FORMER manager of the now defunct Newtownabbey FC Garry Campbell is the new boss of Monkstown side 18th Newtownabbey Old Boys.
As Garry explained: “Newtownabbey FC folded in January. There was nothing we could do in the end, and it’s a pity, for we were getting our act together. Eighteenth manager Paul Cargill, who is a good friend of mine, had asked me to come down to do a bit of coaching. I told the boys that’s where I was going and five of the players followed me down. We agreed to stay to the end of the season, and then take it from there.
“Two other teams wanted to talk to me, and another one was looking for me to come as an assistant, but then 18th came in and offered me the job
“There already are some decent players down there, like Michael Jamison, Neil Campbell and the keeper is as good as I’ve seen in a long time, Jonny Chambers. Last year, there were some players who weren’t training. The ones I’m bringing in, I know will train and this should spur the other ones on, they’ll know they need to train to get on the team. I’ve a few boys lined up, like Ricky Moore, who had been at 18th before, and I’m also hoping to sign Stuart Owens. There will be a real mixture, with the original 18th players, plus some from clubs that aren’t there any more, like 13th Newtownabbey, Newtownabbey FC and Newtownabbey Sevens.
“Division 1C will be a tough league, with St Pat’s coming into it, but I would say if we end up above my old club Mossley in the first year, I’ll be happy enough.”
Indeed, anyone finishing above Mossley in the last three seasons was promoted, third two years in a row and then fourth before that, when three teams ended up going up. As Garry suggested: “Mossley will be our target. Even last year, we turned things round against them, from a six-goal drubbing in the opening match, to a 1-1 draw, although our backs were against the wall. That gave the boys a bit of belief and let them realise they weren’t a million miles away. And near the end of the season, we had players missing, the likes of young Ryan Rea who was doing exams.”
Mossley, of course, is a club Garry knows well. As the Mossley goalkeeper, he cut his managerial teeth when an ex-netminder Les Long left just after the season started. He also had another stint in charge after John McMinn moved on but added: “The worst thing I probably did then was to try and play, and manage at the same time.”
After Mossley, Garry joined 14th Newtownabbey who were then in the Old Boys League, before entering the Ballymena and Provincial League’s Junior Division 1.
“After one season, we decided to ditch the ‘Old Boys’ tag, and that’s where Newtownabbey FC came into being. We were in Junior 1 for four years, winning it twice, and were on for the treble the year before we folded, only Glebe Ranges came up with a strong side and beat us in the Cup final. We were a decent side and probably didn’t get the recognition we deserved around Newtownabbey. We took teams down to Nortel and Grove United in friendlies and beat them, and only Ardoyne Working Men’s Club put us out of the Junior Shield.”
The next step was to upgrade into Intermediate status, but as Campbell added: “It wasn’t easy only having the one team – and all too often, our home pitch at Parkview was rained off. Players want to be playing and we were off weeks in a row. And it was a vicious circle, with players, knowing the match would be off on a Saturday, missing training and then falling behind in their fitness.”
The end of the road for Newtownabbey FC, however, came in January. Garry was invited down to 18th Newtownabbey by Paul Cargill, where he was soon joined by five of his former players.
As Paul pointed out: “Garry is a good friend of mine. Once Newtownabbey FC folded, I wanted him down to us. Two years ago when I took over at 18th we didn’t have many players. If someone had said two years on we’d end up mid-table in the league, I would have bitten their hand off! Fair enough, five players that came down with him helped us to that mid-table place – but realistically, I felt I had taken the club as far as I could. To take the next leap, you need more players. It’s all about getting players, and it’s hard with so many clubs in Newtownabbey with the really good ones wanting to head towards Nortel. You needed a manager who could bring in new players and I felt he could do that.
“Originally my intention was to step down at the end of the season, let Garrry manage the team and I’d stay on the committee and do work behind the scenes. But after the AGM, I just decided on a clean break. The amount of time and effort I’ve put into things the last few seasons, Tuesday and Thursday at training, trying to get a team together on Friday, and then the match on Saturday. I’m going to take things easy now and enjoy myself – but Garry is a good mate, if he ever needs me to look at a player or something, I’ll help him in any way I can.”
Campbell conceded: “It has helped being there lending a hand over the last few months. I now know just how good a club it is, the pitch, the changing rooms, the facilities. It’s all there. I always did want to manage again in the Amateur League and I just can’t wait to get started!”
Garry’s assistant will be an old team-mate from his Mossley days, defender Bobby Steele.