The value of experience is proving the greater deficit to Portadown’s progress than any financial gap between players on amateur or professional terms.
That is the view of manager Niall Currie in the aftermath of a weekend reverse to Glenavon across the Irish Cup quarter-final that arrived on a wave of optimistic anticipation but ended under the cloud of a 5-0 defeat.
Only two members of the matchday squad - Sean Mackle and Robert Garrett - lined out against the Ports’ derby rivals on similar contractual terms to Glenavon.
Currie accepts paperwork alone offers no measure of quality but also highlights the weight of what a professional contract can mean compared to the alternative.
“We have got to be honest and accept Glenavon have a fantastic squad built over time by Gary Hamilton and the club,” said Currie, who had his first transfer window as Ports boss restricted by an Irish Football Association-emposed transfer embargo. “The difference is not so much about contracts, who is on amateur terms and who is on a professional wage.
“It’s about the consistency and experience that makes those players at the top level reach that point and stay at that stage.
“I will not point the finger of blame at those players on the pitch and there can be no question over the commitment, you could see how much they wanted to win even beforehand in the changing room.
“But it comes down to that top-level quality overall and, over time, the consistency levels drop.
“We have players operating at the top level for the first time maybe or others not used to stepping up and going into big games with the pressure of expectancy to win.
“The Linfield and Crusaders fixtures were pressure-free days in terms of expectation levels but we had a chance to make real gains in the league match with Ards and the Irish Cup tie against Glenavon but finished up with heavy defeats.”
Portadown managed to maintain the momentum of those morale-boosting draws into the early stages of the cup clash but Glenavon’s first goal before half-time left the hosts reeling.
“Results like the Linfield and Crusaders draws happen when you get everyone firing at 100 per cent but that cannot happen all the time,” said Currie. “I have had players available week in, week out in training and on the pitch but also had too many unavailable, especially the senior pros.
“I do not want to make excuses and Saturday was certainly humiliating for everyone.
“But Glenavon had players on the bench with proven quality and I cannot even get my most established names in the starting eleven.
“I said when I joined Portadown that our only chance of staying up would be with the benefit of the senior pros on a regular basis.
“There will be more pain ahead between now and the summer, that is the reality of our situation.
“I came into this job with my eyes wide open and do not have any regrets.
“It is just about continuing our work, trying to develop the squad and then be in a position to really reshape it from the bottom up after this summer.”