Niall Currie spent last summer rebuilding from past pain - this pre-season the focus has centred on embracing future challenges, writes Patrick Van Dort.
His arrival at Carrick Rangers offered an opportunity for the Irish League’s most successful second-tier manager to rediscover a love for the game following a Portadown exit which hurt professionally and personally.
Currie embraced a return to the dug-out at Carrick and his success in securing Danske Bank Premiership promotion proved not only a significant boost for Rangers but a step forward in helping ease the damage to his reputation caused by an inability to match past glory days when with hometown Portadown.
Now Currie, having been the architect of one campaign which exceeded all expectations, is relishing the chance for another season to remember.
“I came into Carrick last May aiming to build something at a club with wonderful support and realistic goals,” said Currie. “For us to finish with promotion is a credit to the hard work of everyone around the club and we now sit so far ahead of schedule.
“We’ve had great backing and everyone is pulling together to help the club push on over so many fronts, with the work around the ground superb.
“We’ve arrived in the Premiership quicker than we thought but it’s fantastic, everyone is determined to keep the heads down and work.
“There have been painful times in the past and we are under no illusions as to the task ahead but we also see it as a wonderful opportunity.
“I still have that self-belief and am looking forward to the excitement of the challenge.
“Heart, passion and hard work helped us get to this point and we will trust those same values this season as a Premiership club.”
Currie’s career in Irish League management has been built on an unrivalled record outside the senior stage alongside periods at the top table with Ards and Portadown which, although limited, can still offer greater insight than the majority of his players.
“Quite a few have never kicked a ball in Premiership football so handling that learning curve will be a big part of the season, dealing with the setbacks and moving forward,” said Currie. “But I just want to give players a platform, that opportunity to go out and express themselves at this level.
“We have done some business in preparation and managed to bring in some players with experience on top of those who got us here.
“There could be more to come but it is about managing our budget in the right way, given the hard work by so many to get us what we have in place.
“If putting a large share of our budget on one player then you almost need to guarantee a return to justify the outlay, otherwise it is very much about gambling on players who have potential but lack experience or have been around but maybe need a second chance.
“It’s about platforms and thinking outside the box but I look at the Premiership and see leagues within leagues, with the gap only growing between certain clubs.
“But we’ve got to look at our mini-league of three or four clubs we feel we can prove competitive up against week in, week out.
“With the steps towards full-time football and outside investment with more and more clubs, we need to look at different ways to achieve our goals and last season’s run towards promotion was built on old-school values of everyone working together off a great team spirit.
“The small details matter and even things like paining and cleaning up around the club or putting new dug-outs in all make a difference.
“For my part, as manager, we know we will take our hits but we will give 150 per cent for this club and understand it’s about how we react to any disappointments that could be crucial.
“It has been a magnificent group to work with since I came into the club and we’ve added to that squad thanks to wonderful support, so now it’s about enjoying the challenges.”