GARY HAVERON has swapped the green and red of Larne Tech Old Boys for the amber of Carrick Rangers, as fellow Larne man Michael Hughes sends out a clear signal to the rest of the Championship 1 contenders that he is determined to get the Taylor’s Avenue side back on the road in the Carling Premiership.
The former Ballymena United skipper told the Times he had four offers, but the one standing out was Carrick Rangers, simply because there aren’t many opportunities to work with someone of the calibre of Michael Hughes. “The career he had across the water with Man City, West Ham, Wimbledon, Crystal Palace, not to mention over 70 caps for Northern Ireland - it was too good to turn down,” he said.
“Even when Michael came down to talk to me, he was recalling things that Harry Redknapp had asked them to do at West Ham. I know just because he was a good player doesn’t necessarily make him a good coach, but I spoke to people who had worked with him before, and they all gave me good feedback about his coaching, and the way he wants football to be played.
“And it’s into coaching and management I want to go. I coach day in day out in my job as Sports Development Officer at The Cliff. I’m doing the second part of my ‘A’ Licence, and working with Michael can only benefit me in becoming a better coach and manager. There’s also going to be the chance of doing some coaching at Carrick.
“Michael really sold the club to me; his ambitions and hopes for the future, his enthusiasm for the young players coming through. Also the brand of football he wants to play – he wants to play it in the right way. There are some talented young players at Carrick, but he probably needs a few experienced heads there to guide them, like myself and Glenn Taggart who has also signed again – and I think I’m more than capable of still playing at Championship level.”
A year ago Gary was still captain of Premiership side Ballymena United and he turned his back on top-flight football because his new post at The Cliff meant that he was unable to travel to attend training.
“I’ve still got the same work commitments but Michael is prepared to work round them,” he said. “And because I’m working in a sports environment, I’m on my feet and my job keeps me reasonably fit anyway. I didn’t miss many training sessions with the Tech last year, and hopefully I’ll not miss many this season with Carrick.”
It was, of course, due to those work commitments that Haveron spent last season with Larne Tech Old Boys. “The year we had was something special, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. It was a fantastic year; I played my part and I’m proud of the collective achievement I was very much a part of. I leave with my head held high, I captained the club to promotion and that’s what we set out to do at the start of the season. It’s right up there with anything else I’ve achieved in the game.
“And I would like nothing better than the Tech to have a good run in the Premier League this year and am confident they will. Last year certainly wasn’t about any one individual and I’m sure it won’t be this year either. I know they will kick on again next season, and I’ll be their biggest fan. It’s a fantastic football club, and a lot of Irish League clubs could learn from how the club is managed and how it’s run. I couldn’t recommend Larne Tech Old Boys highly enough.”
The move to Rangers is a case of a Larne man going to rivals Carrick, yet Gary had also ‘crossed the divide’ when he went from Coleraine to Ballymena United, soon winning over the fans and is still well respected at both clubs. Of course, he has never actually played for his hometown team but admitted: “I was offered a tempting player-coach role, and was really impressed with what Tommy Kincaid had to say.
“But it might have been awkward, with Larne training next to the Tech up at The Cliff. I enjoyed things so much at the Tech last season; I felt I might have been doing them a disservice, training with someone else, right in front of their eyes. I felt it would be better getting out of Larne altogether.
“Also I don’t have that many seasons left as a player. I’m still ambitious and, with all due respect to Larne, I really hope they do well, but there’s a better chance of a promotion challenge with Carrick. I feel they are better equipped whereas, for Larne, it could be a season of consolidation. Larne have some good young players coming through, but then it could be a vicious circle, for, if they do well, the bigger clubs will be trying to pick them up, and then it’s back to square one.
“Tommy Kincaid made the player-coach role at Larne very appealing – but once I talked to Michael and listened to what he had to say, I was genuinely excited. I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity of working with him, picking things up which will hopefully make me a better coach, and a better manager when the time comes. I just can’t wait to get started.”