Following the recent surprise resignation of David Dorrian, Ballyclare Comrades moved quickly to install Stephen Hughes as his successor.
The 38-year-old, who grew up in the town, has been involved at Dixon Park for several years as Youth Co-ordinator, and more recently as manager of the Reserves.
In that capacity he led the ‘Wee Reds’ to a Ballymena and Provincial League Junior League Division 1 championship win in the 2013-14 season. The following year he was prevented from securing back-to-back titles when his young squad was pipped at the post by Antrim Rovers.
After serving one match as interim manager that produced an Intermediate Cup win, Hughes was handed the reins on a permanent basis on Saturday morning. Former boss, Eddie Hill, as his assistant.
The pair lost little time in strengthening the squad by getting the signature of Donegal Celtic left-back Mark Shannon and Hughes revealed more signings may be in the offing.
“I know we have several promising young players coming through with Bobby Crowe getting his first taste of senior football against Ards, but I will still be on the lookout for more experienced players who might be available, in order to have competition for places in the team,” he said.
So Comrades fans won’t be surprised if further new faces are brought in during the January transfer window.
Reflecting on Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Ards, Hughes added: “We were not downbeat in the dressing room following that defeat against the league leaders.
“Niall Currie has assembled a strong squad and it will be no surprise if they clinch automatic promotion to the Premier League this time.
“I prefer to look at the positives. After losing two top players over the Christmas holidays we put in a good shift, with the players giving 100 per cent effort.
“The result hinged on small margins. The early goal came when the Ards player pounced on a loose ball in the box, and they always threatened but we prevented them from building on that early momentum, with no further goals in the first half. “They got their second early in the second half, but again we frustrated them and didn’t cave in, so we can hold our heads high,” he asserted.
Asked about the substitutions, Hughes said that Darren Doherty was recovering from injury and was glad to be able to last for an hour before making way for Curtis Woods, while teenager Bobby Crowe looked composed when he came in to take over from Gary Brown in the engine room.
He added: “Unfortunately we are not involved in this weekend’s Irish Cup matches, but it gives us more time to focus on the trip to Loughgall.”