FORMER Portadown fans’ favourite, Brian Gartland believes the club have the perfect man to help bring the good times back to Shamrock Park in current boss, Pat McGibbon.
The Dublin born defender, who is currently plying his trade for history-making Dundalk in the League of Ireland, claims he still keeps a close eye on the fortunes of Portadown Football Club.
Gartland (29) spent two seasons with the Ports from 2011 until he was allowed to leave after a spat with manager, Ronnie McFall at the end of the 2013 campaign.
Despite leaving under bad terms, he insists he has fond memories of his time spent in Portadown, particularly from his first season when the club finished runners-up in the league to Linfield in the 2011-12 campaign.
“I still follow their results every week and there’s a couple of Portadown fans that be on to me on Facebook and Twitter who I always be chatting to,” said Gartland.
“I always keep an eye on what’s going on up there. I know there was trouble with the salary cap, contracts and different things this year. A lot of young players are getting a shot and seem to be doing well.
If anyone is going to work well with youth and bring a bit of structure and bring players through then Pat’s the man.Brian Gartland
“When I came into the club, Gary Breen and Matthew Tipton came in at the same time and we signed Chris Casement and Ross Redmond and there was quality throughout the whole team.
“Our squad just wasn’t big enough to win the league and Linfield went on and won it comfortably. It was great to finish second and the next season things didn’t go as well,” he recalled.
“It was disappointing to let that slip. We played great football up there at times.”
The big centre half is fully aware of the ongoing troubles at Shamrock Park in recent seasons and is disheartened to see a club he holds in high regard experience such difficulties.
However, having worked with Portadown boss, McGibbon when the former N. Ireland international was manager of Monaghan in 2009, Gartland believes he’s the perfect man to plot the club’s revival.
Gartland won the Supporters Club ‘Player of the Season’ in 2009 at Monaghan while McGibbon was at the helm and he feels the ex-Man United man can now help stabilise and bring structure to Portadown.
“It’s disappointing the way things have gone but I know there’s a great man in charge there now, Pat McGibbon who I know well from my days in Monaghan.
“If anyone is going to work well with youth and bring a bit of structure and bring players through then Pat’s the man.”
Gartland hasn’t looked back since cutting his ties with Portadown, having quickly secured a move to Dundalk following a short break from the sport.
He was on the verge of signing for either Shelbourne or Drogheda United in the summer of 2013 before a defensive crisis prompted Dundalk boss, Stephen Kenny to give him a call.
And it proved to be the break he craved as he’s gone on to enjoy unprecedented success with the Lilywhites.
Gartland is on course to win a ‘double, double’ with Dundalk this season after securing a 2-1 win over Derry City in the FAI Cup semi-final replay at Brandywell on Tuesday night.
Not to mention the club’s sensational UEFA Europa League journey to the group stages where they’ve secured four points from games against Maccabi Tel Aviv (1-0) and AZ Alkmaar (1-1).
“I knew when I fell out with Ronnie (McFall) I was gone,” he said. “I was seeing out the season and he pulled me on to the office on the last day and told me he wasn’t going to renew my contract,” explained the Dubliner.
“That’s how football goes sometimes. I left and stepped away from football for a few weeks. But I wish them all the best I’ve fond memories there - I loved it.”
Dundalk boss, Kenny had tried to sign Gartland before he joined up with Portadown in the Irish League but he finally got his man in July 2013.”
“I then went back training with a couple of clubs in the League of Ireland. I was training with Shels for two or three weeks and would have signed even know they were bottom of the league.
“They were offering me the same money Dundalk were offering me even though it wasn’t much. I just wanted to get my face back in the league.
“Drogheda and Shels were interested. I had a voicemail from Mick Cooke at Drogheda who was looking to sort something. But then all of a sudden I had a message from Stephen Kenny.
“I spent the last six years of my life travelling to Monaghan and Portadown and I took a chance for the rest of the season because Dundalk were doing well. But you couldn’t have foreseen what has come.
“It’s been great so far but there’s just so many games left to play. Before the end of the month we’ve got seven league games, two European games - one in Russia - and then the Cup Final. But that’s the price of success. I wouldn’t turn it down for anything.”