All in all, this week it has been a pretty quiet week on the transfer front. The holiday period topped with the glorious sunshine has arrived and the clubs involved with the European qualification have started strong. Yes, this is not the sun getting to my head but both Ballymena United and Cliftonville have started their qualifiers with very strong showings.
I start this week with a rant at the league. I have been critical of how certain things in the league are done: ie the UEFA qualifiers and how when a league is split, anyone can justify a club having to play its last five games away from home.
Well maybe the IFPL should have a look at how the Football Association of Wales, (FOW) helps its clubs that qualify for Europe. Not by changing to a summer football league but helping fund their adventure to the sound of 25K per club that qualifies. This is one hell of a gesture and goes a long way to helping with travel, accommodation etc, etc. I am sure the officials in Northern Ireland will tell you the money is not there for this. Why not? Support your local clubs, your local game. You’re the body that is supposed to pushing the league in the right direction. Help the clubs!
However before I round up the little transfer business that has gone on, I will go around the clubs that have been involved with European qualification, and the clubs that are getting ready for it.
Hats off to big David Jeffrey and his team. Thursday night saw the Sky Blues take on NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in the Europa League first-round qualifier and come away with a first leg advantage of 2-0. Goals from Leroy Millar and a special curling finish from Jude Winchester, who for me is one of the Sky Blues’ players of last season. A great start and they go into the second leg away in the Faroes full of confidence that they can get the job done. I am sure I am not alone wishing them all the best to get the job done.
In the same competition on Thursday night, the Reds Travelled to Welsh Premier League outfit Barry Town and came away with a clean sheet and a 0-0 draw. A very strong showing from the team from North Belfast and they will go into the second leg at Solitude full of confidence they can get the job done and be in the hat for the next round.
The Blues continued their preparation for their UEFA Champions League qualifier with Rosenberg of Norway on the 10th July. The Blues spent the week in the Spanish resort of Marbella. A team bonding exercise, but also for much-needed fitness. They had a run out match against Romanian outfit Dinamo Bucharest, going down 2-0. The Blues returned to Belfast in time for Saturday’s friendly against Scottish Premier League outfit Motherwell. A good work out and plenty of players getting game time even though the result was a 3-0 defeat. It will be a busy few weeks ahead for David Healy, getting players up to fitness and ready for action
One week, two games, two different starting elevens for the Crues. Not going to read into it but I’m not sure which team Stephen Baxter will go with for their Europa League First round qualifier against B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands. Will he stick with the old rear guard of last season that conceded 55 goals? 55 goals! I am still in amazement. Or does he twist and use Chris Hegarty and Jared O’Rourke? Wednesday night saw a very organised Crues win 1-0 against Motherwell. Rory Hale with the goal. Hegarty and O’Rourke started the game and looked very strong. On Saturday the Crues also entertained relegated Ards and ran out 4-1 winners. This time the Crues reverted back to Coates and Ward at the back with Ruddy in at left-back. Makes me wonder where Kyle Owens fits into the plan?
Warrenpoint Town again this week has been busy in the transfer market as the rebuild continues. This week saw Eamon Scannell re-sign from Linfield for another season-long loan. Also, this week the ‘Point tied up the transfer of Athlone Town utility man Evan White. White can play in either midfield or defence.
Away from transfers had players signing contract extensions. Glenavon have offered Sammy Clingan a one-year contract extension. This one has baffled me. Gary Hamilton for the majority of last season hammered on about the transfer money certain clubs have. Clingan will move back to Scotland and then travel for training on a Thursday. He will then stay until the weekend and play. Now, this for me seems to suggest that the Lurgan Blues actually do have some money. This is not a cheap option to bring a player in. Well unless they do what the majority of the top clubs on the league do and let a supporters’ club cover the cost of the travel. An interesting piece of business going on here.
The next club I will turn to is Coleraine and the whole unprofessional approach they have taken to signing a new manager. In total, it was reported that up to five individuals made the effort to apply and were interviewed for the job as manager. To date, no one has got the job. The reason? The Bannsiders are waiting and hoping that Oran Kearney comes back home after being released from his contract at St Mirren. Why would anyone in their right mind take the job now as a second option? They may hope it all pans out and Kearney takes up the post as the club is back in pre-season training, with no manager and no solution.