Irish League kick-off: Top six finish remains Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton’s Premiership priority

Gary Hamilton.
Gary Hamilton.

Since Gary Hamilton took charge of Glenavon their year-on-year progress in the Irish Premiership has been staggering.

In his first season they finished ninth, the next they climbed to sixth and last season achieved a barn-storming third spot – their highest position in the top flight since 2000 when they finished second behind champions Linfield.

Going by that superb record the Lurgan Blues should be pushing for the title this season.

However, fans can forget about that fanciful idea. Despite the improvement in the Hamilton reign the manager’s realistic objective remains getting into the top six.

“ I have always tried to be realistic with my targets in football and obviously with Crusaders winning the league last year and Linfield finishing second it will be hard to overhaul them,” he said.

“They also qualified for another round of Europe and got extra money so it puts them way out ahead of the rest of us in terms of finances.

“Portadown are always going to be in there and although they have not brought anyone in they still have a decent squad.

“People will say we beat them last season and finished above them, and yes, we did, but I feel Portadown massively under-achieved last year.

“You have Cliftonville too hoping to bounce back again but they will certainly miss Joe Gormley and his goals. It will be interesting to see if they can replace him or how they cope without him.

“Glentoran have also strengthened as have most of the teams. We had a very competitive league last season, perhaps the best we have seen in a long time in terms of closeness and I feel this year it will be even closer and tighter again.

“Our aim as a club is to keep ourselves in one of the top six places or even fifth and then push on for Europe when the time comes. If we can repeat what we achieved last season then that will do for me.”

Hamilton admitted one area he is keen to improve on is the goals against column.

“I think we have really improved in that area in terms of the quality of player we have now. One of our targets this year is only to concede one goal a game,” he added.

“Conceding none is great, but that rarely happens in Irish League football. If you can keep it down to one against then you will not lose too many.

“Over the past three seasons we have scored a lot of goals so if we improve at the back then it should help us in our final points tally.”

Hamilton himself is still registered as a player, but he does not want to figure too much this season.

“I’d prefer not too play, but the team has to come first and sometimes you need strikers on the bench to come in and change games. That is perhaps what I will do,” he said.