With everyone away from the Oval for an undetermined period, we have decided to bring Glentoran supporters some of the most compelling content from the multi award winning Glentoran Gazette. We hope you will enjoy the stories and player interviews we bring and that it will encourage you to buy a Gazette at our home matches when football returns. Many thanks to the Glentoran Supporters Committee (1923) for use of this material. The "250 Club" series will consist of interviews with current squad members with Eddy Patrick this season.
Leeper with the Irish Cup in 2004
You started playing in an Ashfield team with Andy Kirk and Stuart Elliott. What are your memories from those school days breaking into the Glens’ team?
Ashfield was a School which encouraged talented players and was also a great feeding ground for Glentoran FC. Stuart, Andy and I played in a very good team and then progressed to the Oval where initially Andy broke through, then Stuart, then me. Both those lads went on to have very good careers and represented their country which was great.
You started out as a central midfielder. When did you make the switch and do you wish you had played there more?
I broke into the team as a midfielder in 1997 and initially played with no fear, scoring a few goals and competing in an era where you needed to be tough to survive games. I really enjoyed playing in midfield and feel I was quite capable, but Roy Coyle saw me as a better defender and the transition was made from there. I played every position including goalkeeper for Glentoran!
You’re not known as a goal machine but that hat-trick at Solitude was special. You must still buzz off that one?
That was a special day. Cliftonville were the reigning Champions and we went to Solitude and won 4-2 against a very good team. The hattrick was extra special for me as my late father had been ill, so straight after the game I took the match ball and visited him at hospital. The goals were decent too.
Off the pitch you were heavily involved with supporters’ clubs and all things Glentoran. How hard was it to balance all your commitments?
This was something I took great pride in. As a local lad I was always happy to engage with the community, schools, supporters’ clubs and media duties in order to represent myself and the club properly. I still enjoy great relationships with the clubs and fans today which is important to me.
Who were the best players you’ve played with and against?
I played with so many top players it’s difficult to single one out but for sheer attitude, dedication and will to win Mark Glendinning was a great example to others. The best player I played against in the Irish League over many years was Glenn Ferguson, one of the great strikers in Irish League history.
Who was the best central defence partner you had and why?
I played with some great players; Chris Walker, Pat McGibbon and also Nicky, but I would say Gary Smyth was the best. A superb player and a great influence for me in football. I played with Gary for a few seasons but season 2002/03 will live long in the memory as the best team I ever played in and possibly one of the great Glentoran teams of my lifetime. We came so close to the clean sweep of trophies, losing the Irish Cup Final to Coleraine which was tough to take. Gary was also our best player that season in a team of stars which says it all about his quality.
What’s the stupidest thing you’ve seen a teammate do?
A very well-known player once blew off loudly during a Roy Coyle team talk before a Big Two Irish Cup Semi Final. Needless to say Coyler wasn’t happy, but it certainly broke the tension before the game as we all ended up laughing uncontrollably and went on to beat the Blues and reach the final.
You amassed 597 appearances in a Glentoran shirt, third highest of all time. What was the ultimate highlight?
I’ve been blessed with so many highlights and great memories so it’s always difficult to single out one, but Morgan Day was a bit special in terms of a one off game. The huge crowd with so much at stake versus our biggest rivals; I don’t think any Glentoran supporter will ever forget that day.
Have you ambitions to go into management as well as coaching?
Management appeals to me a lot more than the actual coaching side, although in the modern game it’s good to have experience of both. I do have ambitions to get involved again on my own merits, but if I am totally honest coaching opportunities have come to me sooner than I would have hoped and it’s all about timing. I aim to continue learning in order to complete my coaching qualifications this year and beyond and I’ll get back involved again at a level and time which is suited to me.
In your daytime job are you still involved in sales of football kits. What would you consider to be your favourite Glentoran shirt of all time?
My favourite kit as a boy supporting the Glens was the 92/93 Umbro shirt which had the laces on front and as a player the kits we wore in 2009 when we won the league were top quality.
What’s your most prized possession from your football career that you own?
I’ll narrow it to a couple. My hattrick ball as it’s a one off and I also managed to get Rio Ferdinand’s shirt when we played Manchester United.
Leeper with the Gibson Cup in 2009