OPINION: Niall Currie has all the credentials to be a Portadown hometown hero

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

When Niall Currie, Jay Willis and Trevor Williamson share the away dug-out at Solitude next weekend for the first fixture as Portadown’s management team it will hold extra significance for those who recall the trio together in Annaghmore Boys’ Brigade teams as children.

Over the subsequent decades all three went on to enjoy successful careers in the Irish League - and beyond for former Raith Rovers winger Williamson - before moving into coaching and management.

Currie grew up with Shamrock Park effectively on his doorstep and both Williamson and Willis have lifelong links to Portadown.

However, Currie’s appointment as manager has been made for more reasons than simple history or a mere pull of the heartstrings.

Ronnie McFall spent almost three decades in charge of Portadown, Pat McGibbon served spells as a player either side of his decade in professional football and Vinny Arkins - who left his role this week as interim boss - holds the honour of the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Currie may follow that pattern on paper of managers with strong connections to Shamrock Park but past ties count for little compared to what officials and fans hope he can bring to the immediate future of Portadown.

Multiple events have led to Currie gaining his chance to cement a reputation at one of the Irish League’s biggest clubs.

A minus-one tally of points prior to kick-off against Ballymena United on Saturday served as a result of punishment imposed by the Irish Football Association for disciplinary problems.

A look at the league standings serves as evidence Portadown’s season may end with relegation to the Championship.

Arkins’ lack of the UEFA ‘A’ Licence coaching qualification ruled out the former Ports captain from holding the position on a permanent basis and presented an opportunity for Currie to claim what he considers the pinnacle of his management career.

Many outside the club may see sentiment as the key motivation for Currie to make a move from an established position at Ards to a club in such turmoil.

But a ban on the club’s ability to sign players on professional terms will end next summer and Currie is expected to call on the largest budget of his managerial career to rebuild a Ports squad rocked by off-the-field issues and on-the-field loss of form in recent seasons.

Any analysis of Currie’s managerial career will show he could prove the most suitable candidate for the current circumstances.

Currie’s greatest strengths as a manager include his ability to gel a squad together and motivate players for the sum to prove greater than the parts.

Portadown’s predicament dictates those skills may be crucial in any escape from the drop zone.

A knowledge of the transfer market outside the top flight could also hold significance as Currie and trusted assistant Willis attempt to revitalise the squad in the January window.

His first job at Annagh United started with the former Irish League goalkeeper handed control of a club with limited resources. He steered Annagh to a Mid-Ulster Cup final a decade ago in Tandragee Road red and can now boast a double-figure tally of silverware.

Four Championship titles spread across two clubs can confirm his credentials in the Irish League’s second-tier dogfight, with that first crown part of a five-trophy haul enjoyed in a single season with Loughgall.

Currie started out his playing career on the books at Portadown and will now return home with ambitions of pulling off a minor miracle in salvaging senior status this season - or using his Championship experience in the next campaign for a rapid return to the top flight.