Niall Currie will step out today for his ninth opening day of an Irish League second-tier season relishing what he anticipates will be his toughest campaign to date.
Currie, the most decorated second-tier manager ever as a four-time title winner following spells with Loughgall and Ards, kicks off league life as Carrick boss determined to rejuvenate the club and, with it, his own managerial reputation.
A move from top-flight Ards in December 2016 to take on the challenge of bringing his boyhood club back up to senior football proved too strong an emotional pull but ended in heartbreak and an exit from Portadown.
However, Currie’s focus remains on fresh goals in Carrick colours.
“There’s more interest in the division this season than I can remember. You look right down the league and it’s massively competitive,” said Currie. “We have our ambitions and aspirations to be right up there.
“I’ve no regrets over taking on the job with Portadown as my hometown club but I look on it now, at 45 years old after that first major career disappointment, determined to get back to being the manager I was previously.
“I still live in Portadown but my job now is to represent Carrick Rangers and we are all on the same page about moving forward together.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity at Carrick to rebuild this club in the same way I managed at Annagh United, Loughgall and Ards.
“I feel fresh and rejuvenated here and, if given the time, I am excited about getting the club back in the Premiership.
“People quickly forget the good things in a career and focus only on the last job. I’ve seen good people go out of this game that way so feel very lucky to have the chance at a club with such a proud tradition as Carrick.”
Carrick’s visit to Harland and Wolff Welders offers early evidence of the demands of the division.
“Very few new managers, by virtue of the circumstances of the job, come into settled clubs so obviously you first need to see who wants to stay or go,” said Currie. “It takes hard work and you need the base right first up, then move on very quickly and identify areas in which you want to get bodies in.
“I’ve faith in this squad, it’s a competitive squad with one or two still to try and get over the line.
“Our aim for the whole season is to be up challenging everyone.
“It’s about getting the balance right but, offensively, we can cause teams problems off the back of the right work ethic."