Coleraine manager Oran Kearney insists there will be no ‘fear factor’ hovering over his team ahead of Saturday’s Danske Bank Premiership showdown with Linfield at Windsor Park.
The Bannsiders, whose 13-match unbeaten run has earned Kearney the November Manager of the Month award, sit proudly in second place in the table and are determined to keep their fairytale going.
Kearney’s brave decision to promote a number of his up-and-coming teenagers has paid a massive dividend. And he believes the club’s elevated position in the league table is fully warranted.
“I’m not really surprised,” he said. “We haven’t really smash-and-grabbed any results.
“We are not only getting good results, we are getting good performances. I can think of quite a few games we have won quite convincingly. We just have a good chemistry at the minute.
“It’s not just about bringing in young players into the club, it’s about bring in good young players – that’s the difference. I think the teenagers have a big future. They have shown a real hunger to grab an Irish League career. They are all playing as if their life depends on it. That has rubbed off on everyone at the club.”
But can they handle the pressure of walking out at the intimidating international venue?
Kearney added: “To me, we have already crossed that bridge. The kids have played at Windsor before. A majority of the guys cut their teeth this time last year.
“We played Linfield twice last season in December and it was a rabbit in the headlights for some of them then. We drew one and were beaten in one. Both performances were really good.
“They have had their go a making their debut at the big grounds. For me none of them will need protecting this time. I’ll be expecting them all to express themselves on the game.”
On his latest award, Kearney paid tribute to his chairman Colin McKendry, who stood by his manager when many were calling for his head.
“I’m just thankful Colin didn’t listen to the negativity that was floating around our club at the time, otherwise I wouldn’t be picking up this award,” said Kearney.
“Had he been weak and listened to certain things, it could have been different. That’s why he is the first one I wanted to thank when I was informed of this award.
“He was so strong and so focused and he told me that it was not an option (Kearney leaving). He took a lot of stick for that. I always said that if I ever felt I wasn’t doing the job, I’d hold up my hands and admit it.
“As frustrating as it was, I did speak to him after a defeat by Warrenpoint. But I hadn’t even close the door closed when he told me ‘don’t go there’.
“He said it was not an option – we move on to next week. We did sit down with a plan. He knows behind the scene the changes that we’ve made, including budgetary and other aspects.”
Apart from David Ogilby (shoulder) and Adam Mullan (viral infection), Kearney is expected to be a full strength for tomorrow’s game.