Final marks next step forward in Currie’s career

Niall Currie. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Niall Currie. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

For a manager who may feel his best work is often done in those few precious minutes after a pre-match warm-up and before his players walk out of a dressing room on to the pitch, the setting can be considered effectively irrelevant to Niall Currie.

A man-manager first and foremost, Currie has always relished the final opportunity to motivate his squad before kick-off.

Winning words of advice and inspiration have been provided across a decades-plus career in management which has helped Currie climb every step of the Irish League ladder - starting out with hometown club Annagh United before success at Loughgall and Ards.

Irrespective of the backdrop, one consistent across Currie’s career in management has been success, measured in both progress or a double-figure tally of prizes.

It would be impossible to ignore the significance of Currie’s teamtalk tomorrow (Saturday) as another personal landmark when Ards face Cliftonville in the League Cup final.

A first appearance in a senior Irish League knockout final for Currie adds another positive to his management record.

Of course, Currie will always point to his players as the prime recipients of any praise or plaudits.

“We will prepare in the correct manner and use training to work on tactics and shape,” said Currie. “Then on Saturday it is about getting our focus right for what is a massive occasion for the club.

“We will meet for a pre-match meal then go over some more work and just want to come out of the final without any regrets.

“Once the players step out on the pitch then you have limited control and it is up to that group to embrace the occasion, however, it is a brilliant bunch of lads and they have reached the final on merit.

“We have knocked out two top-flight clubs to get this far and may be in Championship One but go in with the belief that anything can happen in football.”

Currie can call on a special section of the Ards support within the 850-strong allocation for the Solitude final.

“I will have family down to support me but also a load of work colleagues from the Royal Mail, as well as other friends from around the town,” said the Portadown-born former Irish League goalkeeper. “I am proud and humbled by the backing from so many people around here and that has been the case going back to my early days at Annagh United.

“I take pride in the fact that I have never been sacked over 11 years of management.

“I am as proud of my early days at Annagh United as anything else as success was not about trophies but about helping to stabilise the club.

“We reached a Mid-Ulster Cup final and moved from towards the bottom of the league to a consistent mid-table position.

“The silverware and what we achieved at Loughgall was unbelievable and then to take Ards into the Premier League marked another massive moment.

“I look back on that season in the Premier League as a learning opportunity and know, if we get the chance again, I know what to put right.

“I, of course, made mistakes but am a better manager because of those experiences and am just 43 years old.”

Currie is also quick to highlight the support network crucial to any past glory.

“It cannot be done without the right people around you,” said Currie. “Jay Willis, for example, has been invaluable from day one and our working partnership is built on trust but, more importantly, my respect for his football knowledge.

“We do not always agree but everything is put out on the table and, ultimately, we share the same football philosophy.

“It will be a special moment to manage a club for the first time in a senior cup final.

“You have got to dream and sometimes they come true.”

Kick-off will be 5.30.