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Patton hopes to continue special relationship with Glenavon fans despite imminent exit

 

By Gareth Hanna

When you're the man that nets your club's most important goal this side of the millennium, you find an almost unparalleled affection amongst the support.

So it was for Mark Patton when his 76th-minute strike fired Glenavon to a 2-1 win over Ballymena United in 2014, and with it their first Irish Cup success since 1997.

And even now as he prepares to leave the Lurgan Blues, having handed in a transfer request earlier this week, his status has not diminished - one look at social media after his decision was announced confirmed that.

Nor will it ever in the eyes of the 4,000 or so Glenavon supporters there that day who remembered (or discovered for the first time) what major success was like, biting their nails for the final 14 minutes and then erupting from Windsor Park's North Stand at the final whistle on May 3, 2014.

He had also put Glenavon ahead during extra-time of their 3-1 semi-final success over Crusaders and would go on to score a last-gasp winner over Portadown that Boxing Day; the blue side of Craigavon's first festive derby win since 1996.

It's little wonder that it's a player-fan relationship Patton had to think long and hard about bringing to an end.

"I haven't been playing much this year," the left winger said.

He's right - he's started just one Premiership game and featured in one other this term.

"Josh Daniels and Adam Foley have come in and played very well. I played the first game of the season then Foley came in for the second, scored a hat-trick and hasn't looked back.

"I've been playing well and scoring for the reserves, but the guys have been playing so well that how could Gary (Hamilton) change the squad? I can't really complain at all.

"I haven't got any grudges or anything like that. I wish all the lads and Gary all the best. I have fought for my place over the last year or 18 months but it has just come to that stage that I need to look after myself and I just want to play.

"I didn't want to go on loan or anything, it was better to go and free up a little bit of money for Gary to get in players he wants and to let me move on as well. If there was ever a chance to come back, I wouldn't say no, but now is the right time for me to move on."

After his imminent departure had been announced, supporters hailed Patton a Glenavon legend - impressive for a player who has featured in fewer than 100 league games for the club.

"Over the last four and a half years, the fans and I have always got on well. I thank them for embracing me, even though I came from the dark side of Craigavon," he laughed. "Hopefully when I play against Glenavon they will give me a good reception."

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