ards Rangers.
He believes that the different results that can be achieved are often rooted in the basics of how you treat players on a one-to-one basis.
“So far, I’ve found that I get a bit of respect from the young players for the level that I have played at. But if you shout at kids, their heads can go down and they can disappear.
“With some of them, if you are getting at them, they’ll get up and say, ‘I’m going to play somewhere else.’
“Rather than ruling with an iron fist, it’s about making playing and training enjoyable.”
If Ards Rangers II can get themselves a win in this weekend’s Junior Shield fourth round meeting with Newington YC II, it will surely be another boost to morale within the Portaferry Road camp. But Kerr is anticipating a difficult encounter ahead.
He added: “Newington have always been a good side - they were one of the best in the Amateur League and have done well in the Championship, so we will be underdogs against their reserves.
“If we can play with confidence and a smile on our faces, I can ask no more of the players.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital