The good, the bad and the ugly sums up Ferguson’s first year in charge

Ballymena United's late equaliser against Distillery on Saturday brought a remarkable year to a positive end. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United's late equaliser against Distillery on Saturday brought a remarkable year to a positive end. Picture: Press Eye.

GLENN Ferguson summed it up succinctly when asked on Saturday to describe his first year in charge of Ballymena United.

“We’ve had the good, the bad and the ugly,” mused Ferguson as he reflected on an extraordinary 12 months, even by United’s standards.

When Ferguson officials took charge on New Year’s Eve last year, no-one could have dared to predict that 12 months later, he would have ended United’s infamous 23-year trophy famine.

That County Antrim Shield success was unquestionably the highlight of a year at the Showgrounds which had plenty of other things to commend it but which has ended on something of a downer with United’s form having gone into meltdown in recent weeks.

I personally don’t subscribe to the theory that the players have collectively taken their eye off the ball after the Shield success; to me, the seeds for the recent disappointing run were sewn even before that famous night at the Oval with a couple of disappointing league performances in the run-up to the final and which have continued in the same vein since.

What makes Ballymena’s recent downturn in form all the more startling is that it has come after a particularly encouraging run of form.

It’s not all that long ago that Ferguson’s men lost just three times in a 32-game sequence and looked to be stitching together a promising side.

That, along with the Shield win, may have contributed towards giving some Ballymena fans an over-inflated opinion as to the quality of their team.

One thing to come out of the final is that it was finally able to dispel the tiresome and often-heard adage among people around Ballymena that ‘you’ll never win anything with THAT team’.

But while that notion has been knocked on the head, if you were to apply it to the next phase in the programme – putting together a team which can challenge at the right end of the table over the marathon of a league campaign – then Ballymena are very much lacking at present.

Changes will undoubtedly have to be made to strengthen the panel, all, of course, within the frame work of a wage structure.

Ferguson, in his ‘rookie’ period has proved himself a shrewd operator in the transfer market with acquisitions such as Johnny Taylor and Gary Thompson becoming pivotal players in the United squad.

He also appears to have a handy knack of getting players to extricate themselves from existing contracts if they are no longer in his plans, as Wayne Drummond, Conor Downey and Jordan Baker would testify. That attribute could well be of use to him this January to give him more room to manoeuvre in the transfer market.

In a way, it’s nothing short of miraculous that Ballymena have not only managed to keep their heads above water in terms of replacing the goals of the departed Gary McCutcheon but also managed to win trophy to boot – the irony of McCutcheon citing a desire to win trophies as his reason for moving to Crusaders will not have been lost on many people.

That is of course ancient history and Ferguson has illustrated a pertinent skill for anyone in any line of management, namely getting the best out of the sometimes limited resources available to him, by adapting his formation to suit his personnel.

That has managed to get United to this point in the season but it is going to require some more transfer window magic if United’s largely promising first half of the season – save the last six weeks – isn’t going to come to nought in the long run.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)