So where do we start with the Cock’ n Hens? It’s simply never dull down Mersey Street way. However there is quite a lot to deal with and the past has a lot to do with their present perception. You could view it as receiving an invitation to see a stranger in the electric chair not knowing what his crime was, or an opportunity to open a box of Eastern promise. Are they the Macbeth of the Irish League, with a car park that occasionally lapses into Tiananmen Square filled by overly ambitious fans who have listened to too much Leonard Cohen? Or a club of huge lineage and a back catalogue to sustain them through the worst of times with fans who see it as their duty not to let mediocrity become the norm whatever the cost. As always probably somewhere in between.

OK, a complicated opening paragraph but it tends to arrive with the accompanying dust cloud as a ‘Big Two’ club falls from altitude. The club’s financial fall underwrites so much of the present demeanour. The clarion call “the league needs a strong Glentoran” does not just come from media and commentators but does have a type of wrenched resonance from other fans. That varies from club to club and soul to soul and can emanate from positive or negative seeds.

Some things ‘Glentoran’ don’t change whatever the circumstance and they are as identifiable with East Belfast as the shipyard and George Best. Lying in the shadow of the cranes is as symbolic as actual and the ever present talk of a ground move has had localised geography as a burden as well as an inspiration. The ground is certainly a massive part of their image. Visually suffering now it nevertheless has some heritage to the extent that visiting European ground hoppers now ensure they visit due to its feel of the last century. Not too many present day grounds have a big green hill growing out of the terracing and that is before you put a Second World War concrete observation post on the top. It adds history though and not every club can boast of big crater that the Luftwaffe caused forcing the club to move across the city for a fair part of the forties. At the other end a huge billboard with ‘JESUS’ on it had folk wondering whether religious honour or present day footballing horror is the reason. That sign is gone now as loaves and fishes seemed an easier trick.

Whilst still on things hard copy the ‘bannerage’ around the Sydenham end is quite a feature facing the visiting fan. All types of red, green and black  foliage decorate the fencing and it was at the Oval that I have come across one of the funniest flags I have ever seen. Echoing the 1972 film ‘Deliverance’, the sight of a canoe being rowed against a club coloured background with the words ‘Paddle faster, I can hear banjoes’ makes me laugh every time I see it. Those club colours are certainly the most distinguishable locally and who would have thought a touring cricket team would leave such a legacy behind them. When the team get to Irish Cup finals at Windsor it really is a full on ‘Showaddywaddy’ stand of colour as one commentator memorably put it.

Linked to this I suppose no other club seems to a) change their strip as often as the Glens and b) create such a variation of shirt design to run alongside this. If you were to run a lot of the shirts alongside each other over the last forty odd years some would have you smoking the same stuff as one or two of the designers. Just when you think you can take no more a splash of white breaks out as if they know the onlooker can only take so much. The away shirt with the great big chicken on the front a few years back only needed “That’s all Folks” underneath it for the full cartoon.

In between unknown benefactors, registration issues and perhaps one or two players over the years who did indeed need to smoke the ‘stuff’ to wear that season’s particular shirt, the blind and burned rivalry with Linfield is as much a part of the club as ‘Cowboys and Indians’- and that will start a row as to which is which. Derbies and rivalries feed football and the Blues and Glens more than do their bit and matches between these two sustain fans far and beyond. ‘Morgan Day’ in 2005, the seven up season of 89/90 and quite a few cup final wins over Linfield line red, green and black posterior fossae. One of the eighties’ finals always deserves a mention for the surreal creativity of a cockerel and blue painted pig charging around the pitch. Would love to see that being explained to EVENT SEC today. They have always had the image of being a ‘Cup ‘ team rather than a league team and indeed have not defended a league successfully since the sixties.

As a club they protect and varnish their history fiercely as they feel it sets them apart. The Vienna Cup win of 1914, the Detroit Cougars tour of 1967, European matches such as Benfica, Arsenal, Leeds, Monchengladbach, Juventus and CSKA Sofia will more than remain. They are also very proud of their conveyor belt to the international side providing Doherty, Bingham, Blanchflower and O’Neill to the managerial bench alongside numerous other players. Some players provided to the local league that will be forever Glentoran would be names such as Nixon, Morris, Leeman, McCartney, Bowers, Cleary, Caskey, McCreery and McCullough amongst many others.

The more locally famous who have followed them have a heavy political flavour with names such as the late David Ervine, and Unionist politicians Peter Robinson and Jim Rodgers. Ex international Stephen Craigan used to make the journey up from Comber to watch them.

Touring cricket teams, a French motto, chickens, cranes and a warm manager’s seat. What did I say about dull in the first sentence……plenty of colour in all ways in Eastern Belfast.