The 2016-17 Danske Bank Premiership season kicks off for Glenavon tomorrow with the visit of Carrick Rangers who have a familiar face in charge. Following the departure of previous boss Gary Haveron at the end of last season, Portadown’s long-serving former assistant manager Kieran Harding has taken up the reins at Carrick.
Gary Hamilton says he and the players are all delighted to be back and excited at the prospect of the new season. “We all can’t wait to get back and that’s the way it is for every footballer. It’s great to be off for a few weeks but they’re all raring to go now.”
Looking ahead Gary’s aim is, as always, to try to improve on last season. “We want to try to improve on all aspects of what we did last season: more wins, less defeats, more points, more goals for and less against. If that sees us challenging for the league title so be it but our aim is to keep improving in all aspects.”
Andrew Doyle is a doubt with a knee strain and Kyle Neill, James Singleton and Kevin Braniff are still on the road back from injuries.
The new season also heralds a number of rule changes, some of which may leave fans a little puzzled at first. Probably the most sensible change is that if a player denies a goal scoring opportunity in the penalty area whilst making a genuine attempt to win the ball, it will not result in an automatic red card, merely a yellow, thus avoiding what has become known as the triple punishment. There have also been some changes to the offside law designed to clarify it (?) and a player who is injured in a challenge for which an opponent is cautioned does not have to leave the field of play after receiving treatment. IFA Referee Development Manager Lee Tavinder explained some of the rule changes when he spoke to the BBC recently.
“The rules are all positive in my opinion,” the Glenavon manager told us “but bringing in so many changes at once could make it difficult for the officials and the players to get used to and it may have been better to phase them in over the season but as I said, they will improve the game in the long run.”
Glenavon’s opening-day results in the last three season have yielded one win, one draw and, last-season, a 1-0 defeat at home to Cliftonville. That was an unusually lack-lustre performance from the Lurgan Blues which fortunately was rarely repeated as Gary Hamilton once again steered his side to a 3rd place finish to cap off lifting the Irish Cup for the second time in three seasons.
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