Johnston Press NI senior sports reporter Patrick Van Dort offers his verdict on events at Portadown following confirmation this week of the club’s relegation into Championship football:
In the end, the years of mistakes, mismanagement and mistrust culminated in one final fixture.
Ninety-plus minutes of football on a Tuesday night against Ards left the scoreline confirming a 3-2 defeat and the statistics cementing relegation out of senior football and into next season’s Championship.
The long goodbye gathered pace this season due to the Irish Football Association’s string of sanctions for a variety of issues that resulted in financial punishments which disrupted off-the-field affairs and, decisively, points deductions and a transfer embargo that crippled attempts by Pat McGibbon, Vinny Arkins and Niall Currie to mount a miracle rescue mission against relegation.
However, the beginning of the end can be traced back down the years past the current campaign to a series of internal acts by people charged with protecting the club’s legacy.
Irrespective of any good intentions behind decisions made by those with control and responsibility for Portadown’s progress in every area, the ultimate end product became official at the final whistle on Tuesday.
Squads have routinely been weighed down by a bloated wage bill but diminishing returns alongside desperate gambles in the transfer market failing to fulfil expectations.
Hard work by so many behind the scenes, in particular across the past year, should result in a clean slate over the summer and an end to the poisonous internal cycle of discontent on so many fronts.
A fan-driven rejuvenation within the corridors of power and summer transfer window free from restrictions should result in a club free from the shackles of past problems.
Niall Currie stood on the Shamrock Park terraces cheering on his hometown club as a supporter, spent the early stages of his Irish League playing career between the posts on Portadown’s books and returned last December as manager.
From his first press conference he has called for unity on and off the pitch and considers that key to a return to the glory days he is confident he can deliver.
He accepts the reality that this season has provided a pass in the eyes of many connected to the club given Currie’s arrival with the Ports struggling under the weight of past baggage.
However, Currie is also aware that, with relegation confirmed, the clean slate anticipated also comes with added responsibility.
Currie’s track record as a four-time winner of the Championship title effectively cemented his credentials as a permanent Portadown manager with one eye on the anticipated relegation.
He has spent the past few months learning about the current players and analysing targets for the summer rebuilding work - but also winning over hearts and minds by connecting to the fanbase and helping encourage a bridge between the changing room, boardroom and supporters.
As a man he has been able to prove he has an understanding of what it means to hold such a central role at Portadown.
Now he must prove he has the necessary skills to shoulder that responsibility as a manager.
Tuesday, April 18 defined the past - Wednesday, April 19 could be the date that marks the first steps towards a positive future under Currie.