A FAMILIAR football face returns to Derry and the Riverside Stadium tomorrow determined to arrest Institute’s recent revival under Paul Kee.
MICHAEL WILSOn reports
Former St. Joseph’s Boys and Lumen Christi P.E. teacher, Frank Wilson, spent more than 10 years in the city and was a popular figure on the local soccer scene until family commitments forced a move back to his native Belfast.
Tomorrow, however, sentiment goes out the window as the former Omagh Town, Carrick Rangers and Larne midfielder brings his fourth placed Bangor outfit to Drumahoe for a Ladbrokes.com Irish Championship game that is vital to both sides for very differing reasons.
Kee’s recent arrival has transformed a ‘Stute team which is now unbeaten in four games but they are still not mathematically safe from relegation, one more win likely to secure their position. Bangor, in contrast, must pick up three points to maintain the slim hope they could force their way into the top two and secure a shot at promotion.
Different ambitions then but a similar objective - three points, and for someone who holds a Terry Kelly Cup winning medal with Abercorn as one of his favourite memories in football, it will be a chance to test himself against the man who helped set him on the road to the Bangor hotseat.
Wilson took over at Clandeboye Park following an ill-fated stint as Marty Tabb’s assistant at Donegal Celtic and has really grown into the position, his first since securing his ‘A’ Licence last summer under the tutelage of, yes, you’ve guessed it, Paul Kee!
“If I’m honest, I am really looking forward to taking the team up to Derry,” explained the 40-year-old who now teaches in Belfast.
“I loved my time in Derry, the city holds a special place for me. It’s a great football city which produces some fantastic talent. The whole North West, in a sporting sense, seems to be on an upward spiral at the moment.
“For example, I was heavily involved with schools soccer during my time in Derry and it was wonderful to see St. Columb’s College winning the three Northern Ireland Cups last week. That shows where the city stands in terms of producing football players although I’m hoping the recent successes won’t continue at Institute on Saturday!”
Ironically the former Antrim GAA player took his first tentative steps on the managerial ladder as assistant to Billy Scampton on Magee University’s highly successful All-Ireland Colleges’ League winning team in 1996. Wilson is the first to admit he is still only a rookie in managerial terms, but he claims he won’t be making the mistake of taking ‘Stute lightly, despite their current predicament.
“I won’t be paying any attention to where Institute are in the League table because I believe they’re in a false position. I am slightly worried the players might look at the league and think this is going to be easy, but I know Paul (Kee) too well for that.
“I have a lot of respect him and I know he has brought players in and restructured things recently. They are going to be well organised and tough to break down. I’m expecting a close game but both teams will want a win so it could be quite open.”
The Bangor manager has seen his team go eight matches unbeaten since a 7-0 humiliation against Larne in February, but he admitted his side is unlikely to catch either Carrick or Limavady United at the top of the table.
“Our first job is to close the gap on Dergview in third and then we’ll just see what happens. Next season is a more realistic target (for promotion) but we want to finish the season as strong as possible, though the same will go for Institute who are probably thinking along similar lines.!
Institute go into the game with captain Ruairi McClean and Declan Divin both doubtful although Ryan Semple impressed in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Ballymoney United and could come in to start. Sitting four points ahead of second from bottom Ballyclare and with a game in hand, confidence is now high as assistant boss Alan Blair confirmed.
“The last few weeks we have went a goal behind but have come back to win which shows character in the team,” explained Blair.
“After January we were big contenders to go down with some people but now we need to start looking up and we need to keep things positive. Confidence is high at the minute, because we have taken ten points from our last four games and to be honest that form really is title challenging form.
“I think the attitude have now is that we need to get at least one more victory and that will mean job done,” he added.