Hamilton ready to go

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press

The final whistle of last season left a legacy of summer problems Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton is relishing the chance to rule a line under with the first whistle this Saturday of the new Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

The Lurgan Blues visit Warrenpoint Town with the hosts bolstered by memories of champagne and celebrations at a Championship season that ended in championship title glory and the away side aiming to forget the commiserations and complications created by defeat in the Europa League play-off final.

Budget restrictions sparked a chain of events at Mourneview Park which has led to a string of established names leaving the club, with financial constraints only one issue faced by Hamilton in his summer rebuilding.

Joel Cooper’s move to America in the middle of August on a college scholarship will mark the latest addition to a list of past players that includes Gregg Moorhouse, David Elebert, Andy Kilmartin, Kyle Neill, Guy Bates and Ciaran Martyn.

Work towards enhancing the squad has included the returns to Glenavon by Andrew Mitchell - last season’s leading league goalscorer - and Adam Foley alongside Marc Griffin and Sammy Clingan as fresh faces, plus the expected promotion of youth up to senior level.

“We were one win away from European football so have to be happy with how last season went overall aside from that one game,” said Hamilton. “We may have to go into this season with a smaller squad but there is quality.

“We have to be realistic and say we know we are not going to win the league but a top-six finish each season is always the first target and that remains the case.

“If you can be pushing towards that and then maybe even a few places up around a key time of the season then anything can happen.

“We have seen clubs start the season with a poor run of results then finish high up.

“We have done it at Glenavon by sparking an amazing sequence of results late on to push into European football.

“It is about working hard together to stay in the running then getting the bit of luck needed to string together those results.”

Hamilton stepped into the Mourneview Park dug-out in December 2011 with the dream of steering his boyhood club to glory. Days spent celebrating trophy triumphs and nights enjoying European adventures have become common themes of the five-plus years since Hamilton made his commitment to the manager’s role.

Hamilton remains the cornerstone on which Glenavon’s modern era has been built. As a result, Hamilton stands as a key reason for optimism in continued progress.

“My way of working is the same basically as day one and we have had success with that approach,” said Hamilton. “If we can stay free, as much as possible, of injuries and suspensions then that gives us a great chance.

“It is about staying in or around the mix by Christmas.

“You can look at our squad and highlight how key injuries would hurt us but that is the same for pretty much any football club.

“I have guys training with the firsts from maybe 14 or 15 years old.

“We try, when at all possible with the exception of injuries or availability, to follow the same tactical approach across the age groups.

“That allows players to integrate sooner when asked to join the firsts and it also helps have consistency across the board.”