Stuart King’s ‘150 per cent’ passion with a plan set for Premiership debut

It was no coincidence that Stuart King, a manager with zero minutes in a Premiership dugout, turned to Irish League players boasting close to 30 years of combined top-flight football as his first two Carrick Rangers signings.

Saturday, 28th August 2021, 2:05 pm

King’s passion with a plan will be tested at competitive senior level for the first time this weekend with a visit to Cliftonville following his summer adjustment from third-tier Banbridge Town to Carrick.

Having embraced the benefits of life so far at the top table with some astute transfer business in the capture of players like Jim Ervin and David Cushley, King is driven to maximise the opportunity.

“Now I’m here as new to Premiership management but off six years’ grounding and 24 years overall including as a player, so have seen all the ups and downs,” said King. “The people around me know something they get from my end will be 150 per cent...so if these players can give that back then it’s going to set us in the right direction.

Stuart King - celebrating back in 2003 during a playing career at Linfield - will make his first top-flight appearance as manager today with Carrick Rangers. Pic by Pacemaker

“Everything I’ve done in football as a player, coach or manager up to this point has led to me getting a Premiership job.

“And in every experience those groups that work together always achieve far more.

“The backing from the chairman and committee has been vital as, in many cases, other Premiership clubs wanted to sign the same players we got over the line.

“Moving forward we know there are going to be good times and bad, highs and lows, so it’s about having the right mentality to handle those situations together as a group.

“I started out my coaching at the bottom and served my apprenticeship but also have experience serving as a scout for senior clubs or even watching a lot of top-flight games on commentary.

“I’ve great support from the backroom team and feel I’m building a squad of players, old and new, all fighting towards the same goals.

“People have a perception of me probably and of course my first management job at this level is going to be a learning curve.

“But without my passion I probably wouldn’t have been given this chance by the Carrick officials.”

King is keen to utilise his long links with both Ervin and Cushley from playing days together to ease the transition of ideas from across the white line.

“I’ve played at the highest Irish League level in successful sides, I’ve been captain of teams at different levels and know only too well the value of leadership on the pitch or, more importantly, the cost of a lack of it out there,” he said. “So, we wanted more leaders and that does not always come down to experience or age, I look around the squad at the signings and those kept on and feel we have that here.

“I’m delighted to get people like Jim and David on board as proven winners but who still show so much hunger and desire.

“Both Jim and David have so much drive to keep on playing and they bring significant experience on and off the pitch.

“I’ve known David and his family from time together at Ballymena United maybe 15 years ago or so.

“I obviously played with Jim before too, so that helps.

“When I arrived at Carrick and analysed everything I was brutally honest about the need to make changes.

“The statistics show we conceded over 90 goals last season in the Premiership, plus didn’t score that many.

“So the signings made - on top of those done in advance of me joining, like Ben Tilney and Emmett McGuckin - will massively improve the squad I think.”

Sharing the senior spotlight with his more established managerial colleagues at the recent Premiership season launch night, King offered an insight into his personal motivation and drive to continue that progress.

“When I was manager of Banbridge Town we got Coleraine away in the Irish Cup...now I get to do that every week,” said King. “I had a desire to do my best as a player, I wasn’t the greatest in the world but gave it everything and have done the same now to get this chance in management.

“I’ve a job I do maybe 50 hours a week for and am doing another 50 a week probably at Carrick...but you’ve got to have desires and goals.”

CLIFTONVILLE

Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin, having followed a similar path into the senior dugout, will offer Stuart King a warm welcome today as the newest member of the top-flight managers’ club.

McLaughlin’s work in taking Institute on to the Irish League main stage attracted Cliftonville attention in 2019 and this weekend he lines out against a Carrick Rangers side with King in charge following a summer promotion up two tiers from Banbridge Town.

The Reds boss is full of praise for senior officials offering opportunities to young managers short of top-flight experience.

“I know Stuart well, he’s a good football man, hard-working and up-and-coming,” said McLaughlin. “From my journey, I’d a good staff and good players around me at Institute and was lucky enough to get the opportunity at Cliftonville.

“It’s similar with Stuart and it’s great to see clubs in the Premiership not afraid to give young managers a chance.

“You’ve seen it in the past with someone like Oran Kearney, he was - and still is - a young manager but he got his opportunity and look how well he’s going from strength-to-strength at Coleraine.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the Carrick results in pre-season and Stuart’s recruited well and they’ve been performing and scoring goals.

“They will come in with a new manager so a new buzz and I’m sure Stuart will do really well.

“It’s a tough start but we concentrate on ourselves towards performing at our maximum.”

McLaughlin is relishing the challenge facing Cliftonville - and hoping for added gains thanks to increased Solitude home comforts.

“Especially with the new surface at Solitude and the fans coming back in...we’ve got to make Solitude a fortress,” he said. “The boys have worked hard in pre-season so everyone’s looking forward to it now.

“We had good pre-season fixtures, with the boys enjoying it and playing some good football already on the new surface, so we’re raring to go.

“Last year everything was up in the air over coming back and the situation with fans, so a lot of distraction and confusion.

“Now we are definitely more settled, with greater understanding of where we are at so there’s a buzz here now different to last season.

“It’s a tough league and with the full-time sides but you’ve got to back yourself in any battle and that’s what we do week in, week out.

“There are the teams full-time but then it’s up to the rest of us to narrow the gap.

“I heard David Jeffrey (Ballymena boss) speak with such passion about how it doesn’t matter if part-time or full-time, you don’t turn down a challenge.

“That’s the mentality...it doesn’t matter who we play or where, if we give our maximum we know we’ve every chance.

“If that’s good enough to win the game, brilliant, if not then the opposition must need to perform really well to beat us.”

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