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Swifts manager McAllister hails McAlorum signing

Stephen McAlorum, pictured with Sport and Leisure Swifts boss Pat McAllister, has signed with the West Belfast side for the remainder of the season after being released by Ballymena United Stephen McAlorum, pictured with Sport and Leisure Swifts boss Pat McAllister, has signed with the West Belfast side for the remainder of the season after being released by Ballymena United
By Paddy Tierney

SPORT and Leisure Swifts manager, Pat McAllister has urged the club to put their dismal form behind them and finish the season on a high.

The West Belfast outfit is currently languishing third from bottom in the Premier Intermediate League, but sealed a vital 1-0 win at basement side Dollingstown last Saturday.

This weekend, the Swifts are on the road again and they can leap-frog Portstewart in the standings when the sides clash at Mullaghacall Road (3pm).

The 2018/19 campaign began with the club announcing their plans to change their name to Belfast Celtic, but a decision on whether or not the name-change will be permitted has been deferred to the start of next season by the IFA.

On the pitch, results haven’t been good with the Swifts exiting all cup competitions early, while winning just two league games prior to last Saturday’s win at Dollingstown.

McAllister admitted the last few months had been “frustrating” and has issued a rallying call to his troops for the remainder of the season.

“I’ve told the players and the staff at the club to put the last five months behind us,” stated McAllister.

“Personally, it has been the most frustrating time of my career in terms of players being injured, unavailable or away on holiday.

“Our only focus is to try and win as many games between now and the end of the season. We have good players and I want us to start looking at the teams above us to try and climb the table. I think we are capable of putting a winning run of three or four games together. As manager, I have to try and bring another two or three players in as well.

“That’s what has let us down this season. The squad from August wasn’t big enough and things weren’t helped with when the U20s folded. At the end of the day, it is my responsibility to bring players in. I am determined in January to bring enough players in to see us through until the end of the season.”

McAllister signalled his and the club’s intentions for the remainder of the campaign when they confirmed the signing of Stephen McAlorum last week.

The midfielder had been released from his contract with Irish Premiership outfit Ballymena United before Christmas and McAllister was understandably delighted, if a little surprised, to bring him to Glen Road Heights.

“Stephen (McAlorum) is a very good friend of mine and I’ve worked with him before (at Donegal Celtic),” said McAllister.

“It is a big surprise that we actually got him because, in terms of quality, I’ve no doubt that he should still be playing in the Irish Premiership.

“He is putting his family first as there wouldn’t be the same level of commitment needed to play at our level in terms of travel at that. It is a short-term deal until the end of the season and he will give the players and the club a lift. I know what he can do on the pitch, but off the pitch he is a leader too.”

As well as McAlorum, McAllister has signed fellow midfielder Gary Dyer, while defender Dominic McEnhill has also committed for the rest of the season.

“It can be difficult for us to attract players when other clubs are offering big money and I’ve no problem with that,” added McAllister.

“What we are looking for is players who aren’t featuring for Premiership clubs or Championship clubs and want game-time. If a player has sat from August to Christmas and not played much, if they do that for the second half of the season, that’s a full season of their career wasted.

“We don’t want to sign any Tom, Dick or Harry – we want players who can come in and improve the squad.”

Although the Swifts are locked in a relegation battle at present, a win against fellow strugglers Portstewart on Saturday would move them on to 12 points with a game in hand other every other team in the bottom half.

McAllister feels that, if his players repeat their performance from last Saturday’s win over Dollingstown, they will drag themselves out of the relegation mire.

“We missed a few chances to go two or three up and it turned into one of those games were you are holding on in the last five minutes,” reflected the Swifts boss.

“We had enough quality to see the game out. I thought right through the middle of the team on Saturday, we were very strong.
“I am sure the likes of Dollingstown will strengthen as well. I am looking forward to going up to Portstewart and trying to get another three points next Saturday.

“Every league game is like a cup final for us now. From now until the end of the season, we need every player to turn up and give 100 per cent. There is too much at stake. We’ve been down this road before and we don’t want to be fighting for survival on the last day of the season or anything.

“If we win three or four matches, all of a sudden you are looking at the top four or five – that’s how quickly things can change in this league. Every team is capable of beating everyone else.”

He added: “We’ve just lacked consistency, but there was a great buzz in the changing room after the game on Saturday.

“You can sometimes forget how good it feels to win games and we want to push on now. We have the quality and, if we play like we did last Saturday, then we’ll win more games than we’ll lose.”

Apart from striker Kevin Lynch, who picked up a knock last weekend, McAllister has a clean bill of health for Saturday’s trip to Portstewart.

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