They say three is the magic number – or at least, they do at Tullycarnet.
The east Belfast club have been making steady strides since their arrival on the Amateur League scene just three years ago, and their unique trio of joint managers have played no small part in their rise to prominence.
There are very few football teams who have three men sharing the load equally at the helm, but for long-term friends Stan Kinnier, Paul Campbell and Jimmy Birch, it is quite literally a winning combination.
Not only have they captured back-to-back Division 2C and 2B titles, but they are aiming to complete a special hat-trick of straight title wins this season. With a 100 per cent record in their six league games to date, they have made the ideal start in their quest of turning that dream into a reality.
Though despite their success so far, Tullycarnet can rest assured that their managers won’t let them carried away.
Kinnier remarked: “Some people might say we are running away with things, but we don’t see it that way at all. Most of the teams we have played so far have been in the bottom half of the table.
“Then you have teams like Woodvale and Rosemount Rec. They maybe haven’t got off to a flier, but those sort of teams are always capable of putting a run together, and I can definitely see them having a say in what happens this year.”
Hopes were always high that Tullycarnet could do well in the Amateur League, but at this rate, they are admittedly ahead of their own schedule, and Kinnier is full of praise for the players who have helped get them there.
The joint gaffer said: “It is easier to say that now, but yes, things are going well. Jimmy has already said about us having a five-year plan to get up into intermediate football, and we are now in the top league below that.
“The Amateur League is about taking your chances, and we have been doing that. Some teams might find they only get so far, but I think we can get a bit higher. The three of us want to be there right to the end.
“The players we have, you couldn’t praise them enough in terms of their winning mentality. They don’t fear any team that’s put in front of them, and I think that’s because of the good blend of youth and experience we have here. The experience of players like John Douglas (ex-Linfield and Rangers), Colin Callagher (ex-Knockbreda), Jamie Black and Davy Hume (both ex-Dundela) is always going to be a big plus.”
Tullycarnet have also been fairly shrewd with their transfer business. Take recent signing Johnny Tumelty for example – a proven goal-scorer with both Dundonald and Bryansburn Rangers, who netted a hat-trick on his debut with his latest club.
And while many rival clubs in their locality complain of a shortage of players due to intense competition for the best talent, that doesn’t appear to be a problem Tullycarnet have faced.
Kinnier added: “We are always on the lookout. Between Paul, Jimmy and I, we know a wide range of players. It wasn’t so easy to attract players when we were in 2C, but the higher you go, the easier it becomes.”
And what happens if things ever don’t happen to go so smoothly? What happens if or when the wins start to run out?
“Football isn’t going to get in the way,” stressed Kinnier. “I have known Paul for 40 years, and Jimmy played for me at the Civil Service. We don’t always agree, but we are always able to bounce ideas off each other. Three just works for us.”
And, as another famous old adage goes… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.