Carrick Rangers return to the pitch today with manager Niall Currie determined first and foremost to honour the memory of Jerry Thompson.
Currie considers the Danske Bank Premiership game at home to Glentoran another important step in the grieving process for everyone connected to the club following the tragic sudden death of Thompson.
Members of the Thompson family have been invited to attend as guests of Rangers and Currie admits the result stands irrelevant.
“It has been heartbreaking for us all at the club and we will never forget Jerry,” said Currie. “But obviously any pain we feel is nothing compared to the suffering of Jerry’s family.
“So our only aim is to be whatever comfort possible to the family, honour Jerry’s memory and show our love.
“It is going to be a long, hard season ahead and everyone will return to the routine of football in their own time - so Saturday is about paying tribute together.
“Every player is different and we have absolutely no way of knowing how any one individual is going to react to playing a first match without Jerry.
“To be honest, I cannot say for sure how I will respond and we are only going to know when standing on the pitch.
“Jerry found his footballing home with us at Carrick and this match goes beyond any single result.
“We simply want to continue to pay respect to someone forever part of our family.”
Currie feels his squad will help honour the memory of Thompson by playing in the spirit of the talented defender.
Thompson’s recent death was met by widespread tributes to the person and player.
A first fixture since Thompson’s funeral is set to prove emotional against Glentoran.
“Jerry may only have joined our club in the summer but he had a massive impact on everyone,” said Currie. “The decision to retire his shirt number is just one example of our tribute.
“On the pitch, our players will pay respect over time I’m sure by replicating the passion, heart and commitment Jerry brought to the Carrick jersey.
“His form had been as good as anyone in the Irish League and certainly Jerry had been producing what we felt was the best football of his career.
“Our players have been magnificent in coping with everything.
“Jerry means so much to us all and had such a strong connection to the club in such a short period of time.
“It was not about the time Jerry was at the club but the bond formed.”
Currie also feels greater focus must be given to mental health awareness moving forward.
“As a manager, I’ve always tried to make sure every player knows the door is open for a chat about anything, personal or professional,” said Currie. “I’m proud of how we’ve come together as a club to offer support to each other.
“But more must be done overall by everyone, be it extra funding or more of a commitment to helping our young people.”