Glenavon’s double goal

Gary Hamilton. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Gary Hamilton. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Gary Hamilton’s playing career often featured moments of brilliance that defined an individual match.

Hamilton’s management career is based around the bigger picture and steady progress towards a season of success.

Although the 36-year-old may still miss the buzz unique to a player on the main stage of any high-profile matchday, Hamilton admits a sense of relish at setting out a side to face clubs the standing of Linfield and Crusaders.

Both Belfast clubs arrive at Mourneview Park within the next few days - with Linfield in town on Saturday and the defending champions heading to Lurgan for a midweek test on Tuesday.

Hamilton accepts the frustrations every manager must experience watching a few yards the wrong side of the white line but remains excited at the opportunity for his Glenavon squad to stand up against two of the Danske Bank Premiership’s leading outfits.

“Everyone wants to be involved in the big fixtures and you should be excited at the challenge,” said Hamilton. “If being honest, it is different to how you would feel about a big game as a player because, outside of training and tactics, you can only pick 11 men.

“You can influence a game to a certain extent and even obviously make three substitutions but do relatively little if you have five or six players not performing.

“However, that is what I am enjoying with this current squad, the confidence I can have in any line-up to go out and prove competitive.

“We may have lost last weekend by 3-0 to Cliftonville but proved the better side for around an hour and that performance level will give you confidence before two big games.

“In the past we had teams capable of winning one-off games against the top clubs and that ability led to cup success.

“But there was still an issue of having the depth to prove consistent, which we now feel we have in the group.”

Victory over Ballymena United by 5-0 marked the first occasion this season in which Hamilton could call on 11 players for the correct positions, rather than injuries and suspensions forcing a reshuffle of the pack.

“It was a boost but I said at the time and stress it again, the benefit was not about the specific 11 men we had out on the pitch but more the opportunity to put players in the right positions,” said Hamilton. “That can be the same for any of our squad and that is what I mean by the strength of the group.

“We can put out a side of any 11 which I am confident can be competitive against teams.

“The games against sides like Cliftonville, Linfield and Crusaders pose a different challenge to weeks when the opposition sit back and ask you to break them down.

“Although all three have different styles, they each attack you and coping with that is part of the challenge.

“Crusaders and Cliftonville play in different ways at times across the game, with Linfield a mix of both in terms of the physical strength but also the movement and pace.

“There should not be any fear within the group and we will go into both games confident and looking forward to the test.”