Can Institute finally do it at the third time of asking? That is the challenge facing Paddy McLaughlin as he prepares for his first game as a football manager.
The former Derry City player has slowly but surely climbed the ladder in the local game, retiring from the game to become assistant to Kevin Deery, before accepting the job as ‘’Stute manager earlier this summer.
McLaughlin’s first job was to pick the troops off the floor following a second promotion play-off defeat, as they were outclassed by Carrick Rangers back in May, a defeat which preceded Deery’s departure from the club.
After a long summer however, the slate has been wiped clean and McLaughlin, with five new signings on board is looking forward to life in the hot seat.
“There have been changes throughout the club alright, especially with myself coming in as manager which is a big change for me personally,” he acknowledged. “There have been a few new faces coming in as well which is good to give the changing room a wee freshen up. The new boys we have brought in have settled in really well and they have been excellent. Jamie Dunne has come back and Caoimhin Bonner and Eamon Seydak have all come in and the three have really settled in and added a good bit of quality to the squad and everybody is looking forward to the season now.”
From captain on the field to the captain off it, McLaughlin will have a period of adjustment in the coming months, although working side by side with Deery for two years has helped his preparations.
“I’m just excited and looking forward to it,” he said. “The response I’ve got from the boys since I’ve come in, the way they’ve been training and the way they’ve been playing in the pre-season games, there’s a real excitement about the club and there’s definitely a buzz about the team. We have all upped our game since pre-season.
“I had a couple of chats with them early in pre-season about what we should be doing and hopefully we can go one better than the play-off defeat and the boys have responded to it and I can’t fault their effort. They have been 100% with me. Not only are the boys upping their own game, they are seeing the other players up their game and it’s definitely creating a buzz about the place.”
Former Cliftonville duo Eamon Seydak and Caoimhin Bonner have both come on board at ‘Stute, while Jamie Dunne has returned. New to the club are Dwayne McBrearty and Ronan Wilson, the latter of which is on loan from Derry City.
Portadown are the favourites to take the league title, but McLaughlin is hoping his team can be there right alongside tem come May.
“There’s no harm in setting targets,” he insisted. “You want to be ambitious but you don’t want to be promising the world when you don’t know what will happen from one week to the next. Every club has the ambition of getting promoted and we’re no different to that, but it’s a long old season. We have the potential to go up, but you have to fulfil it and it’s going to be a lot tougher.
“A good start is important and how you set yourself up for early in the season. But I’ve never seen a league won in August so I don’t want to be putting pressure on ourselves if things don’t go our way in the first game or two. It is important to get off to a good start especially if you want to stay in touch early doors with the frontrunners, but we’re not putting too much pressure on.”
Michael McCrudden has been named the new ‘Stute captain for the forthcoming season, the Top of the Hill youngster set to lead a group of young, local players as they attempt to lead ‘Stute back to the Premier Division. McLaughlin is hoping the players can receive the back up from the terraces to help them achieve their goals.
“It would be great if we can attract people in the gate,” he agreed. “The players do respond if there’s a crowd there so the more that come in, the better they will play because they will be trying to impress. The more that come in the gate will definitely help us but it’s the results and the performances which can dictate how many come in also.
“If we are playing well and scoring plenty of goals it will create an interest, and that’s what we will be aiming to do. We will try to impress and try to entertain and if we can do that the more will come in, and hopefully we can play better as a result as the season goes on.”
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