My father died of a brain haemorrhage when I was just two-years-old. He was only 26.
We were already just a very run-of-the-mill working class family and, after my father’s passing, my mother had to take two jobs — she was a farm labourer by day and cleaned other people’s houses three nights a week just to make sure my big brother Lawrence and I had clothes on our back and a loaf on the table.
Believe me, there is no one more wary of taking financial risks than yours truly.
After my childhood when I quickly learned what it was like to want but not be able to afford, after gathering up a spare bob or two, I soon realised there were two ways of spending it — I could either invest in something sound or squander it foolishly.
I have my late mother Maud to thank for always steering me towards the former option.
That’s why I don’t quite get all of the negativity surrounding the transfer of hugely talented young striker Lee Bonis from Portadown to Larne for a sum somewhere in the region of £100k.
At first glance it does seem like an awful lot of money changing hands between two Irish League clubs for an Irish League player, but when you take time to bisect and digest the transfer, I think it’s a very shrewd investment by the Inver Park club.
First and foremost, Larne can afford it. They reportedly grossed somewhere in the region of £1m last season and, despite the odd jealous, ill-advised and ill-informed comment, the club are not in the habit of squandering or throwing money around them in the transfer market. Just check it out for yourself and you will see.
Bonis is one of the best young footballers I have seen for some time and obviously Larne felt exactly the same. In fact, and with all due respect, I honestly see the lad possibly crossing the channel to bigger and better things — and if that happens, it could well result in a very tidy profit for the club so, while the transfer is primarily for football reasons, I have absolutely no doubt the club will see this investment as a calculated and measured business decision.
Also, let’s not forget that the fee Larne paid Portadown has stayed within our domestic game, meaning that the Ports can afford to shop around other clubs in the transfer market so the money may well benefit others in our game, so what’s the problem?
The same applies to Glentoran and their summer decision to hand big money to Ballymena United for the services of Shay McCartan. Again, this sizeable amount of cash stayed local, it’s in Ballymena’s bank account for them to spend how and when they see fit with every possibility that it, too, will be reinvested back into our game and to the benefit of others.
I am well aware of the genuine doubts and reservations some well-meaning people have with the sustainability of spending such a considerable sum of money and, of course, the alarm bells start ringing with the thought of the wages which accompany such high-profile moves but, again, I would appeal to those doubters to trust the custodians responsible for conducting such transfers and also those who control the purse strings.
I have no doubt the clubs will have checked and double checked that their maths adds up and that they can firstly afford, secondly justify and thirdly sustain their outlay.
It’s always much easier to sit on the outside with your glass half empty and attempt to pick holes in other clubs’ investments but, although I am also on the outside, my glass is always half full with regard to good young footballers who are doing well and, provided the clubs feel they can afford it and that the bulk of the money stays within the parameters of the Irish League, then I commend both Larne, Glentoran and indeed all of the other clubs who invest domestically.
Their vision and foresight deserves credit and not criticism.
Tremendous news for all pure motorcycle road race fans with the official confirmation that our two international road races — the North West 200 and the Ulster Grand Prix — will take place this May and August, respectively.
Neither of these iconic occasions have taken place since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic while, even outside of Covid concerns, the Ulster Grand Prix almost disappeared entirely as a result of mounting debts.
Now a new club has been formed to rescue the Dundrod event, which will be able to stage its centenary celebrations at the world-famous circuit.
It’s not rocket science to say that things need to change if the UGP is to become financially sustainable because the sums haven’t added up in recent years and I had actually found myself wondering if the fastest road race in the world would ever be back.
I accept that things are geographically difficult at Dundrod.
The new organisers must find a way to channel all of the attributes that the event can offer into a successful formula to ensure that this special centenary year is not just a one-off return.
They won’t need me to tell them that they will have to adopt a value for money approach by attracting higher attendance figures at lesser prices. It takes bravery but I’m a firm believer that it pays off long-term.
Also, and I readily admit I don’t know exactly how, it’s essential that the riders themselves get properly rewarded for the festival of speed they put on as many of them only receive a pittance for all their efforts and commitment.
Given the precarious financial predicament that the UGP has had to deal with, I would suggest no flying in of special guests at extra expense to promote the event, let the good talented local riders we have here look after that department and save the money for other more pressing needs.
I have faith in this new club and its custodians, I am confident they will get it right.
Unfortunately though, it looks like I might miss the North West 200 for the first time in years.
The pandemic situation led me to believe the race would not happen so I’ve already made alternative arrangements for that week. Sod’s law, but, believe me, I’ll have the radio on at every opportunity.
Many congratulations to the County Antrim FA for their hugely successful staging of Tuesday night’s encounter between Larne and Linfield.
The choice of venue was superb because the atmosphere under the lights of a packed Seaview is second to none and Shield finalists Larne and Linfield are two cracking sides who like to play good attacking football — and as a result, both sets of fans were guaranteed a pulsating game of end-to-end football, which is exactly what they got.
In a really tight game, it was Larne who finally emerged victorious and they deserve tremendous credit for retaining the trophy that they had won for the very first time last season.
Commiserations to losers on the night Linfield for playing their part in making the Final a really good contest and, once again, top marks to all at the County Antrim FA, who excelled in their staging of the contest.