After the turbulence of the previous few months, some supporters, players and officials will believe the return of Graham McConnell as manager was already an early Christmas present, but what does the man in the Inver Park hot-seat wish for Larne Football Club as he prepares for the yuletide celebrations to begin? Plenty, it appears, but he’s not depending on Santa Claus to deliver them!
“Firstly, let me say that, since I didn’t see out the calendar year the last time, this is my first time going into Christmas as the manager of Larne FC and, without wishing to sound corny, as far as football issues go, that’s the best possible gift I could receive,” said McConnell.
“Some of the results we have had added to that, so I’m really looking forward to Christmas – and, more especially, the New Year when I can bring in a few players to help shape the team a wee bit more the way I want it to be.”
The one anticipated recruit is defender Reece Moore, who left the club this year to join Larne Tech. Old Boys, but is returning to Inver Park in January.
The others are ex-Ballymena United Reserves left-sided player Nicholas Baird, and promising Australian schoolboy midfielder Harry Bissett, who has reportedly been on trial with West Ham United and St Johnstone.
At least two of this trio are expected to feature, along with up to half-a-dozen more potential arrivals, in a specially arranged friendly match at Inver Park on Thursday night.
“And I can assure you that I am also excited by prospects off the pitch. There are some terrific developments in the pipeline at Inver Park, even though I’m afraid I am not at liberty to elaborate too much on that statement.
“What I can tell you is that we are planning to form our own football development committee, separate from the club’s board. It will actually help take a little bit of pressure off the board – completely the opposite of being any kind of competition for them.
“It will be headed by former Queen’s University manager Raymond Alexander has joined our coaching staff as head of football development. Raymond is well-known and highly-respected and has been coaching for over 25 years, being best known as IFA Coach for county Down.
“Archie Smyth, Mervyn McKay, Lyn Kernohan and the other board members are doing a tremendous job in keeping this club afloat, and it’s high time we do all we can to alleviate some of the burden that they bear.
“We will be introducing a Members’ 100 Club initiative and there will be massive weekly cash giveaways and such fund-raisers will be a great help to the board as they work so hard financially to try and pay the expenses. Unlike years ago when there were big sponsors to write big cheques on an annual basis, times are very hard now for all football clubs.
“This club is fortunate to have dedicated people like Evelyn and Arnie Rice, and such people who oprganise and implement ideas to keep it flourishing, while you will remember Charlie McFarland, the stalwart over many years who still has the same drive and passion as always, doing everything from brushing up to marking the pitch. They are the folk who are the backbone of the club and they deserve help.
“Gone are the days when the managers held out their hands and it was left to other people to supply the cash that was needed to keep everybody sweet,” added McConnell, who is already preparing for the big post-Christmas derby match with Carrick Rangers on December 29.