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Colin Nixon: UEFA Cup goal is my fondest Glentoran memory but I was disappointed I didn't get Ards loyalty in first managerial job



Colin Nixon is Glentoran's record appearance holder with 794.

Colin Nixon is Glentoran's record appearance holder with 794.

Colin Nixon is Glentoran's record appearance holder with 794.

With Irish League football left playing the waiting game due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sunday Life has delved into the archives.

In the latest chapter of a new summer series, Alex Mills scrutinises Glens legend Colin Nixon, who recalls the highs of unforgettable European heroics with the east Belfast outfit and the crushing disappointment of how his first job in management came to a premature end.

Your most thrilling footballing memory?

I have so many great memories from my Glentoran days that it's always difficult to single out one, but there is an occasion that still gives me great pleasure - scoring a late winner in a UEFA Cup tie against Allianssi in Finland, which helped us to a 2-1 victory and a second-round place.

It was the first time Glentoran had won an away leg in Europe, so to score the goal was special.

That group of players had gone close so many times to winning on foreign soil, so it was a fantastic feeling to finally break the duck. It was a big achievement for part-time footballers against full-time opponents.

I lifted the Irish Cup at a young age - and I won it five more times after that. I was lucky enough to be on the winners' podium at 17 years of age and I did it again two years later; I think I was the youngest ever captain to lift the trophy.

I'm proud of the fact that I have six winners' medals in total - that last one was in 2013, the year I left the club.

Your worst moment?

I've no doubt in saying my worst experience in football was losing my job as manager at Ards.

I worked my socks off for two-and-a-half seasons.

It was well documented at the time that I had the chance to go to Glentoran, but I remained loyal to Ards - and I thought they would have done the same to me.

So that really disappointed me. Unfortunately, that's the way people are in football and I was long enough in the game to realise that these things happen.

But I can hold my head high because I managed to keep the club in the Premiership for two years, working under huge budgetary constraints. It was a battle every day.

I know the effort I put in, the club was close to my heart as I was born and brought up in Newtownards. I honestly thought I would have had more support from the chairman and board, but I didn't get it.

It's now all water under the bridge. I hold no grudges. Life is too short, so we move on.

Most difficult opponent?

That's a difficult question because I moved from right-back to centre-back and faced many good players.

Certainly, Glenn Ferguson is up there with the best of them. He was the type of player you couldn't take your eye off. He was always capable of putting the ball in the net, should it be the first or last minute.

Earlier, in my days at right-back, I came up against boys like Raymond McCoy and Sid Burrows. They were two tricky wingers and it was always tough against them.

It helped give me a good grounding in the Irish League. They were two out-and-out wingers and were boys who always wanted to take you on.

All they wanted to do was get to the byline and get the ball into the box - something you don't see a lot of these days. But for sheer predatory instincts and his 'fox in the box' attitude, Spike was definitely the most difficult striker to watch.

Person who was your biggest influence?

My dad Hugh was with me every step of the way.

When I was young, he took me everywhere. He took me to training and, even as a schoolboy, no matter what part of the country I was playing in, he was there with me.

He had the same seat at The Oval and, when we were playing in Cup Finals at Windsor Park, again he was in the same seat. We used to give him a bit of ribbing about it.

My dad supported me throughout my career, through good times and bad.

But when I took on the manager's job at Ards, he didn't bother going to games. He knew the crowd could be fickle and he couldn't handle that.

I don't think he could be bothered with the stress of it all. Being a manager is completely different to being a player. It can be a lonely place at times.

Biggest regret?

I have to say, I would have loved to have got the chance to play in the full-time game.

In my own head, I believe I was capable of holding my own across the water.

When I was young, the only thing I wanted to be was a footballer.

I was at Rangers in my early teens. I was also at Leeds United and Preston. Livingston also showed a big interest. I certainly would have liked a crack at it.

There was a lot of interest, but it just never happened. Perhaps it just wasn't meant to be.

Yes, that is a regret, but I must say I was thrilled with what I achieved in the Irish League.

What would you change to make the Irish League more appealing?

I actually think Irish League football is on the up, we have a good product.

There was money ring-fenced for the improvement of grounds, which unfortunately hasn't happened so far.

This coronavirus outbreak will probably push that further down the line. Some of the stadia are a little bit ropey and could do with a facelift.

If you want to entice fans to attend games, the environment has to be right. Facilities are not good for supporters at certain grounds.

It would be great to see grounds more family-friendly.

Yes, clubs are working very hard individually, but they need a helping hand with government support. The fact that clubs are surviving at this moment in time is credit to them all.

On the pitch, every team is improving and the standard is certainly improving.

The right decision was made to postpone football. You have to put it into context as this is a worldwide pandemic. When peoples' lives are involved, it's a different ball game.

Belfast Telegraph