Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson admits he has strong bonds with the League Cup!
Not only has he six winners’ medals safely tucked away in his locker but, after a tremendously successful playing career, it was the last senior trophy he paraded as a player.
When Spike quit the Blues back in 2009, most people assumed his decision to join Lisburn Distillery in the twilight was to see out his remaining years. Not a bit of it!
Two years later, Ferguson helped the unfashionable Whites win their first trophy for 17 years -- and it had to be the League Cup!
Managed by Tommy Wright, the New Grosvenor boys defeated Portadown 2-1 in an epic final at Mourneview Park.
Now Ferguson is hoping that lightning strikes twice as he will lead his Ballymena team into their very first League Cup final against Cliftonville at Windsor Park.
“We were talking about that 2011 final the other day,” beams Ferguson.
“Matthew Tipton scored for Portadown. David Cushley and Gary Thompson were in the Distillery side, they are now all team mates.
“It was a really good victory because no one expected us to win and it was a great day for everyone connected with the club.
“I have won this trophy six times as a player, so it is one that has been kind to me down the years.”
Ferguson believes if his boys show the commitment and passion they are capable of it could be a good day for the Sky Blues, but he is only too aware of the qualities of the opposition.
“They handed us a spanking earlier this season, but I’ll not read too much into that because certain factors outside of our control, helped generate that result,” he added.
“There is no doubt Cliftonville have the players to hurt you, particularly in Gormley and McDaid.
“One is probably the hottest striker and the other perhaps the best link up player in the league at present.
“If their midfield win the battle, nine times out of 10, Cliftonville will win the game and defensively they have plenty of experience. If it all comes together for them, they can be formidable.
“But we’ve done our homework. We’ll have a game plan and try to nullify the threat they pose. We suffered the disappointment of losing the Irish Cup final last season. We don’t want another repeat of that.”
Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin goes with the theory that past results count for nothing, especially in a cup final.
“There will be no question of any complacency on our part,” he said.
“In fact, past results can be a big motivating factor for Ballymena.
“It’s no secret that we are not in the best of form at present, so that is our motivating factor.
“Our loss off form is down to a combination of things. We’ve had a lot of injuries to key players; we’ve been involved in a lot of midweek games and, I think that has affected our performances the following Saturday -- a big like the Europa League syndrome in England.
“We have analysed the problem, but the bottom line is we are not working hard enough and our game management has been poor. We are working hard to address the problem.
“But there is a brilliant opportunity on Saturday to put that right. It’s a showcase final, televised live in front of a big crowd. It’s an ideal platform for the players to go out and show what they can do.”