McClean back to his roots with Comrades

Stuart McClean, seen here captaining Ballyclare Comrades in 2009, has returned to the club as a coach.
Stuart McClean, seen here captaining Ballyclare Comrades in 2009, has returned to the club as a coach.

Fans’ favourite Stuart McClean has returned to his roots with Ballyclare Comrades.

The talented midfielder has parted company with Nortel and joined manager Eddie Hill’s backroom staff as coach.

“This is a major coup for the Comrades,” enthused Hill. “My links with Stuart go back a long way, and he will bring experience to a reshuffled backroom staff that will also include former skipper Andy Forsythe.

“With Gary Bell as assistant manager we now have the dugout filled with people who have Comrades blood in their veins. Between the four of us we must have clocked up in excess of a thousand games for the club.

“I attended the recent AGM and the supporters were thrilled to hear about Stuart and Andy; they know that we all have the good of the Comrades at heart and there was an upbeat atmosphere at the meeting.

“They were also delighted to learn that I have made three important signings. Gary Browne, who was unable to attend training last season and drifted off to a junior club, has re-signed and that is as good as a new player, while I have also obtained the signatures of Kyle Agnew and Andrew Doyle.

“Kyle is well known to the fans having previously played for the club before following former manager Jamesie Kirk to Nortel, but Doyle is a newcomer. He starred in Nortel’s back division and was being tracked by several more senior clubs, but pledged his future to Ballyclare after having been impressed by our ambitions to regain our Championship 1 status.

“Andy (Forsythe) is still awaiting knee surgery and he is keen to be involved in coaching meantime, but his long-term aim is to pull on the red jersey again.

“Another signing is imminent but I will wait until I receive the transfer form before naming any name.

“Overall I have a squad of 19 on the books, and the only two players who have not re-signed, Scott Irvine and Mark McClelland, have both indicated that they will turn up when pre-season training starts on Saturday, June 30 at Mallusk.

“Hopefully they will be joined by several other potential signings, so overall I am excited about the new season, and I hope that we will give the fans something to cheer about on a more consistent basis than last year,” he ended.

For the record, Stuart McClean made his debut on a cold January afternoon in Tobermore in 2000 when manager Paul Byrne drafted him in as a teenager after several senior players controversially staged a protest and refused to play in that Irish Cup tie.

Stuart quickly established himself in the side and for several seasons was one of the first names on the team-sheet, and he went on to play a total of 310 times spanning 10 seasons.