‘It’s going to be fun’ says Banbridge Town’s new King of Crystal Park

Stuart King is hard at work assembling his squad for the new season. INBL1605-243PB
Stuart King is hard at work assembling his squad for the new season. INBL1605-243PB

The new Banbridge Town manager has made one promise to his players - it’s going to be a good laugh.

Former Ballymena United, Glenavon and Linfield midfielder Stuart King took on the role as interim manager last week and is keen, more than anything, to make sure Crystal Park is a great place to play.

“It’s going to be fun,” he told the ‘LEADER’ in his first interview as Town manager. “Lads are working all week and want to enjoy their football first and foremost. I’m the same. I want to enjoy my football and that’s what I want to emphasise with my squad. We have to enjoy ourselves but of course there will also be a time for serious business and getting results.

“Becoming a manager has happened a bit earlier than I expected it to happen but when the club and Ryan (Watson) both asked me to do it, I was always going to say yes.

“There aren’t too many NIFL clubs in Northern Ireland so to get the chance to become a manager of a club at that level is not something you turn down.

“I just hope I will do well and I will be giving my best and doing everything I can to make sure that happens.

“The chairman has shown a lot of faith in me so hopefully I can repay that.”

King has taken over after Ryan Watson stood down from the role due to personal and work reasons.

Club chairman Dominic Downey was keen to point out that the door is open for Watson to return to the role should his circumstances change, and that’s something King would welcome.

“I hope that happens,” he said. “My job is to try my hardest to get the club into the best possible position if Ryan decides to come back in.

“I wouldn’t have been at the club if it wasn’t for Ryan. I owe him an awful lot.

“He has put a huge amount of effort into the club and even with me. When I was at Larne, Ryan was regularly in contact because he knew I was moving down to the area. He was always on the phone and I considered joining the club earlier than I did.”

King, at 35, still has something to offer on the pitch, as he showed during the second half of last season after signing for Town in January.

While he says he’s still willing to put the boots on though, he’s hoping he doesn’t have to.

“I’ll still play but not just for the sake of it,” he said. “I’ll play if I’m needed and if it benefits the team but the plan is to get in enough better players that I don’t have to play!”

And he has certainly been busy trying to get that sorted.

King says he has been talking to as many as 20 players in recent weeks as he looks to bolster his squad - but the new boss is quickly discovering transfers aren’t easy business.

“First of all, the priority was to get the current squad signed up again and all the lads want to stay, which is great,” he said.

“Other lads I spoke to about joining weren’t ready to commit. I found things the same at Ballyclare last summer then a couple of weeks into the season, players maybe realise they aren’t going to get playing as much as they wanted and are looking to move. I can guarantee better players that they will get a good opportunity at Banbridge Town.”

King brings to the role a wealth of football experience.

He began a full-time career across the water with spells at Preston, Ross County, Queen of the South and Southend but returned home at the age of 20 to sign for Linfield. It was there that his career took shape and he even made the NI Football Writers’ team of the season in 03/04 as his club won the title.

Moves to Ballymena and Glenavon followed, where King again showed quick feet on the left wing before moving to Championship clubs Larne and Ballyclare, where he was also the club’s Assistant Manager.

“I know a good few people around the local game and I’ve had so much support since my appointment was announced,” he said.

“David Jeffrey has been on the phone and Gary Hamilton has as well. Those are two of the biggest personalities in Northern Irish football so hopefully relationships with guys like that can help me out.”

Jeffrey has already nailed down his support as the Ballymena United manager will bring a team to Crystal Park for a pre-season friendly.

And no doubt if there are any young players available for loan at Ballymena and Glenavon, the new Banbridge Town manager will be first on the phone.