FOOTBALL: Bell ready for new challenge with McClean at Greenisland

Gary Bell (left) and Stuart McClean. INNT 49-019-FP
Gary Bell (left) and Stuart McClean. INNT 49-019-FP

Gary Bell is back in local football as assistant-manager to Stuart McClean at newly-promoted 2A side Greenisland.

The pair are former team mates both at Ballyclare Comrades and Nortel and it was at Dixon Park where a 16-year-old Bell was given his Comrades debut under then manager Alan Campbell.

Gary had a few seasons at the Comrades before making the short trip to Larne under Kenny Shiels.

After a couple of years, though, it was back to his old Comrades, now managed by Jamesie Kirk, whom he followed to Nortel, along with McClean, before his playing career was effectively ended by a bad leg break sustained against Grove United.

Gary then helped out at Nortel, before making another return to his old haunt, this time for a three-year stint as assistant-manager to Eddie Hill.

After the arrival of Davy Dorrian, Bell took some time out, before renewing acquaintances again with Kirk, this time at Championship 2 PSNI.

“It was getting to the stage where I was needing to keep fit and it was a nice gesture from Jamesie to let me come up to PSNI.

“It was a chance to put the boots back on, do some training and I even managed to get a few games in. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jamesie Kirk; he’s been a large part of my playing career, I played for him a long time at Ballyclare and then at Nortel.

“It was one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had, even though I only played around seven or eight games. It was for the purpose of closing the door with Jamesie, and with PSNI getting promoted, it was a nice way of finishing. We also got promoted (from 1A) the year I had the leg break!”

While spending most of his time at Ballyclare, Bell is no stranger to the Amateur League, not only with Nortel, but also with the occasional spell at Mossley.

And he has been down watching new club Greenisland in their last few games where they were pipped for the 2b title on goal difference by Finaghy on the last day.

As he told the Times: “They will be disappointed they didn’t win a trophy but hopefully there’s a bit of fire in the bellies for next year, and we will be doing our best to win them that first trophy they’re eager to get.

“We’ll be into a tough Division in 2a, and we’ll bring in a few new faces just to freshen things up; try and push on and build on the fantastic foundations Laurence Gilloway has laid.

“Laurence should be proud of himself for what he has achieved and he’s still going to be around; he’s such a big influence at Greenisland. Hopefully myself and Stuart can take them to the next level.”

Certainly the local footballing fraternity is all the better for the return of someone with the infectious enthusiasm of Gary Bell.