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Gary Haveron: I turned down Linfield to join Coleraine, now I'm loving my part in Larne's community drive

 

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Gary Haveron

Gary Haveron

Gary Haveron

Gary Haveron

Haveron captained Ballymena United after joining the club in 2005.

Haveron captained Ballymena United after joining the club in 2005.

Gary Haveron

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

In the second of a new summer series, Alex Mills catches up with former Lisburn Distillery, Coleraine and Ballymena United favourite Gary Haveron to examine the standout moments of his playing days prior to taking over the managerial reins at Carrick Rangers and Glentoran.

Your most thrilling footballing memory?

For a one-off game, the 2004 Irish Cup final against Glentoran was up there with my big memories.

I didn't have that many trophy-winning highlights, but I was proud to represent the clubs I played for.

Whenever I signed for Ballymena United after leaving Coleraine, I never thought I would spend the next eight seasons there. I felt I was a big part of that football club.

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Haveron captained Ballymena United after joining the club in 2005.

Haveron captained Ballymena United after joining the club in 2005.

Haveron captained Ballymena United after joining the club in 2005.

 

Signing for Wolves at 16 was a massive thrill - and joining Bolton was an honour. I am also proud of the fact that I played for Northern Ireland from Under-15 level right through to Under-23s.

I just loved every second of my football days and have great memories, playing with boys like Steve Bull, Keith Curle, Robbie Keane and Joleon Lescott.

I've experienced things money can't buy.

Your worst moment?

Most players will revert to injuries they picked up. I was a bit unfortunate that I broke my leg twice in the space of 12 months.

It when I was at Ballymena United. The first one was on a wet, miserable night down at Bangor in December 2007 and then in August 2008 at the Coleraine Showgrounds. It was more or less the same break.

Before that, I broke my ankle when I was at Coleraine in 2004. It was an innocuous thing on the training ground. I ended up getting a pin, a wire and two screws in my right ankle.

Because I enjoyed every minute of it when I was playing, I didn't want to miss out on any game time, so that period out of the game was a nightmare for me. It was very hard and frustrating.

Of course, losing the 2004 Irish Cup final was also heartbreaking. We desperately missed Packie McAllister on that occasion.

Most difficult opponent?

I played against a few difficult strikers, but Glenn Ferguson was the best.

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Glenn Ferguson

Glenn Ferguson

Glenn Ferguson

 

For such a big, strong man, he had a great touch. His movement was unbelievable. People didn't realise he had the knack of finding a yard of space inside the box. No matter how hard you tried to mark him, he was almost impossible to nail down.

Spike was simply a class, class act - he was elusive for such a solid man.

You thought you had him in a good position but, seconds later, he would be yards away from you.

I've been lucky in my career because, when I was a young fella, I played against Alan Shearer at St James' Park. He was only coming back from injury and he played 10 minutes, so it is nice to be able to say I played against him.

Person who was your biggest influence?

My father Cyril was with me every step of my football days - he was a massive influence.

Until you become a father yourself, you don't realise the sacrifices your own dad had to make.

There is a funny story about him. I was picked for the Boys' Brigade Battalion team, which was a great honour. I was a year younger than the rest. We turned up for the final trial on a wet and windy morning at Antrim Forum.

Unfortunately, one of the goalkeepers was sick, so the guy running the show asked did anyone fancy going into goals. My dad's hand was first in the air. He is ultra-competitive, a bit like myself.

He was wearing a pair of denim jeans and a leather jacket, but he turned out in goals, diving all over the place in an Under-15 trial match - he was determined to keep a clean sheet.

My mum Elaine and dad never missed a single game that I played in the Irish League - they were fantastic in terms of just always being there for me.

I hope now that I can do the same for my son Alfie.

On the pitch, Packie McAllister was a massive, massive influence to me - he was a leader.

Biggest regret?

I was never one to do regrets - it's something I've never been big on.

I had spoken to David Jeffrey about joining Linfield after they achieved the clean sweep, but I ended up signing for Coleraine instead.

It's not so much of a regret, because I got to play with some great players at Coleraine.

Had I gone to the Blues, I probably would have got a few more medals.

I went where I felt I was wanted the most. I reckoned Marty Quinn wanted me that bit more.

When I came back from England, it was a disappointment, but I realised I wasn't at the level required. I lacked a bit of pace.

It maybe took me a few years to accept that, but I adapted a mental attitude of giving my best at every club. When you can do that, I don't think you can ever have too many regrets.

I wanted to do my best - sometimes it was good enough, sometimes it wasn't, but at least I can live with myself in the knowledge that I did my best.

I always try to do things right and I suppose that gave me a clear conscience.

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

I think that what Larne Football Club has achieved has been fantastic - not just because I'm involved.

Everyone has a level of engagement with the fans.

From the chairman Gareth Clements down, they have strived to make it a family- friendly club.

Every single person in the community of Larne are involved with the football club - they all feel part of it.

I think a lot of other teams could do worse than follow Larne's blueprint.

The club is now socially appealing to everyone, not just men and their sons, but daughters and wives, the entire family.

Going to a game now is more of a day out for the family. It's vital to interact with your fanbase. The football club is now the heartbeat of the town. The club wants everyone to be part of that journey - and be proud of it.

Also, the NIFL has done a fantastic job. Andy Johnston and his team have breathed new life back into the Irish League.

We have a good product and they are determined to keep moving it forward.

Belfast Telegraph