I have some wonderful memories from my time as manager at Institute, so it was with mixed emotions that I received the news that official permission has now been granted to demolish the club’s former Riverside Stadium home.
The Drumahoe venue was a very tidy compact ground in an idyllic, picturesque location. Indeed, its model was the envy of many, but the floods of 2017 practically destroyed the stadium and, in the process, wiped out many years of hard work by a dedicated bunch of locals.
I feel particularly sad for the then-club custodians who had worked tirelessly to realise such a wonderful ground at the Riverside only to have it obliterated in a few hours of flooding. I know those involved personally and they were understandably heartbroken.
However, due to the fact that the stadium is nestled right beside the river Faughan, and with the Rivers Agency refusing to let the club erect flood barriers beside the ground, the likelihood of repetition was much too great, so the decision was taken, in conjunction with the Derry City & Strabane District Council, to deconstruct the stadium and return it to a green field site.
I will still savour many great memories from my time there and none more so than the year we won the Carnegie Championship and Cup double for the first time in the club’s history, going the full season unbeaten at home in the League. That was a special time both for the club and for me.
Back then, the welcome everyone received from club officials at the Riverside was always a warm one — exactly how it should be at all sporting grounds — and although the club’s fanbase is small, they were loyal and always created a really good atmosphere.
As a result, it was always a pleasant and enjoyable place to be.
Perhaps we should actually be embracing what may well be the start of something special and a new era for Institute rather than bemoaning and mourning the end of an old one.
I happen to know that the present club custodians have high hopes and big plans to re-establish the club in a new purpose-built stadium in the Waterside area of the city.
Without doubt, I feel Irish League football needs a senior club from Londonderry — only on merit, of course. The second largest city in Northern Ireland should be represented at the top level and I genuinely feel it’s a shame that it isn’t already.
Nevertheless, Institute deserve great credit for the tremendous resilience they have shown, particularly over recent years when many others would have thrown the towel in and walked away.
In fact, a couple of years ago I was asked to host the launch of the club’s ‘Strategic Development Plan’ and their hopes to relocate on the Waterside area of the city.
Now at last, perhaps that vision can move a step closer given this week’s official news that the old Riverside Stadium in Drumahoe is to be consigned to the history books once and for all.
Stute currently groundshare the Brandywell stadium with Derry City on the ‘City’ side of the Foyle and, much as this still enables them to compete at Championship level, their home and base still lies in the Waterside — and that’s where they need to be, so I wish the club every success in their quest for a new place they can call home.
JUNE 25 is a night not to be missed, with my good friend Gerry Armstrong holding a gala dinner to mark the 40th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s World Cup victory over Spain.
Many of the team will be in attendance at the Europa Hotel event — Martin O’Neil, Pat Jennings, Jimmy Nicholl and John O’Neil to name but a few.
Smart Pay is the main backer but there are still sponsorship opportunities available.
Tickets cost £150 each, tables of 10 are £1400 and tables of 11 — to include a player — are £1900.
There are some fabulous auction prizes and the occasionwill raise money for The Lightbody Trust, Snow Patrol’s nominated charity.
For further information on the night or to sign up for a ticket, simply contact email@example.com
It's so sad and yet so ironic that in the week the current Northern Ireland manager is being tipped in many quarters as being close to losing his job, we lost probably our greatest ever boss — the one and only Billy Bingham.
Who could ever forget those truly wondrous years in the 1980s under Bingy’s leadership when we qualified for back-to-back World Cups?
I feel it was under Billy that our country and its people really built up a renewed confidence, belief and a unity between the supporters and our international football team once again.
It’s Billy and his achievements that we have to thank for restoring our pride and for that alone, he will surely go down as our greatest ever gaffer.
Public opinion is, however, very much different when it comes to current incumbent Ian Baraclough.
With the jury well and truly out on his future, it appears a growing number of the Green and White Army would like to see a change at the helm.
I do appreciate that results in the Nations League have not been good, but I felt we played much better in Kosovo in midweek even if we still didn’t get a top performance or indeed a rub of the green.
Mind you, when things don’t go well — and they certainly aren’t at this minute in time — it’s always easy to point the finger at the manager. The buck stops with him but, if the truth be told, I haven’t been blown away by some of the players’ performances either.
Yes, it could be said that perhaps some of them appear to be simply going through the motions as their body language would suggest and that they’re not putting it in for the manager, but they too have a duty to the jersey and the name on the badge.
So although it’s Baraclough who will inevitably take the rap, some players need to up the ante as well and that starts with a really good performance and result against Cyprus today.
Here’s hoping, for everyone’s sake.