RORY Patterson is close to becoming the replacement of Derry City’s top scorer last season, Eamon Zayed, the ‘Journal’ has learned.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The 27-year-old Strabane man, who netted a hat-trick for Linfield in their Irish Cup victory on Saturday over Ballyclare Comrades, is understood to be “very keen” on a move to the Brandywell.
The player, who is under contract to Plymouth Argyle but currently on loan at Windsor Park, is a fan of the “Candy Stripes” having watched quite a few matches at Brandywell Stadium over recent years.
Derry City boss, Declan Devine, however, refused to either confirm or deny the speculation last night, suggesting that he was in negotiations with a number of players he is attempting to bring to the Foyleside club.
“I’ve been in contact with quite a few players over recent weeks and, no doubt, I will be in contact with quite a few more before the Transfer Window closes.
“However, I will not identify those players I’ve spoken to until a deal is done,” he added.
Patterson, who played with Paddy McCourt at Rochdale before moving to F.C. United of Manchester, is well travelled throughout the Irish League.
Indeed, his career at Coleraine was blighted near the end of a recent season when he signed a pre-contractural agreement with Glentoran before “The Pilgrims” came calling.
Making matters worse for Coleraine was the fact that Glentoran received a reported figure of £75,000 from Plymouth despite the fact that he never kicked a ball for the East Belfast side.
Having fallen out of favour with the English club, when under the management of Peter Reid, Patterson returned to Linfield on loan until the end of the current season.
He is also a senior N. Ireland international having been capped on five occasions and scored in his last international game at Windsor Park last season.
Derry, of course, had attempted to lure former St. Pat’s hitman, Daryl Kavanagh, to Brandywell last weekend, but the Waterford resident opted to join Stephen Kenny at Shamrock Rovers.
Indeed, former Derry winger, Killian Brennan, has also signed for Rovers with Kenny now in possession of three former Brandywell players - Brennan, Ken Oman and Billy Dennehy.
“Shamrock Rovers have the biggest budget in the league,” commented Devine last night having admitted losing Kavanagh to Rovers.
“They are the Manchester City of the Airtricity League and it’s very difficult for us to compete with them on the financial front. In addition, our location in the North-West does not appeal to other players, but we’re confident we will have a competitive team signed before the start of the new season,” he added.
Local strikers Mark Farren and David McDaid have been involved in ongoing negotiations with Devine and assistant boss, Paul Hegarty, while goalkeeper, Eugene Ferry, has agreed new terms for next season.
“I’m anxious to keep both Mark and David at the club. In my view, Mark will surpass Liam Coyle’s all-time scoring record this season of 112 goals - he’s already netted 108 strikes - and I believe he can again become the top striker in the league.
“We are in negotiations with both players and those discussions with continue,” confirmed Devine.
With training now at full pelt, no fewer than 18 players trained yesterday morning at 7.00 a.m. in the Sparta Hut in Brooke Park, working in the gym and on fitness levels.
Such sessions now take place twice every week, not to mention training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights plus double sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
“We had 25 players in training last weekend, a great response and we have quite a few talented youngsters seeking to make a name for themselves this season,” continued Devine.
“We hope to have a panel of maybe 19 or 20 players supplemented by our young players and if we can get the players we have identified, then I believe we’ll be okay come our first league match in March.”
Gerard voted top ‘stopper’
Meanwhile, Derry City’s Gerard Doherty was voted the Airtricity League’s top goalkeeper last season as a banquet in Dublin last weekend which was attended by Republic of Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli.
And Devine was delighted to see his regular No. 1 gain recognition.
“I’m sure I speak for all Derry City supporters by stating that we are absolutely delighted that Gerard won the award.
“It’s very, very rare that players from this neck of the woods receive such recognition but Gerard remains the best keeper in the country.
“He continues to work hard on the training ground and the challenge for him now is to repeat last season’s success and, hopefully, gain international honours.
“It never ceases to amaze me that Maik Taylor, now aged 40 years, has returned to the N. Ireland team with Gerard’s performances last season not even recognised.
“He’s been a quality goalkeeper for so many years and I think people really need to sit up and take notice and give him the honour he thoroughly deserves,” concluded Devine.