Hedley hoping to carry summer numbers game into fresh season

Graham Currie during Portadown's pre-season test against Rainey Old Boys. Pic by Matthew Wickham.
Graham Currie during Portadown's pre-season test against Rainey Old Boys. Pic by Matthew Wickham.

Within sport’s small margins, Portadown head coach Richard Hedley has often been left to lament the impact of training’s numbers game on the competitive scoreboard.

Hedley is adamant the preparation work between fixtures remains crucial towards the correct outcome on matchdays - with Portadown struggling in past seasons to strike a winning balance.

However, a positive pre-season campaign has left Hedley and his backroom panel in optimistic mood entering the domestic club programme.

“I think we have greater strength-in-depth now than at any time during my previous five seasons at Portadown,” said Hedley. “We have also a coaching structure in place that should ensure regular numbers across the firsts and seconds.

“It is about working with one big group of players and, over the course of a season, everyone will be required to play a part in the club’s progress.

“We stress the need for regular attendance at training as that obviously helps with our overall gameplan plus selection.

“We have genuine competition for places in most positions this season so, from a coaching viewpoint, those factors come into play when it comes down to making a final pick.

“Training performance will be a factor and could prove the difference between one player gaining the shirt over another team-mate.

“Players will also know this season that if they do not maintain the right level then someone will be waiting in the wings.

“Our senior squad has been boosted by maybe up to 10 fresh faces for various reasons and we used something like 38 players across our three pre-season games.”

Portadown host Belfast Harlequins seconds tomorrow (Saturday) from 2.30 in the first of two Conference League dates.

“The second will be later in the year and the plan is to use this weekend as an extension of our warm-up for the Qualifying League’s opening next Saturday,” said Hedley. “It is all very encouraging and now Mark Neilly, Darren Thompson and Shane Johnston will oversee the seconds.

“I will get help at senior level from Ciaran O’Kane and Neil Irwin but, really, it is about the overall group working as one.”

Saturday’s schedule at Chambers Park will also include the latest Friendship Cup visit by Orleans of France as part of the decades-long partnership between the two clubs.