KILLYLEAGH chief Scott Ritchie has insisted it’s not all doom and gloom for the Showgrounds club despite their obvious struggles on the pitch this season.
The Whites prop up the Northern Amateur Football League’s Premier Division and are without a point having lost all 19 of their games to date, suffering a series of heavy losses in the process.
But Ritchie, who took over the reins along with his backroom staff in late September, is hopeful that with a rebuild in the summer the club will be able to enjoy success again.
“We went into the job with the hope that we could turn things around and start picking up points, but the feeling within the club from those who were already there was that we were better writing this season off and rebuilding from 1A,” he explained.
“Quite quickly the objective did become to make sure that we finished the season with a team still intact. If we hadn’t had fulfilled our fixtures, that would have meant us playing in 2C and for a club of Killyleagh’s size to be in that league would be ridiculous.
“The table and results do look awful, but there have been occasions where we’ve played better football for spells and been in games,” he said.
“The average age of the squad is about 19 and for example, on Saturday against Comber Rec, we only had three players over the age of 23.
“Physique wise, it has been men against boys a lot of the time and it’s been difficult to try and keep morale up but the younger lads have shown great character and they understand what the bigger picture is here,” the former Rosemount Seconds supremo declared.
Ritchie has been heartened by the response to his side’s difficulties, with coaches across the division and beyond offering words of support as he bids to reverse fortunes. “I’m receiving messages regularly on Saturday evenings from other managers to say how impressed they are with our professionalism and preparation,” he said.
“I’m in regular contact with Lee Forsythe (the Ballymacash Rangers manager) who is a good friend of mine and he’s certainly picked me up on quite a few occasions. When people like that tell you that they’ve got faith in what you are doing, it’s certainly encouraging.
“There are those out there who are happy to stick the boot in and leave more scars, but these scars will heal and there will be brighter days at the end of this.
“What we need is to get in a spine of players between the ages of 25 and 27 that have already played in and around these leagues and are well experienced,” continued Ritchie.
“It also really helps that myself and the rest of the backroom staff, Willie McIlroy, Ryan Shaw and Craig Edwards have been personal friends for 20 years so we have got that trust and loyalty.
“There are nights where one of us might ask, ‘am I doing the wrong thing here?’ and the rest will be there to pick that person up.
“The club needs to be rebuilt off the field too and we really want to be a part of that. We brought three lads with us on Saturday from the under-16s and we’re trying to bridge the gap between the young guys and the first team so that they’re ready to make the step up to senior football.
“What we are trying to get into the boys’ heads is that they’re learning, they just don’t know it at the minute.
“It’s been difficult, but the optimism hasn’t changed one bit, nor has the dedication. The boys are in a huge pond and learning to swim, but the experience that they’re going to gain from it is going to stand them in great stead in the years ahead.”