Glenavon: Teamwork at heart of leaders’ progress before Ballymena United test

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton (right) sharing the dugout with part of the backroom team.
Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton (right) sharing the dugout with part of the backroom team.

Glenavon may currently stand alone in Irish League football but manager Gary Hamilton considers the path to the top one built on the work of many.

Victory in the final fixture of last weekend over Newry City AFC sent the Lurgan Blues back to the head of the Dankse Bank Premiership standings.

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey.

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey.

Although just 12 games into the campaign, Glenavon’s bright start to the season has been built on key elements of focus and fitness.

Hamilton will celebrate seven years in charge of his boyhood club next month and cites the collective at the heart of Glenavon’s progress.

“It goes from the top to the bottom, having a vision but also trusting people to put into practice those ideas,” said Hamilton. “Against Newry we came on strong over the final 15 minutes or so and scored goals but could have had more.

“That is an example of the work put in by having a strength-and-conditioning coach working with the guys from pre-season, alongside the regular training sessions.

“No one person is an expert at all aspects of any job, so when I became a manager I felt it was important to identify my weak areas and bring in people better in those areas.

“We have a great changing room at the minute but beyond the players there is the backroom team and people behind the scenes who put in so much hard work.

“There is a mutual respect and sense of everyone pulling in the same direction, which then leads to results together.

“You put in time to build a squad of players out on the pitch but also put in time to bring people to the club who can do specific jobs in tandem with the overall objective.”

Hamilton’s team ethos allows the manager to centre his time on specific areas.

“Aside from team selection, I handle aspects such as negotiations and the budget,” said Hamilton. “There is no point employing an assistant manager or coaching staff if you cannot hand over certain duties.

“I spend time on the phone to people in the game and even the likes of the Northern Ireland squads regarding any of Glenavon’s players called up.

“I have faith in my staff and put time into getting to know my players as people.

“It is not about having an ego or feeling threatened by someone stronger than you in a certain aspect of the job, it is about having a shared goal and knowing everyone across the club is vital for it to be successful.”

Glenavon visit Ballymena United on Friday aiming to cement the league lead.

Hamilton will share the sideline stage under the floodlights with David Jeffrey, having faced the latter as both player and manager.

Jeffrey - the most successful and experienced manager of the modern Irish League era - is quick to highlight his respect for the development achieved by Hamilton since watching him make the transition from one side of the white line to the other.

The former Linfield supremo has also enjoyed impressive strides since swapping city life for the challenge of building Ballymena United into a consistent trophy force.

A summer recruitment drive sparked a step closer to that goal, with signings and a system switch leading to United sitting third in the standings.

“We are trying to emulate Glenavon,” said Jeffrey. “When Gary went there they were always in the relegation zone and then he stabilised that and then they started battling for the top six.

“They were then looking to get into Europe and they have won a couple of Irish Cups along the way, that is a journey that we must take and we are taking.

“You look at Cliftonville, Crusaders and Coleraine and they have all come to the fore, ten years ago they were not near it.

“And Glenavon are very impressive at the minute, they have quality and for us it is another challenge.

“We are at a stage that these games are huge challenges for this new group of young players we have.”