Short-term steps for Glenavon’s long-term gains

Glenavon player/manager Gary Hamilton celebrates with his team-mates during Saturday's dramatic 3-2 victory over Cliftonville. Pic by Brian Bain.
Glenavon player/manager Gary Hamilton celebrates with his team-mates during Saturday's dramatic 3-2 victory over Cliftonville. Pic by Brian Bain.

Glenavon’s combination of team spirit and skill produced two dramatic fightbacks in four days - thanks to a winning formula developed over four years.

A midweek draw at Ballymena United despite facing a 3-0 deficit was followed up on Saturday with a last-gasp defeat of Cliftonville.

The Danske Bank Premiership dates served up double thrills for the fans and set supporters on an emotional roller-coaster that player/manager Gary Hamilton has been developing since day one in the Mourneview Park hot-seat.

“It is a quality within the squad and one which has been evident on a number of occasions,” said Hamilton. “That mix of talent and will-to-win can prove really strong but it comes over time and down to a lot of homework by a list of contacts we really trust.

“When I was appointed manager back in 2011 I wanted to build up that spirit across the group and part of the thinking behind experienced signings like Winkie Murphy and David Rainey came from that need to inject something into the squad.

“We managed to sign some real leaders who could come in on a short-term basis and bring something to the club that eventually rubbed off on the younger players coming up, with now someone like Rhys Marshall having that will-to-win helped by what he saw in the past.

“Mark Farren was a massive part of that plan and probably a catalyst as the first elite-level signing who came to the club with his profile at a really high point.

“It comes down to scouting, using contacts and looking beyond ability to make the final call.

“Our final judgement comes from a face-to-face chat with the player and often we have changed our minds on a deal based on that meeting.

“You want to get as many players in the squad as possible with a winning mentality and positive attitude.

“It all feeds into itself then as a winning mentality can lead to silverware like the Irish Cup, which then gives the group a taste of success and helps keep everyone hungry.”

Although Hamilton finished frustrated - despite the draw - by the majority of his side’s performance against Ballymena, he was quick to highlight the weekend match as a forward step.

“We struggled over the first half at least in the both of the opening two games with Carrick and Ballymena,” said Hamilton. “However, on Saturday we got back to more of a complete team performance.

“We showed a lot of character to keep pushing at 2-2 and got the reward but it was the whole display that left me most pleased.”