Hazley counting the days to Portadown debut

Matthew Hazley - celebrating a goal at Shamrock Park with Dungannon Swifts - will now be playing for Portadown. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Matthew Hazley - celebrating a goal at Shamrock Park with Dungannon Swifts - will now be playing for Portadown. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Matthew Hazley has spent much of this season counting time - from clocking how many minutes he is getting on the pitch to how many days he is facing on the treatment table due to back trouble.

Now, however, the playmaker can set his sights on counting the days before a Portadown debut.

Hazley’s desire to secure a Danske Bank Premiership starting spot led to the playmaker ripping up his professional contract with Dungannon Swifts to sign on amateur terms.

Regulations will restrict Hazley from making his debut until a 30-day lapse from facing Glentoran on New Year’s Eve in the Premiership Development League.

As a result, he has to play the waiting game until getting the green light for selection next month, when Hazley is hoping to line out at Loughgall in the Irish Cup.

It is a club Hazley knows well, having spent time training with the Villagers as a young teenager due to the role of his father, Gary, as Loughgall’s physio.

A 10-week spell on the sidelines with back problems, alongside the Swifts’ impressive consistency this season, left Hazley searching for a fresh stage on which to showcase his talents.

“That game with Glentoran for the Swifts’ under 20s was my last appearance and first 90 minutes since recovering from a back problem,” said Hazley. “But I’m fine now and need games after finding myself in that vicious cycle of struggling for minutes but needing those first-team appearances to build up my sharpness.

“I had about six good seasons at Dungannon and really enjoyed my time with the club, so leave on good terms and wish them every success in the future.

“But Niall Currie has given me a chance to try and get back to regular games and I was impressed with what he had to say when we discussed the move.

“I have always heard a lot of good things about Niall from within the game and know he tried to get me to Ards a few times.

“I am looking forward to working under Niall at Portadown and have certainly enjoyed training with the club so far.

“My focus now is on the Loughgall match and using the next few weeks to adjust to my team-mates and the tactics.”

Hazley’s switch from Stangmore Park to Shamrock Park was made for the potential reward of securing a senior starting spot but with the potential risk of relegation.

Portadown visit Coleraine tomorrow (Saturday) aiming to enhance the basement side’s tally and close the nine-point gap on Carrick Rangers.

“I am 29 years old and want to play at the highest level for as long as possible,” said Hazley. “I am joining Portadown with the belief we can stay up this season and hope to bring some top-flight experience and help the younger players coming in without any fear.

“I know Robert Garrett from time together at Stoke City, plus players like Mark McAllister and Niall Henderson.

“To be honest, I am familiar with basically everyone and that should help me hit the ground running.

“I am back running and training hard in the gym to be ready when able to make my debut.”